An Unusual Approach to Stopping Student Misbehavior

Showing genuine appreciation for our students’ gifts, talents, and enthusiasms can melt away their defiant and disruptive behavior. I was taught this lesson not long ago by a high school student.

As a teacher, I’ve received numerous presents and tokens of appreciation, including countless drawings, a few daisy chains, and even a homemade snow globe or two. But one of my most unusual gifts was also one of the most heartfelt. It was a roll of gaffer’s tape, given to me by a student I had never even taught.

This student was kind of geeky. Actually, he was VERY geeky. His principal appreciated his geek skills, and asked him to come to school on his day off and be the “tech guy” for a professional development day where I was speaking.

He did a good job, too. Everything was set up perfectly and worked great. He wasn’t much on the social skills, though, and barely answered when I spoke to him. Until I asked him about the strange brown tape he used to secure the computer cables.

AppreciationHe immediately brightened up and told me all about gaffer’s tape and how great it is. How it doesn’t leave a residue on the floor yet holds the cord down. He told me to get the 3-inch kind, and gave me several suggestions on how to get the best price. He showed me the proper technique for pulling up the tape at the end of the day (you stand on the cable to hold it down, and THEN pull up the tape so that it won’t wrap around the cable and make a big mess.) I thanked him, and told him I appreciated his suggestions, because as a speaker I always worry that someone is going to trip on a cable.

He disappeared into a closet and reappeared with a brand-new roll of tape, which he insisted on giving me. He offered to help me pack up, and carried some of my equipment to the car.

This student’s attitude had changed totally. He went from being a bit surly to being friendly, open, cooperative, and generous. All it took was a little appreciation.

The Transformation

I have seen this transformation happen again and again. When students feel valued by a teacher, the defiance seems to melt away and the cooperation sets in. The key is being genuine and sincere in our appreciation. When you are fake, it will backfire.

So take a look at your disruptive students. What can you genuinely appreciate about them? Is there something they are into or good at that you can take an interest in? Sometimes this approach can take time, especially if there has been a lack of trust in the past. But sometimes it can be instantaneous, like it was with my geeky high school friend.

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Are Class Meetings a Waste of Time?

Class meetings are becoming more and more common, especially at the elementary level. Are they worth the time?

Class meetings, like any other classroom management tool, can be abused. When I was a full-time elementary teacher my class had Morning Meeting every morning. As I remember it, we would do a greeting, have announcements, sing a campfire-type song, and play a game. Every Friday we would do Pretzels, which sometimes took 30 minutes and involved students complementing each other for being helpful and asking for restitution (in the form of a pretzel) for being hurtful.

Are Class Meetings a Waste of Time?I was all gung-ho about Morning Meeting at first. I noticed improvement in students’ listening and problem-solving skills. It was also fun and seemed to build rapport. But then the students got really good at dragging the greetings and games out, so that sometimes the meetings would take 45 minutes or more. When we played games like Do You Love Me, Honey (to try to make each other laugh) and Can You Do This Like I Do This (a guessing game) the students would get out of control and goofy. I started to think the meeting was a big waste of time.

Older kids are not going to tolerate anything they see as stupid, boring, or patronizing.

So when I moved on to middle school, I left it out entirely. Who has time for a 30-minute meeting in a 45-minute class period? Plus, what middle-schooler would be caught dead playing Do You Love Me Honey? Frankly, I just couldn’t see the point. Why work so hard to build rapport and community when I only saw my students 45 minutes a day for 9 weeks? So I ditched it.

The education community ditched it too, as school focused more and more on standards and curriculum and less on fun. And we suffered for it. Enrollment in my classroom management seminars exploded as student behavior escalated out of control. Students seemed so angry, and they acted out in disruptive, destructive, and sometimes even violent ways. Yikes!

Pensulum

Now the pendulum is swinging back and class meetings are “in” again. Some schools even mandate them. And I think, on the whole, this is a good thing. (Not the mandating, but the reemergence of circle time.) Class meetings can help in so many ways. They can:

  • Promote the development of speaking and listening skills
  • Help students form friendships and understand each other
  • Teach students problem-solving skills and give them the opportunity to practice in a safe environment
  • Allow the teacher to become aware of emerging problems before they escalate
  • Increase student buy-in to rules, procedures, and classroom norms
  • Create a forum for solving whole-class conflicts when they arise

…and more!

However, as I said in the beginning, class meetings CAN be a waste of time. It can be difficult with today’s large class sizes for everyone to get a chance to speak, and it can be hard for younger students and students with short attention spans (in other words, everyone) to listen for that long. Introverted or shy students can feel unsafe. Meetings can become too heavy or too silly. And older kids are not going to tolerate anything they see as stupid, boring, or patronizing.

If you decide to make class meetings a part of your day, here are a few suggestions to make them beneficial for everyone.

Keep It SnappyKeep it Snappy

The entire meeting should take no longer than 10-15 minutes on a normal day. No long games or involved greetings (like I did.) If everyone is going to share, teach them how to share in five or six words. If you want longer sharing, limit it to two or three people per meeting. Use hand signals such as “fist-to-five” and “same-as” to give everyone a chance to participate at once, instead of slow, boring, one-at-a-time models.

