Have you ever felt like the tattling would never stop? Young children feel the need to tell about everything.
"Johnny budged in front of me". "Susan was looking at Matthew's work." Nancy brought candy to school." It goes on and on.
Teaching young children the difference between tattling and telling is an important skill that all kids need to learn.
Is it tattling or telling?
What does tattling look like? Well, it looks like fingering a classmate for taking something without permission, talking during quiet work time, sneaking food or toys into the classroom or purposely disturbing another student's work. It is natural for young children to blurt out any information they have, but when it comes to true cases of tattling they are often just trying to get someone in trouble. This can be tricky to catch, as some young kids may not understand the difference right away.
Telling often feels different than tattling; it has a purpose and urgency to it. It often means that someone needs help or there is a safety issue. For example: if you saw a classmate getting physically hurt or being scared or teased by someone else, that would be considered telling.
Here is an anchor chart that may help your kids to decide if an incident needs to be told or not.
Teaching young children the difference between telling and tattling is a very important SEL skill to master. To do this, children need to understand what it looks and feels like in real world examples. Telling could be letting an adult know that someone has fallen off the playground equipment, while tattling would be informing an adult that someone has pushed them in line.
Being able to recognize the difference will help a child know when it is appropriate to report something and when it’s not necessary. This can empower them to make good choices.
As teachers, we need to take the time to provide scenarios for young students to practice and role play through these situations as well as have conversations about why specific scenarios are either an example of telling or tattling.
Although it may be exhausting at times to deal with tattling, you need to be able to calmly encourage them to try to solve things themselves.
Asking questions like "Is someone hurt?" "Is this a safety issue?" "Is someone in danger?" may help them to stop and think before they come to get help.
If they do come to you, the best thing you can do is keep relaxed and calm with your responses so that they learn to trust you as an ally and friend. It is important for kids to know that they can rely on you when it is necessary to get help.
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or out of control can be a common experience for many kids at school. To move beyond simply managing anxiety, it is critical to equip our students with coping skills, such as calming strategies that work in the classroom.
The increase in anxiety and poor mental health with children has caused us to relook at how we can develop positive self esteem and skills to regulate emotions and behaviors. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a focus in many classrooms recently as a means to provide skills for kids to improve mental health and emotional well-being.
As teachers, we must take it upon ourselves to provide calming strategies so that our students can find their inner peace again. Luckily there are SEL strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms to help students develop lifelong tools for managing stress, regulating emotions, and leading a balanced life.
Learning about self-regulation and calming techniques is only a small part of SEL. There are many other aspects to discuss as well, but these will need to be further explored in a later post. Today I would like to focus on helping kids to deal with their emotions by using self-regulation strategies.
There are many different calming strategies that can be used, but not all of them work for every child. If we teach a variety of different strategies, each child will have several techniques that they can try. In time, they will know what works well and what doesn't and they will be able to create their own toolkit of strategies.
There are many different ways to help a child calm down when he is upset, anxious, or otherwise unregulated, but in order to help him long term, it is important to actually teach him strategies rather than just grab one for him to try in reaction to the unregulated behavior.
Every child is unique, so there isn't a one size fits all answer. It is important to explore several different options and find out which ones work best for each person. Here are some examples of calming strategies that might work.
Whole Class Activities
One effective way to help kids with regulating and focusing, is to add calming and mindfulness activities into the school day. For example, starting out with a mindfulness circle in the morning and doing some deep breathing and stretching could help prepare everyone for the work ahead.
Visualization and focusing on a peaceful or happy place can also work wonders to help alleviate feelings of stress and worry.
Taking breaks for stretching and movement are important throughout the day. Body breaks and brain breaks allow kids to de-stress for a short time and prepare their minds for more work. Just like we need to take breaks throughout the day from working, so do kids.
Individual calming strategies
Set up a calming corner in an area of the classroom where kids can go when they need a quiet space by themselves to regroup and self-regulate. You might have a few different things in there to help with the refocusing. Maybe you could add some pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, glitter jars, fidgets, books, or other small items that may be comforting.
Have an area where music is available with headphones and a comfortable place to sit. Music is often very soothing and can help with relaxing and calming the spirit.
