1. Adjust your tone.
When you are speaking to children, it is important that you have a very stern tone when giving directions, or explaining a concept. I do not elevate my voice at the end of a sentence. I also do not show any uncertainty when I speak. (Unless I am modeling or doing a think-aloud, etc.) You will find out that kids will listen and respond when you keep your tone lower and and less “girly.” (I know there are male teachers out there, but let’s face it, many of us are females.)
2. Make your students own their behavior.
When correcting a behavior, you know when to stop the behavior immediately. You also know when you can talk through the behavior and offer a choice. Make it their idea to change the behavior.
For example: “Can you tell me what a better choice might be?”
“We aren’t allowed to do _______ but you may ________.”
“In this classroom, we ________. If you would like to stay, you may __________, or you may take a walk (or other activity to remove the child from emotionally elevated situation) and when you get back we can talk through it and find a solution.”
By allowing the child to take control of his/her behavior, you are allowing the student a chance to correct the behavior on their own without escalating the situation. You are also making them think with questions, and the chances of them repeating the behavior is less likely.
3. Give your students a choice.
Give your kids a choice when you are correcting their behavior. I usually follow this step after I make them aware and have them own their behavior. And this is not a cutesy wootsy piddly conversation I have with them. I am very stern, and I use that “tone.” For example, I will ask a student to look at me when I am talking to them. For eye contact, there are a few exceptions. You have differentiate for children with different cultural backgrounds and learning differences that would make it uncomfortable for them to give you eye contact. Then, I will say, “I am going to give you two choices. You may choose to stop ____ behavior, and work right now, or you can continue _____ and work during your recess.” You can insert whatever behavior and consequence you choose. I can tell you that for me, this works 100% of the time. And it works because they really had to think about it and they came up with the better choice on their own. Think about how differently that child had to think about their behavior as opposed to you telling them not to do something and instantly react by telling them they are missing their recess. You put the power of choice into that child’s head, and you became their coach instead of their disciplinarian. Sure, it might have taken a little more time, but you will get more bang for your buck in the long run.
4. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Let them know your expectations for behavior. Sometimes it is hard for them to know what you want if you can’t tell them what you want. I struggled with this is a new teacher, but I started to pinpoint exactly what they were doing that bugged me. If I had not told them what I wanted or did not want them to do, they would have no idea. When a student steps out of line, be sure to enforce the rules and follow through. This needs to be done because all the other kids are watching and taking note on what you are doing. The enforcement piece is crucial to solid classroom management. If you don’t want to follow through on a consequence, don’t threaten it.
I have compiled a list of a few examples some of my expectations in the classroom. Keep in mind, it’s the little things that make a big difference. These are just examples and this is not everything I do.
-Swaying on the carpet. Drives me nuts! So I tell them to sit straight with criss cross legs so they can keep their spine nice and straight. Good posture is very important for the brain to get as much oxygen for optimal learning.
-How to act when I am interrupted. I usually can ask them to do something before I have to answer to someone or grab the phone, but sometimes I can’t. This is when I throw out my doctor’s office example. What do you do when you are in a waiting room? Do you talk and bother the people sitting next to you? No. You just wait. And you might be bored, but that’s just what we have to do.
-How we walk in line. Obviously, you have many rules when walking in line, but my biggest thing that I feel is so hard for kids to understand is personal space. You need to give the person in front of you space. What does that look like? This lends very well into my next point, which is practice.
5. Practice what you preach.
In order for your kids to understand what you want, you have to practice. If it is walking in line, maybe showing kids how much space they should give and then practicing it. Give them parameters. For example, your shoes should not be almost touching the shoes of the person in front of you. You could even practice how to act when the the phone is ringing. And yes, they need to know what quietly sitting still feels like. The more times they practice, the better off they will be when the phone actually rings. They will be confident, because they have practiced as a class. This practice helps them to internalize the expected behavior.
It is the little things that make a difference. Sometimes small shifts in the way we approach situations can change the way kids act and behave in your classroom. I would love for you to comment with some of the things that you use in your classroom to keep your students in check:)
Want to see what I use to help my classroom discipline? Try this Positive Behavior Chart and Desk Plate Freebie!
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