Saturday, September 27, 2008
Getting Control of a Very Difficult Class
Have you ever had a class that just tried your patience day after day? Have you felt like you could walk away from teaching forever tomorrow, and be fine with it? This year, I have one of the most challenging classes I have ever had. I am still working on training them to do what I want them to do, and I think that in the end, I will win! Meanwhile, we are spending a LOT of time on classroom management, modeling routines and procedures often. Here are some other techniques that I have used successfully.
One thing that seems to work well, is having your worst kid in class model the correct behavior. I usually start with a reliably good kid to model the behavior, and then switch to a naughtier one. Then you all know that he or she DOES understand. The Daily Five book has a wonderful explanation of this technique. If you don't have that book, I would get it and read at least the first chapter or two on training your class to read silently. The training method works for other activities as well as silent reading.
I would also talk to parents of the ringleaders, if you can identify them. When kids are naughty, I start talking to parents after a week or two. I wait until two weeks have passed if I can, but sometimes I can't wait. As soon as I have to put someone in time out, I grab my note pad and write it down so that I don't forget what the little darling did. I tell them that I am going to speak to their parents when they pick their child up. I have at times, taken certain children to the phone and had them listen while I called their parents and told them what their child was doing. Then I put the child on the phone and have that child explain. This is usually VERY effective, but you need to have a pretty good working relationship with the parent. If you think you might need to do this, you might want to let the parent know that if the need arises, you will be calling them during the day for help, and get permission to do this if necessary.
Something else I have done in the past is have the kids work in teams to get the most chips for good behavior. They each have a bowl and I add chips when kids in their row are listening, etc. I like to count them and weigh them in front of the kids with a balance scale, too! The kids like that. We used to put one chip in front of the child while they were working at the table. If the child got out of control at a center, I quietly came up and removed the chip. Then at the end of that rotation, whoever still has a chip gets to put it in their group's bowl.
Here’s another one. Get out a video camera and put it on a tripod. It doesn’t even have to be on, as long as they think it is on. Let them know that their parents will get to see it if necessary. Now that’s pretty tricky, and I wouldn’t do it unless I absolutely had to. I do, however, get a permission to photograph paper signed and take pictures of the inappropriate behavior, just to show the parents and principal. It can be destroyed after that. Sometimes, it is the only way to make a point.
Now my class this year is very difficult! But they are improving in baby steps. Every time someone blurts out something without raising a hand, I stop, and back up. I say, "Okay, we're going to try that again. I'm going to read that page again, and let's see if you can all be quiet. Don't say a word! Here we go, let's try it." Then I say it or read it again, etc., and see if they do better. The kids get so tired of my repeating that routine, that they pretty much give up on it after a while. It also means that I get to say "Good job!" rather than "Go to time out" more often. For the kid that keeps blurting after that, THEN I send him or her to time out. It helps us from spiraling down to the negative so much. And that's hard with a particularly difficult class. I need to remember that they need a lot of STRUCTURE. They cannot be left on the floor to play with unifix cubes in a group of five. They will go nuts! They do better in chairs. Whenever I give them boundries, they do better. Ex. I have a carpet with colored sections for each child to sit in. We have a seating chart. I may move children a couple of times a week if needed. Some groups need to sit in certain spots at the tables at group time. Certain kids can never sit together. I cannot give them a single inch, or they will take a mile. Hopefully, we will get them all trained and they will be perfect little angels by Thanksgiving, and then I will be able to relax with them a little bit. They do have their wonderfully sweet moments!