It’s important to have a structure for the meeting, but don’t do identical activities each day.

Build In Variety

It’s important to have a structure for the meeting, but don’t do identical activities each day. For example, it’s great to have a greeting component for your meeting, but change up the greeting. Use a different language. Have a choral greeting on some days, and an individual greeting on others. Go around the circle sometimes, and sometimes allow students to choose their greet-ee. Don’t be as rigid I was with my set agenda (greeting, announcements, song, and game) every day. If you build in flexibility you will be able to adapt when you need extra time for problem-solving or when you need to cut it short.

Include Everyone

I used to make students who didn’t complete their homework do it during the game time. This was a mistake. Everyone needs to participate in the meeting.

Make it okay to pass or have a way they can participate anonymously, such as submitting discussion topics to a suggestion box.

Make Sure Everyone Is Safe

Some students will feel uncomfortable sharing. Make it okay to pass or have a way they can participate anonymously, such as submitting discussion topics to a suggestion box.

Avoid Heavy, Reactionary Meetings

If you only call a class meeting when there’s a problem, it may feel like scolding to your students. It may not be necessary to have a class meeting every day, but it is helpful to have them on a regular basis when things are “normal” so students are used to participating and feel safe doing so.

Keep It Relevant

Class meetings can and should be fun, but they should also feel purposeful and important. For older students, it may be appropriate to have a debriefing meeting at the end of the period where they can celebrate learning and work through any problems that came up during class. Ask students for discussion topics, and provide ways for them to safely share what’s happening in their lives.

Build In VarietyCreate Traditions and Positive Habits

This can be done in many ways and can be easily adapted to your style and the needs of the students. Use class meetings to teach students how to greet each other, how to give and receive compliments and show appreciation, and how to use centering techniques such as purposeful breathing. Create special signals (like saying “one-two-three-BREAK”) to end the meeting or transition to another activity.

Class meetings are a powerful tool that be used in many different ways, and there is always more to learn.

Class meetings are a powerful tool that be used in many different ways, and there is always more to learn. If you have a suggestion or question about class meetings, I invite you to share in the comments below.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Improve Student Behavior With Your “Magic Clipboard”

I didn’t lose my cool. I simply invoked the power of the magic clipboard.

Let’s face it. Our students are smart, especially when it comes to figuring out how to “get away with” attention-getting misbehavior. For one thing, they know timing is everything. If you want the maximum attention with the fewest consequences, you need to pick a time when adult attention is divided, or your campaign will be shut down before it can attract enough attention.

For example, why make fart noises in class during the day when you’ll simply be sent to the buddy room to fill out a reflection form? Why not do it at the end of the day when it’s too late for the buddy room and the teacher doesn’t have time to deal with it? And better yet, why not get two of your buddies to do it with you to maximize the effect and make it even harder for the teacher to stop you?

Instead of ignoring the behavior, trying to send the students to the time-out room anyway, or losing my temper and yelling at them, I simply put the reflection forms on clipboards and calmly asked the students to fill them out at their seats.

Yes, this happened to me this week in a lovely 4th grade class that is the terror of the school.

But I didn’t lose my cool. I simply invoked the power of the clipboard.

Instead of ignoring the behavior, trying to send the students to the time-out room anyway, or losing my temper and yelling at them, I simply put the reflection forms on clipboards and calmly asked the students to fill them out at their seats.

Two of them immediately finished the forms with the fastest writing I had ever seen.

When they started goofing off instead, I said, “I’m sorry you’re having trouble getting done with the forms. Don’t worry! We can just take them with us to the dismissal area, and the three of you can work on them there. If your family is already there to pick you up, I’m sure they won’t mind waiting until you’re finished.”

Two of them immediately finished the forms with the fastest writing I had ever seen. The third one still hadn’t finished when it was time to go, but he instantly developed the superpower of being able to write and walk at the same time (even though he’s barely coordinated enough write his name on his paper the rest of the day.) I went over the completed forms with each student at the dismissal area, said a friendly goodbye, and sent them on their way.

Without the Clipboard

What would have happened without the clipboard? Either they would have gotten a lot of attention from yelling, begging, and pleading; or there would have been no consequences when I ignored them; or they would have had delayed consequences the next day when they had forgotten all about it; or they would have held the entire class hostage while I waited for them to complete their reflection forms. None of these solutions would have helped them learn more appropriate behavior, and several would have reinforced their behavior by giving them what they wanted – power and attention.

Clipboards are an essential classroom management tool!

Uses For Clipboards

Clipboards are an essential classroom management tool! You can use them to separate students who are having difficulty working together. You can use them as an intervention for students who have trouble sitting still, so they can walk and work. You can use them as a reward or incentive. (If you do ___ you can use the clipboard and work on the floor, cushy chair, or counter.) You can use clipboards to give students a legitimate choice – do the work now, or work on the clipboard at recess.

Please Share!

Do you have a magic clipboard trick to help with student behavior? Or something else that works for you? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina@AwesomeTeacherNation.com

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