The teachers and students are restless and have spring fever about now. What ever you are already doing, add some new trick to motivate the class even more to stay focused and appropriate with their behaviors. Testing is stressful for all and when it is over, students often think they are done. Keep them challenged and interested by doing some of the fun enrichment lessons you didn’t have time for earlier in the year when you were bound so tightly by your curriculum map. Show them a little preview of next year’s expectation and tell them how impressed next year’s teacher will be because they have already learned a little of what is to come. Share your ideas here too. We can all learn from each other:)
ADHD Medication Can Help Kids, But It Can’t Fix Schools
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I think we can all agree that reforming schools through medicating students would be misguided, even ridiculous.
Yet The New York Times reported last fall that some physicians, particularly in low-income communities, are prescribing stimulants to students as a way to compensate for their inadequate schools. The children cited in the article didn’t suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but they weren’t receiving the educational services they needed. Some physicians told the Times that they used medication to level the playing field for their young patients. This practice produces a new equation for education reform: Boredom + distraction = medicine.
At times, medication is necessary for students with a diagnosis of ADHD, and it can be daunting for poor families to access good diagnostic assessment and therapy. But the use of stimulants to improve poor academic performance or enhance cognitive skills is a travesty that can lead to unintended consequences.
Education reform does not come from introducing Ritalin into the cafeteria lunches of poor schools. Real reform comes through productive interaction between teachers and students in the classroom.
As a child psychiatrist who consults with urban schools, I believe mental-health clinicians must provide every student, rich or poor, with a thorough diagnosis that determines if he or she has a learning disorder, anxiety, sleep deprivation, or another condition that fuels difficulty in school. But those same mental-health practitioners then need to help teachers find strategies to address the underlying problem effectively.
Many teachers do not get the support they need on how to work with children struggling with mental-health problems. Too often, teachers enter the classroom ill-equipped to respond to students’ challenging behaviors: their refusal to do work, defiance of teacher authority, persistent arguing, or, in the words of one principal I know, their ability to go from “zero to 100 in a split second.”
Faced with challenging students, teachers often feel exhausted or incompetent. There is a 20 percent annual turnover rate among urban teachers, and 46 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years.
Too many educators receive minimal training in how to develop interventions that reduce behavioral incidents and increase access to the curriculum—and yet training in basic preventive techniques can provide the key to student learning. This allows teachers to convey the message that their students are promising, safe, and appreciated. These preventive approaches can have a huge impact on students and help them fit into the school environment.
So what should teachers do when students have trouble regulating their emotions, become inflexible, and subsequently explode? The first step in working with challenging students is to understand some key concepts. Teachers need to learn to see all behavior as a form of communication. This fundamental principle helps when teachers are frustrated or confused by how students are acting. Even though students’ behavior can look bizarre or disruptive, their actions are purposeful attempts to solve a problem. Rather than responding with bewilderment or assuming that the child is being manipulative, it helps to ask: What is this student communicating? This allows the teacher to begin to decipher what the student is trying to convey and to identify the underlying cause of the outburst.
Behavior happens for a reason, and by determining the intent or the function of the behavior, teachers can better decide how to intervene.
Unfortunately, as many teachers know, negative attention, such as lecturing or redirecting a child, can reinforce the student’s attention-seeking behavior. By looking for patterns in students’ behaviors, teachers can avoid that negative reinforcement and instead reduce environmental triggers for bad behavior (such as transitions, unstructured times, lunch, and recess), as well as explicitly teach replacement behaviors and improve underdeveloped skills.
Many students with challenging behavior lack the skill of self-regulation, and teachers may need to help students identify their feelings and then encourage them to practice self-calming strategies to avoid a meltdown. If students find a way to get their needs met and improve skills such as self-regulation and flexible thinking, they can develop the necessary confidence to make effective progress.
Admittedly, teachers are extremely busy and may need to be persuaded to step back and look at a child’s meltdowns as an opportunity for growth. However, investing time upfront often ends up saving a teacher’s time by preventing a lesson plan from being derailed by one student’s actions. It takes a lot of energy to settle a class after a child has thrown something or started to swear. For the teacher who thinks that it’s not his or her job to work with such a student, and that the student just needs to go somewhere else, keep in mind that inevitably the teacher will face another child with similar challenges.