Drawing and coloring also work well.
Movement is sometimes necessary in order to self-regulate when upset. Try jumping jacks, skipping, going for a walk, delivering a message to another room, or even just pushing against a wall as ways to use physical activities to release the anxiety or upset feelings.
Breathing exercises or counting also help for some people.
The goal is not only to reduce anxiety during times of distress, but also to enable our students to become familiar with calming strategies they can apply outside of the classroom. When it comes to SEL, teachers have a toolbox full of calming strategies to choose from - so don't hesitate to use them and help kids develop their own toolboxes!
Here are some posters that might be helpful for your students. They are available for free for my newsletter subscribers. Click here to get your copy. If you are already a subscriber, you can find them on my Followers Free Resources page.
I hope these tips help with dealing with some of the anxiety that is prevalent in our schools today. Next time I will focus on another aspect of SEL.
Guided reading is a great way to meet the needs of your students and develop a love for reading, or at least less of a distaste for it. The other good thing about this is it can work in other languages too.
If you are teaching FSL, or even French Immersion, you can still use guided reading effectively. It may take some adjusting for the language skills that the kids have, but with some creativity and activities that can be done independently, it can be done. Organization and group management will be key for success.
Note: I will share more tips for how to make this work with French in a future post.
When it comes to reading, there can be many different levels and abilities in a classroom. Guided reading allows for small group instruction that focuses on skills and materials that are suitable for the students in each group. It may seem difficult to imagine running several groups in one classroom, but it is possible and it does ensure that kids of similar needs can get the instruction that best suits them. Those needing a challenge or enrichment are also able to do more complex work and not feel like they are being ignored.
There are several different components that I include when doing guided reading groups. I feel it is important to include reading, responding to reading, listening, speaking, vocabulary and writing activities as well as followup games and activities to practice skills taught. By incorporating all of these elements through centers and rotations, it is possible to have several groups working at the same time.
Getting started with guided reading
There are a few steps involved in creating and running guided reading groups.
First, you need to decide on how many will be in each group and do some assessment of the kids. This will help you determine what their needs are, what level materials they need, what skills are missing or weak, what time commitment may be needed and what kinds of rotations may work.
This may seem daunting, but it can be done. If you have extra support, that will help you determine how to create the groups.
Determining groups based on assessment
Assessment is important if you want to provide your students with the best instruction, but it is difficult to do a formal assessment of all your students while teaching your lessons. I found informal assessments worked just as well. They give you a chance to connect individually with each child and they also seem to help the child relax.
Use a selection of material from a variety of different levels and topics and try out some of them to see what would be a good fit to start with. I usually did this while others were doing some quiet seat work or silent reading.
Once you finish an informal assessment on the kids, look for similar abilities and make your groups based on this. Sometimes you will have to group a couple of levels together to avoid too many groups, but always made sure that those requiring the most support have no more than 4 or 5 in them. If you have extra support in the classroom, you can adjust the sizes somewhat.
Note: In a second language situation, the groups may be slightly bigger if you are working on language acquisition and vocabulary skills, but it is still important to keep groups small for those who may be struggling.
What to do when your groups are formed
Once you have formed some guided reading groups, it's important to figure out what time you have available and how you will create a rotation that will allow for the best use of the time. This may mean that not all groups get individual attention with you each day, but they will all have activities that will support their reading when they are not reading with you.
It's important that those needing the most support get direct instruction during your reading time. Others will get direct instruction on a rotating basis. The number of groups you create will help determine how your rotations work and this will help with organizing them.
Once you have a plan for your rotations, it's important to make sure that your students understand how the different activities or centers work and what their responsibilities are. While one group is getting direct instruction, it's important that the other groups know what they are to do. This could be reading, responding to reading, language activities, centers, listening activities or other language related activities. This will need to be taught so that everyone understands and you are not putting out fires during your guided reading instruction.
Planning and preparing
Once you have your rotations organized, it's important to make sure that you have a plan for how the groups move from one activity to the next. Creating a flow chart or a schedule can help. Practicing the movement is also important.
Materials should be prepared ahead of time so that the flow isn't disrupted by searching for materials or equipment.
