October is the month of Halloween, often the first time in months that our students will see snow, National Sarcasm Awareness Month, National Toilet Tank Repair Month (that is actually true) and the list goes on and on yet we wonder why we may be seeing some interesting behaviors in our classrooms this time of year. Check out some of the suggestions below on how you can reduce/prevent behaviors from occurring in your classroom.
Start with yourself
Be careful that your frustration is not landing on one or two students in the classroom resulting in blaming. Don’t assume when something happens that is it a certain student and then call them out for it! Do a proper investigation and be slow to place blame.
Sometimes when behaviors increase we can easily overreact. Teaching can be stressful at times and can test our patience. If you are getting frustrated, it is easy to make a small infraction seem like a big behavior issue. Check in with yourself and make sure that you aren’t overreacting.
A lot of research has been done to show how important your room arrangement is and how it can impact the climate in your classroom. Check out these room arrangement tips:
Flexible seating: When students have choice in seating options that best fit their learning style they are able to better focus on the task at hand. Give your students the choice (within reason) of moving to an area of the room that they feel they can learn best in. Consider providing standing and sitting options within your room. If students are easily distracted, consider placing them in a spot in your classroom where they won’t be easily distracted. For example take note of who is sitting by the door and whether this is the best place for the student. The door is a high traffic area and not a good place for a student who is easily distracted.
Student misbehavior is often a sign that students are overwhelmed and are in need of a break! Learn to recognize when students need time to take a break and move. Here are some easy brain break ideas:
Physical Challenges Challenge students to do something physically difficult, such as standing on one foot with arms extended, or this one: Grab your nose with left hand, and grab your left earlobe with your right hand, and then quickly switch so that your right hand is on your nose and your left hand is grabbing your right earlobe.
Animal Pretend Younger grades will enjoy pretending to be various animals (or even objects such as lawn mowers or airplanes). Call out different examples.
Trading Places Have students stand behind their pushed-in chairs. Call out a trait, and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: “Everyone with curly hair.” “Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast.”
Never underestimate the power of a strong student-teacher relationship. Oftentimes we start the year with a focus on building relationships with our students and by October we often lose sight that it is an ongoing process. It takes time to build relationships! Don’t give up! Here are some relationship building tips:
Morning Meeting: If it has been a while since you have done a morning meeting it's time to try it again! Morning meetings have been proven to increase relationships between teachers and students but also amongst peers. Don’t be afraid to take time every morning for a morning meeting. The relationships you build will help you throughout the day. If you build the routine in every day, students will learn that it is time to connect with their school family and become more invested in supporting each other.
Greeting Students: When was the last time you greeted your students when they come in the door? Students want to know you are excited to have them in your classroom even if the day before was a tough day. Every day is a chance to start fresh! Don’t forget to greet your students as they walk in and tell them how happy you are that you get to be their teacher.
Weekly Reflections: Once a week have students share one thing that was positive about their week and one thing that was negative. In groups have students brainstorm solutions for their peers on how they can problem solve the not-so-positive event that has occurred. Students will learn to build capacity amongst themselves and will learn to rely on each other to problem solve when issues arise.
After all, don’t we want our students to be able to effectively solve issues without our support?
I leave you with two very important thoughts: “There are no bad kids. Just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs they only way they know how” (Lansbury), and “Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart” (Breaux).
Lansbury, Janet. “Respectful Patenting w/ “No Bad Kids” Author Janet Lansbury” The Adopting Teens & Tweens Radio Forum, March 2016.
Breaux, Annette, Education Speakers Group
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, Elementary Principal on Special Assignment
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