How does one put all this into practice? Let’s consider Fred, a 4th grader who has already lived in two foster homes. Every day at school, he has three explosive incidents that seem to come out of the blue, and he has been sent home twice. By looking for patterns in Fred’s behavior, the teacher identifies writing and social demands as triggers. In the past, she focused solely on the meltdowns, but after gathering information, she focuses on what happens before Fred’s meltdowns.
She realizes that Fred struggles with behavior after lunch and recess and when writing is required in class. This helps inform her interventions. She sees that her student was stuck in a cycle in which he had discovered that demanding behavior would get him what he wanted. As a result, she understands that she needs to teach Fred to take a deep breath in a moment of panic and to learn to say “I’m frustrated,” instead of screaming. The teacher emphasizes positive self-talk, and the school counselor helps with coaching in social skills. The teacher provides a “comfort box” for Fred, which includes theraputty (a kind of hand-exercise putty), a “power card” with a motivational character, and a picture of his family, among other soothing items.
The teacher and the student break down the writing tasks to help with his anxiety, and they preview all writing assignments with pictures to help him get started. Within three weeks, Fred does remarkably well with this plan. He stops his explosive behaviors and is able to complete many tasks. He uses self-calming strategies and is better able to get along with his peers.
When the teacher consistently applies such simple interventions to address underdeveloped skills, she curbs the student’s disruptive behavior.
It takes experience and a nuanced eye to determine whether a child is suffering from ADHD, boredom, or something else entirely. Forget the shortcuts that may seem convenient or a quick fix. When we medicate our children this way, we are cheating the kids and ourselves. The price is too high for our children to pay. Many students don’t need prescriptions. They simply need teachers trained in preventive strategies, which are key to providing them with a chance to learn and the skills they need to persevere.
Nancy Rappaport is an associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and the author of The Behavior Code (Harvard Education Press, 2012). Her website iswww.nancyrappaport.com.
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1) Something tangible
2) Teacher (or parent if this is a home issue) attention
3) Peer attention
4) Avoidance of an activity or task
Taken from Building Effective Schools Together Section 6 p. 3
My thoughts on how to address #2 and #3 Attention:
First determine the motivation behind the behavior and then it will help you determine the action plan for extinguishing an unwanted behavior or increasing the occurrence of a desirable behavior. Attention is most often the goal of the misbehavior and the poor behavior is usually immediately rewarded with both teacher and peer attention. Negative attention is still very reinforcing, thus increasing the occurrence of the negative behavior the teacher or parent wishes to extinguish.
Ignoring inappropriate behavior is tricky and must be done purposefully and with a plan. Planned ignoring needs to be practiced. It is so tempting to give a quick verbal comeback that you hope will put the child in his or her place or will teach the child to finally decide to stop or start doing something. If either of these methods worked you wouldn’t be reading this blog:) What does planned ignoring look like?
Let’s say a teacher is in the middle of teaching and all students are listening except student A who is tapping his pencil and looking around to see who is reacting to his annoying behavior. The teacher and students do not look at the student or react. The teacher does not stop instructing or say anything to give that child extra attention. She may walk over and take the pencil without pausing in the verbal instruction and without looking at or commenting to the student doing the tapping. The teacher may pause briefly soon after to verbally recognize some other students positively such as, “I appreciate groups four and five for using such good student behaviors. Your eyes are on me, your pencils are down and put away, waiting for the direction to begin working.”
Other students can be taught to ignore repeated inappropriate behavior that is done for the purpose of attention. This is best done when student A is out of the room. If students around student A are often distracted because student A is banging his or her desk into theirs, they can be told to quietly move their desk away a little without saying a word to the student. This isn’t ganging up on student A, but as a class helping to support helping a student overcome an ongoing problem that interferes with everyone’s learning on a daily basis.
At first, student A will escalate, demanding the attention he or she is no longer receiving from misbehaving. If violence toward another child or chair throwing happens, the child will probably not be in a state of mind to follow directions. So, if something like this happens and the child refuses to leave the classroom calmly and go to the office, action must happen to ensure everyone’s safety.This action can be to remove the entire class from the room leaving the violent child without an audience while the principal or another adult deals with him or her giving the child the smallest audience possible.