Set up baskets with the materials for each guided reading group to ensure that you aren't hunting for things during the direct instruction. Gather up materials and equipment for each center or activity and have them in place before starting the rotations. This will help make your guided reading sessions flow smoothly and successfully.
Check out my TPT store for some resources that may help. I have a guided reading category, sight word category, and literacy category with materials that can work for reading groups. I also have several French resources available.
Note: It is not always possible to have several groups happening at the same time. Sometimes you may need to have one or two activities that the others are working on while you work with one group. You need to do what works for you.
I hope these ideas help and that you give guided reading a try.
Next time I will elaborate more about activities and centers that might work with the different groups.
Teaching kids reading nowadays is a juggling act, balancing a wide range of abilities and skills with confusion, engagement, and boredom. Differentiation is a must, not a suggestion anymore. Full class lessons are often replaced with guided reading groups.
Planning guided reading groups
Guided reading can be a bit daunting for primary teachers. When you consider all of the different guided reading activities, it's no wonder we sometimes feel overwhelmed! But guided reading doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, planning guided reading groups is actually quite simple, and the benefits are well worth the effort. Here are a few tips to get you started.
First, do some pre-assessment to decide on appropriate reading levels to start with. Then, choose texts that are appropriate for the levels of your students.
Next, decide what you want your students to focus on during guided reading.
Finally, don't forget about word work!
Choose appropriate texts
Once you have decided on the levels for each reading group, it's important to have a variety of materials and topics available so that all students can be successful. You want to make sure that the texts are interesting and engaging.
It's important to select books that are not too difficult or too easy, as this can lead to frustration or boredom. Fortunately, there are now many leveled readers available, so finding the perfect books for your groups should be a snap.
Decide on the group focus
The needs for each group will be different. You will need to decide on what the focus will be based on these needs. Do you want them to work on fluency? Comprehension? Vocabulary development? Once you know your goals, you can choose activities and games that will help your students meet those objectives.
Don't forget word work
You'll need to prepare your guided reading materials. This includes creating sight word lists, preparing word work activities, and generating questions for each group. You'll need to select language activities and games that are appropriate for each group.
This is an important part of guided reading, and it's a great way to help students build their vocabulary and sight word recognition skills. There are many fun and engaging ways to incorporate word work into guided reading, so get creative and have fun!
Setting up guided reading groups
Guided reading is a great way to help your students improve their reading skills. But how do you set up guided reading groups? And what should you do with the different groups?
Managing multiple guided reading groups can be a challenge, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier.
First, make sure you have a clear plan for each session. This will help you stay organized and keep the groups moving along at a good pace.
Second, provide clear instructions and model each activity before jumping into small groups.
Build in some flexibility into your schedule so that you can adjust as needed.
Finally, it's important to monitor the groups and adjust as needed. This might include changing the texts or activities based on student progress or adding in intervention or enrichment activities.
If you would like more specifics about setting up groups, check out these posts.
Guided Reading - Getting Started
Running A Guided Reading Program
Keeping kids on task
Once you get your guided reading groups set up, you need to make sure that kids are staying on task. Here are five guided reading activities that will help keep your young readers engaged:
1. Read the first sentence of the story together and have them predict what will happen next. This is a great way to get them thinking about the story and making predictions.
2. Ask them questions about the characters and what they think the characters might do next. This gets them invested in the story and thinking about the characters' motivations.
3. Have them illustrate a scene from the story. This allows them to use their imagination and really visualize what's going on in the story.
4. Have them retell the story in their own words. This helps to solidify their understanding of the story and gives you an opportunity to check for comprehension.
5. Put together a class book with illustrations from each student. This is a great way to end a guided reading unit and gives everyone a chance to see their work in print!
Guided reading is a great way to support your students' literacy development. By taking some time to plan and prepare ahead of time, you'll be ready to make the most of this instructional approach! By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to success with guided reading!
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It's that time of year again! Kids are heading back to school and teachers are planning lessons. Before you know it, it will be time for student led conferences.
I know that thinking about assessments already is daunting, but if you start doing a bit at a time you will be able to do it. It will all help you to be ready when it is time for conferences.
