I think that my best line of defense in keeping kids on task, following directions, and keeping disruptions to a minimum has been the rapport and mutual respect that I have developed with my students. It doesn’t happen overnight, but because I am, as much as possible, myself with them, (not just a teacher), they respond to me as a person. The relationship really helps keep them in line.
Sometimes, however, I run into a class or two of very immature students who simply have not developed enough self control to handle themselves appropriately in a classroom. When some time has elapsed and I am unable to make any headway in the area of behavior, I resort to a system that some people consider controversial. Because it involves a reward for doing something they should be doing anyway, some teachers consider it a bribe. I, on the other hand, consider it a valuable teaching tool to be used when all other methods have failed. I consider the alternative…punishment, and go with the reward system. It does involve spending a little of your own money, but if you’ve read the beginning post on this blog you know that I advocate a yearly budget for expenses that simply will not be covered by the district.
It’s amazing how much stuff you can get at the dollar store for 20 bucks. Some items even come in 3 or 4 packs, so you actually get more than one item for your dollar. I buy stickers, pencils, erasers, fake teeth, matchbox type vehicles, note pads, decks of cards…anything that will appeal to kids and that I can get a lot of. I put everything I’ve gotten into a dishpan. (Also bought at the dollar store.)
When the class arrives I have a small piece of paper on each seat, and instruct them to write their name on the paper. The learning target that I have on the board for the first round or two of this routine is: “I can participate appropriately.” I explain that this means paying attention, following directions and not bothering anyone else. (Including me.) I then give the following announcement:
” You have the opportunity to be the winner of a small prize today. In order to win, you must have your name card at the end of class. You keep it by paying attention, following directions and not bothering anyone. If you are unable to do this, I will have to take your card from you. If I have to take it, it will not go into the hat. (My container of choice.) But if you still have it at the end of class, you will put it into the hat, and I will choose one well behaved person to pull one card out of the hat. Whomever I pick to select a name card, and whoever the person is whose name is pulled out of the hat will each be allowed to pick a prize frim the prize bin.”
In this way, you also have some control over who wins. Since you choose the person who will pick, you can make sure that all students who are trying to learn self control get an opportunity to win. It’s also a double whammy in the leverage department…they behave to keep their cards, and they behave to be chosen to pick a card.
It works. Well.