The above examples are when precision directions do not work and problem behaviors persist. See my other posts about precision directions for more information at http://www.behaviormanagementmagic.com/behavior-manag…nt-the-magic-7/
In the future I will write more about #1 and #4 mistaken goals of children.
O.K. the future is here, and I’m here to write more about #4: avoidance of tasks
Whether you are a parent trying to get your kid to clean up a mess or a teacher trying to get a student to complete an assignment the child/teen is probably overwhelmed by the bigness and unpleasantness of the undesired task. Step one is to break it down into manageable pieces. So instead of saying, “Clean up your room”, say: “Pick up 20 toys (or articles of clothing etc.) and then you may _____________” fill in the blank. This might be a smaller number for younger kids. Or give a time limit of ten minutes and say, I’m setting a timer for ten minutes and you need to work without stopping for ten minutes and then _________ (I will come help you finish, or you may take a ten minute play break or something else rewarding).
As a teacher, I circle a few problems I want the child to finish right now (Getting started is half the battle and I help first if there is a problem with understanding). I check back and may give a few more problems to complete and the child may end up completing the whole thing because it feels doable. Students with ADD and ADHD and some other learning challenges are easily overwhelmed when they look at too many problems to complete at once.
Family rules: Speak softly when wielding the discipline stick
t installment of Utah Families, a twice-monthly column by faculty members of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. Members of the department will offer practical information on topics related to families and children.
It was the typical parent-of-a-teen dilemma. Should I call for emergency help, get in the car and go searching, or just keep pacing the floor while the wee hours of the morning ticked away? My young son, just 13, was out with older friends, and it was way past curfew.
Family rules were swimming in my head. Did my rules allow me to “blast” this child right off the face of the Earth as soon as he appeared? In my efforts to be the “authoritative” parent — the one whose rules are clear and associated with well-understood consequences — where had I gone wrong?
As I paced the floor, I rehearsed my speech. I would be angry. Emotional honesty is critical. But I also felt that it was important to find out what was going on. “Seek first to understand” is one of Covey’s habits for effective relationships, and it was one of my primary rules for successful family relationships. I kept rehearsing.
The young man finally came home, quietly slipping in the back door. I met him, hands on hips. Yes, I was angry, just as he had suspected I would be. But my where-have-you-been voice was not too loud (actually, not real soft, either), as I expressed frustration, fear and sleeplessness.
Then, I flopped down on the couch and motioned for him to sit by me and asked, “So how was it?” What followed was nearly an hour of the animated retelling of the evening’s adventures, spiced with delightful detail and accented with sparkling eyes. It had been really fun! And the retelling was really fun for me, too. We felt happy and close.
The night was well spent when he finally asked, “Well, Mom, how long am I grounded for?” (Grounding being the already established consequence for coming home late).
We negotiated the activities he would forfeit. There were teeth in this grounding (the rules said, if you make Mom suffer, you must suffer, too), but it was delivered with a friendly swat on the back of the head, and a good-night (or rather a good-morning) kiss.
There were some additional rules in operation here: It was clear that there would be no sleeping in, and there were responsibilities to take care of when the sun came up, and repeat offenses would double the consequences.
But as he went off to bed, my teenage son turned around and said, “Hey, Mom, I love how you do grounding.”
Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Weber State University.
Depending on when you started school and whether or not you teach year round or traditional, the number of school days in the 2011-2012 calendar are limited. This time of year kids get even rowdier than usual. This is the time to pull out a new behavior management system to add to what you have been doing all year. The honeymoon period is long over, the kids feel safe and comfortable, and now they (and you) are ready for summer fun. It is hard to stay focused on continuing to follow classroom procedures with the same diligence as they did earlier in the year. If your class never did follow procedures well, then this time of year can be a nightmare!
One simple inexpensive thing I do Is write “Choose My Group” on the board. I tell the students that if even one letter remains by _____ (You choose the date here. I chose May 18th, because that is when we are done with testing and there isn’t much time between the 18th and the 30th which is our last day), they can move their desks to form whatever groups they want any where in the classroom. They are also told that if they lose control in any way during that time, I will take the choice away and move them where I want. So, I erase a letter every time the noise level gets crazy or another end of year type sloppiness with behavior slips into the school day and interrupts lessons. As soon as I erase a letter they give each other dirty looks to peer pressure them into being quiet and appropriate.