As a primary teacher, I liked the student led conference format because it gave my students a chance to show off all of their hard work. It was also a great opportunity to get to know each student's strengths and weaknesses.
Student led conferences
Student led conferences are a fantastic way for parents and children to work together to reflect on the student's progress so far. It is an opportunity for the student to share what they are proud of, what goals they have set and what strategies they are using to achieve these.
The student is in the driver's seat whilst the parent(s) and teacher play a supportive role. This format not only empowers the student, but also provides parents with an insight into their child's thinking and how they view their own progress.
These conferences also give teachers an opportunity to reflect on their teaching and how well they are meeting each student's needs.
Benefits of student led conferences
Student led conferences offer a number of benefits for both the child and the parent.
For the child, it is an opportunity to take ownership of their learning and to share their work and achievements with their parents. They also have a chance to practice their communication skills and build confidence. They can share their own perspective on their progress, which can be very valuable for parents to hear.
For the parent, it is an opportunity to see their child in a positive light and to be involved in their child's education. It is a great way to ask questions and give feedback in an encouraging way.
I believe that student led conferences are hugely beneficial for all involved and strongly encourage all families to attend.
The teacher's role
The role of the teacher is to facilitate the student led conference, ensuring that each student has the opportunity to share their learning. The teacher provides support and guidance to the student, and answers any questions from the parent.
Student led conferences offer a unique opportunity for teacher and parent to connect with each other and with the student, promoting student achievement. Student led conferences can be a powerful tool for promoting student achievement and parent involvement in education.
Preparing for student led conferences
Preparation is key for student led conferences. I sent home information for parents about what student led conferences are and how they can help their child succeed. I also included a sign-up sheet so that parents could choose a time that works for them.
In the weeks leading up to student led conferences, folders were created with work that each child has done. Prior to the conferences, self evaluations were done and these were added to the folders.
For each conference, an agenda was created with all the things that should be covered during the conference. After going over the agenda, I had the kids role play and practice going through the agenda list. They have a great time pretending to be parents and students for each other and it ensures that they know what is required when the actual conferences happen.
If you would like to give student led conferences a try, I have created a learning journal for gathering up information that can be used for communicating student learning on a monthly basis. You can get a free copy by signing up for my newsletter.
Do you think you would like to give it a try, but don't want to invent the wheel? I have created some templates and materials that can help to make your student led conferences successful. You can check them out here.
Student led conferences are a great way for teachers, students, and parents to connect and communicate about student progress. With a little bit of preparation, they can be an enjoyable and stress-free experience for everyone involved!
I used this format successfully for over 20 years. I highly recommend trying it.
Social Emotional Learning
As any teacher knows, dealing with kids can be a bit like herding cats. They're often full of energy, easily distracted, and prone to outbursts of emotion. But while dealing with chaotic classrooms may be exhausting, it's also important to remember that behind all the noise and mayhem are real kids with real feelings.
That's why it's so important to incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) into our teaching. By teaching our kids tools and strategies for regulating their emotions, we can help them to develop good mental health habits that will last a lifetime.
Look for ways to support your students' mental health. When they're feeling good, they're able to learn and be successful in school. That's why social emotional learning (SEL) should be part of your classroom management plan. SEL is all about teaching kids the skills they need to regulate their emotions and avoid meltdowns and anxiety attacks.
There are many different tools that can be used for SEL. Here are a few that may be suitable for your SEL toolkit.
Drawing: When students start to feel overwhelmed, encourage them to take out a piece of paper and start drawing. It doesn't matter what they draw, as long as it's something that makes them feel calm and relaxed.
Headphones: Have headphones available to help kids focus. These can block out distracting noise and help them concentrate.
Music: Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of music to help kids refocus and get back on track.
Sensory Activities: Squeezing and releasing fists or tapping on the body can help kids release tension and calm down. Pushing against a wall can also sometimes help.
Deep breathing: This is a simple, but effective strategy that can help kids relax and avoid an anxious state.
Reading: Getting into a good book can sometimes redirect attention.
Quiet spot: A spot without distractions allows kids to just settle and calm down.
Splashing water on face: This could also snap a person out of an anxious state.
Taking a walk: Going for a quick walk or maybe delivering a message to another classroom or the office can often redirect and calm a person down.
Counting: Focusing on counting may help to calm panic feelings.
Sitting on a wiggle cushion or a ball: This may help with sensory movement and allow focusing.
**** Check below to get a free copy of calming strategies posters for your classroom. ****
One way to support social emotional learning is to provide these tools and strategies for kid's mental health. We can teach them how to identify and label their feelings, how to understand and cope with big emotions, and how to develop positive relationships.
Additionally, we can provide opportunities for them to practice these skills through social-emotional learning activities and games. By supporting social emotional learning, we can help our kids to develop the skills they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
We need to be patient, kind, understanding, and present with our kids. They deserve our time and attention. When we give them that, we're helping to build a foundation of trust and love that will last a lifetime. Ultimately, every child is different and will respond to different tools and strategies.
The important thing is to have a variety of options available so that you can find what works best for each individual child. By incorporating SEL into our teaching, we can help our kids to develop the skills they need to thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
Calming Strategies Posters
Here are some posters that might be helpful for your students. They are available for free for my newsletter subscribers. Click here to get your copy.
With a toolkit of SEL strategies available, you will no longer wonder how to deal with a chaotic classroom.There may still be times when mayhem happens, but kids will have the necessary tools to manage their emotions and classroom control will be attainable.
Assessing for Differentiation
You're back to school, you've got your new class, and you are now trying to figure out how to do assessments. It's a juggling act teaching, engaging, and assessing while maintaining control of wiggling bodies that want to bounce off the walls, not remain in desks.
It would be so much easier to just teach whole class lessons, but that wouldn't be good practice since kids are all at different levels of ability and understanding. Once beginning assessments are completed, plans need to be created to help meet the needs of each student.
Differentiation In Reading And Writing
Differentiation is such an important skill for teachers! It ensures that all students in a class are being taught according to their individual needs and abilities. For various subjects, different types of adjustments can be made to include all students.
Differentiation in reading can be achieved by using different books at different reading levels, or by using the same book but slowing down or speeding up the rate at which it is read. For struggling readers, differentiation might also involve providing extra support, such as a word bank or mini-dictionary. Guided reading groups are another way to meet needs of everyone.
When it comes to writing, differentiation can take many forms. Some students might benefit from having extra time to complete a task, while others might need scaffolding in the form of sentence starters or word banks. Ultimately, differentiation is all about meeting the needs of each individual student.
Differentiation And Guided Math
When I retired, I worked with small groups of intermediate students who were struggling with basic facts and totally overwhelmed with the more difficult concepts. I also tutored a couple of them.
We went back to doing hands-on, concrete activities with basic facts such as making tens, understanding place value, and doing addition and subtraction with and without regrouping. It was amazing to see the change in confidence as they finally understood how numbers worked and were successful with the skills and concepts.
Once they had the basic concepts, they were able to move on to multiplication and division, along with other more abstract concepts. Without the small group support, they would still be floundering today.
Guided math activities can be targeted to the skills and concepts and complexities that build confidence and understanding of concrete examples that can be extended to more abstract ideas. If kids are met at the levels they are functioning at, they will be able to climb the ladder to reach the levels they should be at and beyond.
Building Confidence And Success
Differentiating your instruction and assessment to meet the needs of all of your students ensures that all your students have an opportunity to demonstrate their learning. It also builds self confidence in your students.
When you differentiate your instruction and assessment, you're sending the message to your students that you believe in their ability to learn. You're telling them that you have faith in their ability to be successful. When your students feel confident in their ability to learn, they are more likely to take risks and persevere when they encounter difficulty.
When students are able to learn at their own pace and in a way that is tailored to their individual needs, they are more likely to feel successful and confident in their abilities. In addition, differentiation can also help to foster a love of learning by making school more engaging and relevant for all students.
Project Choices For Differentiation
When it comes to teaching social studies, try incorporating project-based learning activities. They're a great way to let students show what they know in a variety of ways - and it's always fun to see the different ways that each student approaches the project.
Some students excel at making models, while others are natural born storytellers. And some students love nothing more than putting together a detailed timeline or poster. No matter what their strengths are, project-based learning activities give all students a chance to shine. Plus, it's a great way to get kids excited about social studies!