Instead of “Choose My Group” you can write pop corn, ice cream, movie, or something else motivating to them. Help them want to hold it together with manageable behaviors through the last day of school. Do try to have a little fun now that testing is finally over (or will be soon). However, fun doesn’t mean learning is excluded from the school day or that bad behaviors are acceptable. The countdown is on! Have fun and stay strong.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is a well known proverb. I rarely have major discipline problems in my class (even when I taught the at – risk conduct disorder middle school students) because I am lazy and it is much easier to prevent conflict than cure it! How?
1) Always start by developing and maintaining a positive climate where students feel respected (They will then reciprocate respect back to you). They feel safe enough to contribute, because making errors will not be condemned by teacher or classmates. This must be taught and role played from day one of class.
2) Good teaching must be present! Sorry, but if if you are not presenting an interesting, relevant lesson, then why should students waste their time listening instead of socializing, checking their text messages, etc. When I sit through pointless training, I find myself doing these same off task behaviors, UNLESS the speaker is teaching me something important in an engaging way.
3) Take charge and present yourself as the leader. Rules and procedures are established day one so consequences both positive and negative are predictable, understood, fair, and logical. This kind, firm, and consistent leadership will earn respect and trust, instead of fear and hate.
4) Don’t forget to hand out the positive consequences for what is going well. Some teachers pounce on every negative behavior and ignore the good. A simple, “Good job following directions” goes a long way.
…I have to teach a boring grammar lesson and it can be only so interesting?
Answer: I use sense of humor. I might say, “OK everyone, we are going to so your very favorite thing ever! It is time for grammar and we will learn the difference between subject and object pronouns”! I am being sarcastic, but they laugh, groan and keep listening as I explain there will be a game to earn team points at the end of the lesson if they are able to answer ? about what will be learned during the lesson. The topic may not seem important to them, but earning the points is. I also tell them if it will be on a test. Some people disagree with teaching to the test, but the kids are way more interested, when they know it matters to their grade in the end.
What are your good ideas for preventing disruptive behaviors and apathy?
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Good morning CW News readers! After a rather interesting and slightly controversial special needs story yesterday, I thought we would take a break to look at some other news in education. Our friend David Ginsburg (aka Coach G) is back and has some excellent advice for all teachers about the role of discipline versus diagnosis when it comes to classroom behavioral management.
Stop Disciplining, Start Diagnosing
From David Ginsburg, writing for Coach G’s Teaching Tips
Doctors don’t prescribe drugs or reach for a scalpel the moment a patient reports symptoms. Doctors diagnose first, and treat second.
Coaches don’t cut players from the team every time they’re in a slump. Coaches determine what’s wrong with a player’s shot or swing or stroke, and then work with that player to fix it.
In myriad other settings, experts similarly identify the sources of problems before deciding how to address those problems. One place, however, where this doesn’t always happen is school, especially when it comes to students’ misbehavior.
Writing students’ names on the board. Moving their seats. Giving them detention. Calling their parents. Suspending them. These and other common punitive responses rarely if ever improve students’ behavior. And a big reason for this is that they fail to assess–much less address–the causes of students’ behavior.
Martin Haberman spoke to this in his book, Star Teachers, when he wrote, “Star teachers act only in terms of the most appropriate response to a particular child, after they determine his motive. They never respond as if there is a universally correct teacher response to a child’s misbehavior without first knowing that child’s motivation.”
As for what that motivation may be, Haberman cited the work of Rudolph Dreikurs, who identified four goals of children’s misbehavior: attention, power, revenge, and avoidance of failure. And based on my experience–as a teacher, sports coach, instructional coach, school leader, and parent–these are indeed main motives of children’s misbehavior.
I’ve provided illustrations in previous posts that can help you identify three of these four motives–attention, power, and avoidance of failure–along with suggestions for addressing them proactively. Still, kids are going to misbehave at times no matter how proactive you are, so be sure to determine why they’re misbehaving before you decide what to do about it. To discipline students before diagnosing the causes of their behavior would be like operating on patients before diagnosing the causes of their symptoms.