By providing a criteria checklist, students know what is expected of them and can focus their energies on meeting the requirements. It also provides a checklist for assessment at the end of the project.
Additionally, by including a home/school component, interactive projects provide an opportunity for families to be involved in their child's learning. This not only reinforces the concepts being learned, but also strengthens the bond between family and school.
This set of criteria checklists can help with different forms of presentations. They give criteria for what is required for the various project formats. They also work well for assessments. Get your free copy now.
With a little creativity, project based activities can be adapted to any curriculum. So next time you're looking for a new and exciting way to teach and differentiate, consider using interactive projects!
The Power Of Self Esteem
Positive self esteem and a positive attitude is very important for success in life. I believe it can be a game changer for kids if they learn to value their self worth and uniqueness.
Kids that struggle with their own worthiness, find it hard to care about others. Helping them feel good about themselves will build self confidence and set the tone for a more successful year.
Lessons From Tigger And Eeyore
Attitude has the power to change the way the day goes. Just look at Tigger and Eeyore.
Although Eeyore is a lovable character, he see everything through dark clouds. It takes his friends to encourage him to try things out and find good in his world.
Tigger is very happy go lucky and almost too bouncy and positive at times for his friends, but he sees the fun and excitement in everything and wants them to see it too.
Imagine how it must feel for children to always see themselves as an Eeyore. “I can’t do anything right, I might as well not try because I am going to mess up. I’ve misplaced my tail again!” This won’t give them much incentive to try to do things or even imagine that life could work out well.
“Tigger” children are game to try anything and don’t worry about the outcome. Excitement and fun is the focus Because of this, they keep going and trying even when it doesn’t work out the first time.
We don’t have to be bouncing off the walls to have a positive outlook on the world, but it's important to see joy and not just negatives.
Optimism lesson suggestions
Do a lesson on optimism and pessimism using the example of Tigger and Eeyore. Expand it to share a couple of scenarios with kids in different situations that show how a positive or negative attitude affects the outcome of the situations. Discuss ways to change the situations.
Example 1: At the beach: One boy wants to swim to the dock. He talks about diving off the edge, playing water tag, doing flips and having fun. The other complains, "The water is too cold, I can't swim very well, it's too far, I'd rather stay on the beach and watch."
Example 2: The teacher introduces a new game. Sally is excited and ready to play. She gathers all the necessary equipment and asks her friend Nancy to join her. Nancy is hesitant. She worries that she won't be any good at it. She can't remember all the rules. She creates roadblocks that prevent her from trying.
Add in more activities and lessons about self worth, self confidence, and power words. This can make a huge difference to how students respond to each other and situations that arise in the classroom.
The sooner we can help kids to see that they are unique and special, the sooner they will strive to be the best they can be. Their goal should be to improve themselves and not try to be someone else.
A positive attitude is key. One of the sayings in my class was “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” This was a reminder for both the kids and myself that we need to check our attitudes and see if they are helping us to be successful.
In a world where we are surrounded by negative, a positive attitude is even more necessary. It is our job as teachers, to help kids see that they are valued and important and that they have much contribute to the world around them.
We also need to help them develop good team skills and support them if they slip up. If we provide them with the tools to be good team players they will soar in a competitive world, pick themselves up when they fall, dust themselves off, and continue on. They will accept the minor setbacks are part of growing, not failures and they will be able to move forward.
Some Activities And Resources
Success and Power words
Bucket filling activities
Acts of Kindness
Optimist or Pessimist Task Cards
I Am posters
Last time, I wrote about a strong classroom management plan. If you add a self esteem component to your plan, you will have a positive classroom environment and a more successful year. Remember attitude is everything. Focus on what is going right and build a caring and respectful class community with these two things. You've got this!
Positive Classroom Management Strategies and Self Esteem Go Hand In Hand
I would like to give a free set of the smiles/frown edition to any of my email subscribers.
Changing behavior in the classroom - Meet "Johnny"
As I walk down the hallways of the school, my heart breaks when I see kids sitting out in the hall almost daily because they are being disruptive in the classroom. It brings back memories of a child I had a few years ago.
It was the end of the first week of school and I met up with the mother of my new student "Johnny". I was surprised when I heard what she had to say.
"This is the longest he has ever remained in the classroom."
Red flags seemed to jump up all around me. What did she mean? What was I missing?
I pondered this statement and decided I might want to investigate why she said that. I checked on his file to learn more.
Start with a clean slate
It turned out that he had many behavior issues that made it difficult for him to remain in the classroom for the full day in his previous school.
Because I don't read the files of new students right away, I was unaware of this. I just took any movement toward misbehavior and redirected it as I would with any other child.
This is not to say that the behaviors weren't there, but they were not my focus. Since I didn't know his history, I hadn't formed an expectation of negative behavior and he was able to start with a clean slate.
Does this mean that the behaviors had disappeared? No, but we found ways to lessen the frequency and degree of negative behaviors and increase the positive behaviors.
The weeks and months progressed, and "Johnny" and I developed an understanding so we were able to interrupt potential behavior issues and make things work. This took some creative effort, but with the help of his classmates we were successful.
Every day was a new day, so he learned that he could start fresh the next day if he messed up or needed time to self regulate and regain control.
How did we make this work?
I remembered a keynote speech from a couple of years earlier that promoted thinking about what is going right in a negatively charged world. It hit me that this could be a game changer.
I began to focus on developing positive self-esteem and creating a class community based on celebrating successes. We zeroed in on what was going right and learned not to feed into the negative stuff. (More on this next time.)
When "Johnny" didn't get attention for his negative behavior, it became less and less.
Many of his behaviors were ways to distract others from seeing that he struggled with reading and writing or he didn't understand a concept or lesson. I suspect that some of this was because he missed key instructions and practice during the times when he was not in the classroom.
He loved to share what he did know and this often meant that he would blurt out answers and interrupt others who were sharing if he made a connection to something they said. Instead of getting upset with him for this, I quietly reminded him that it was their turn and he could share when they were finished. Little things like this helped him to be able to participate in class activities and have moments to share his ideas.
Differentiation and focusing on learning styles made a huge difference. Here are some of the notes from his report card.
- creative thinker
- enjoys nonfiction topics
- enjoys sharing ideas
- enjoys active lessons
- very knowledgeable about his world
- learns best orally
- works best one on one
One of the key ways we were able to help "Johnny" was to focus on what he could do and be his cheerleaders. His classmates were awesome cheerleaders for him and helped him to feel he was valuable and part of a special team.
When he learned that he wouldn't be teased for his struggles with reading and writing and that he could have support with these areas, he was more willing to do the work. Scribing stories and writing words in an idea book helped to share his thoughts. He loved to share stories and adventures and the kids enjoyed hearing them.
Because he felt accepted by his classmates, he worked harder to fit in and become a team player. His self esteem and confidence grew, he made friends, and he ended up having a successful year. The transformation was heartwarming to see.
Ignoring negative behaviors and focusing on positive behaviors wasn't easy, and I had to intentionally control my emotions, bite my tongue, and not freak out at actions that had the potential to explode into very negative behaviors. But it paid off in dividends. So much so, he told his younger brother that he needed to be in my class because "Mrs. Sequeira gets us."
(Little did I know at that time that his brother also had many behavior challenges.)
I wish I could say that "Johnny" continued to build on this success and have a positive school experience, but it wasn't so. After all the work that was done during the year to work on being a positive, responsible member of the class, it seemed to unravel in the next couple of years.
My heart sank as I saw him spending many days slumped on a chair in the hallway because he was too "disruptive" in class. I could see in his face as he looked down at the floor that he felt uncomfortable when I saw him out there.
I guess other teaching styles didn't work well for him and he was unable to adjust to them and continue to be successful, so he reverted to his old behaviors.
Changing my focus
Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last. I have seen several students over the years struggle to adjust to the different classroom situations.
I have to admit, there were times earlier in my career when I had difficulty with some students and found it very hard to manage their behaviors in the classroom. As I did some soul searching, I discovered that it was my own classroom management skills and my understanding of kids and why they might be acting out or behaving in negative ways that needed changing.
When I figured this out, my approach in the classroom became intentionally focused on nurturing positive self esteem, promoting optimism and a positive attitude, and developing self confidence during my first few weeks of school.
Changing my focus to what was going right was a big shift that helped to create a more cooperative and caring class situation.
Focusing on SEL (social emotional learning) and mindful behavior is key to developing a caring and respectful community which can work even for kids with challenging behaviors like "Johnny".
Next time, I will give some specific tips and activities that help develop positive, confident kids and a cooperative and caring community.
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Engaging students to learn
When students arrive back to school from summer break, the room echoes with excitement as kids reconnect with classmates. But that quickly fizzles when it is time to actually do some work. Groans can be heard and the grumbling starts. Some are happy to do the activities planned and others want to get outside and play or take out electronics and zone out. And so it begins.
Kids are not always excited to return to school and start studying again. What can you do to engage your students and get them excited to learn after a summer break from learning?
The answer to that question will be different for each person depending on their personality, experience, and classroom situation, but there are some things that could work for most teachers. Here are a few suggestions to get your kids motivated and wanting to learn the first weeks back at school.
Take learning outside
Kids have been enjoying the summer break and hopefully they have been spending time having fun outdoors. If you wish to keep them interested when they return to school, try to incorporate some outside activities during the day. These could be review activities, exploration, science activities, or maybe even body breaks and daily PE. I know that my students were eager to get outside and do hands on activities and it helped to make the transition back into school easier for them.
Check out my blog post about taking learning outdoors for the fall for some specific types of activities.
Have you ever had a group of kids that were a challenge? Did you wonder if you would be able to get them to sit still, listen and cooperate? Building community is especially important with these types of situations. It is important to build respect and caring in the classroom. This can be encouraged by doing partner activities and group activities that help kids to meet their classmates and learn more about them. You may even need to add some specific classroom management systems. As you are figuring out where they fit in academically, you can start doing games and activities that foster teamwork and respect. Activities that foster positive self esteem and help to develop self confidence could also be a focus.
Focus on developing positive self esteem
Beginning the year with activities that focus on positive self esteem and classroom management will ensure that children have the tools for a successful year. There are many different ways of creating a caring and positive classroom. It is important that you choose what works best for you.
I always start out with teaching about optimism and a positive attitude. I also use bucket filling activities and acts of kindness as a focus.
Here is more about what I tried in my classroom to develop positive self esteem and help kids blossom and display increased self confidence about themselves.
Move, move, move
Just like teachers, kids are tired at the beginning of the year as they start up new routines and stay in class for several hours. Incorporating movement and organizing classroom activities for transitions will help keep kids energized so that they stay focused and alert.
Games and body breaks work well to keep kids active. Doing hands on activities and partner games also work well.
Rules and routines
Kids are creatures of habit as well as adults although they may not be aware of this yet. When you give students routines and schedules to follow, you can help them regulate and focus on daily and weekly expectations. With pre-planning and teaching for when unexpected events and situations happen, we can help them avoid meltdowns.
Create classroom rules and establish routines that work for your students. Depending on the age of your students, you can take their ideas into consideration and create the rules together. This is a great community building activity as well.
Here is a set of routine and schedule cards that I created that may be useful for the classroom. I have made them in both English and French. You can get a free copy by clicking on the image.
First week back activities
When selecting activities for the first week of school choose a mix of fun activities that review concepts and skills from the year before to ensure that they are not lost somewhere in distant memory after a summer of no school and that they will be able to use them to build on for new concepts and skills to be taught. We have all probably experienced the situations where kids stare blankly at us as if they had never heard of the subject before.
If you get your previous students back for the first few days, you will want to ensure that they are doing something that is not a direct repeat of the previous year. It can be similar, but they will respond better if it is varied and approached from a different angle this year.
You may have new students in your class as well. They will need to be able to handle the material given as well. They won't be familiar with your teaching style yet, and they may or may not have covered the same material last year, so there will need to some differentiation and extra support in certain cases.
If you are looking for some back to school activities, check out my back to school category. These activities are geared to primary and cover some basic math and language skills.
I hope these ideas help to make your school year start up successful. Have a wonderful year.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.