#15 Behavior Modification Lower Grades

FullSizeRenderIt is asking too much to expect young children to sit still quietly all day. Instead of waiting for students to misbehave why not correct the misbehavior before it begins? The following are suggestions to try. If a choice does not work that day for that child, make another selection. If you have an idea that works for you, please share it with us under comments.

1. One action I do not do is put students in the hall, for safety reasons. I have to keep my eyes on my students at all times.

2. Why not allow students to stand at their desks while they work?

3. Some school systems allow students to bring in exercise balls to sit on. Teachers that use this love it! Some have actually gotten rid of their chairs. You can google this to read the rave reviews. I have not used this because I was always concerned about safety.

4. At lease every five minutes give positive reinforcement, i.e. I like how straight you are sitting, You are doing a great job of working so quietly.

5. Put your head on their level and say something fabulous about a student. Have a big smile on your face. Ask the class to notice the awesome way this student was working.

6. Get the class’s attention and skip count. Have them clap to every number  or have them stand and sit every time they say a number. The goal is to get the class to move in a controlled atmosphere.

7. Bring in an American Sign Language book. Give a 5 minute break every 30 minutes and review letters and a couple of signs. This would be used twice a day.

8. Executives Please! Before your active student gets carried away, ask the class for Executives, Please! Give the active student, and a well-behaved student an unsharpened pencil to put behind their ear. Then give them a clipboard, paper and pencil. The directions are to walk down each hallway and count the doorknobs on each side of the hall. When they get to the end they come back to the classroom and make up three math problems using those numbers. They choose  students to solve the problems.

9. Have a short game of Simon Says. Because the student who needs the activity the most is the least likely to listen to the directions and the most likely to be out first the rule is this, No on is ever out. If someone makes a mistake, say “That’s OK, Let’s keep going!”

10. Have a short game of Side by Side. Partner the students two girls and two boys. Tell them they are going to follow the directions you give. Tell them if you say head to head, they are gong to not really touch heads. (Due to head lice.) Teacher says, side to side, thumb to thumb, shoulder to shoulder, etc. The teacher continues but increases the speed. The students laugh hysterically because they can’t keep up. No one is ever out.

11. Remember that Sharpee on the Post-It on Open House? A few could say 5 containers of Play-Dough. Students can keep their container in their desk and take it out of they are given 10 minutes of free choice time. The clay stays on the desk and the colors don’t mix. If anyone throws clay, they lose their container for a week. This works well in developing fine motor control. Of course, students love this activity.

12. When you walk by a student, allow your hand to very lightly drop on the back of a student’s shoulder. I am not suggesting hugs as this is frowned upon in most school systems. Allowing your hand to lightly touch a shoulder makes a connection between that student. Smile and make a warm comment as you walk by.

#14 Individualized Instruction? Oh No!

FullSizeRenderI had dismissed my second grade class for the day and had sat down to grade papers, when a third grade teacher poked her head in the room and asked if she could speak to me. She did not have her happy face on. She said earlier in the day she had had a parent teacher conference along with the principal. She said the parents were upset because last year their child had left my class on a fourth grade level, and this year he had begun on a third grade level. This teacher had tried to explain her curriculum was third grade. Mistake. That did not go over well.

I asked what she would like me to do. I also noticed that it is possible for an adult’s eyes to glow if they are angry enough. I wonder if you can guess what came next? This teacher stated she was hired to teach third grade, not fourth. She said students should leave my class at the end of a second grade level, no higher. She never wanted another student from my room to have a standardized test score above the end of second grade. She said I wasn’t getting paid to do more, so do less. I told her I would consider what she said.

The next day I had a surprise visit from the principal, complete with clicking heels and yellow scribing notebook. She stayed for an hour, hand ferociously writing the whole time. When she left she asked if she could meet with me in my classroom after school. I acquiesced since it was obviously a rhetorical question.

She was at my door with notebook in hand. She sat down and told me what she noticed. I am going to tell you what was going on in my classroom because I may need to include background information. Four students were at a computer at the back of my room doing a 15 minute math program and a 15 minute reading program. I had applied for a Mini-Grant entitled, “A Spelunking We Will Go”. There was a round tent in the back of the room set up to look like a cave. Inside the cave, there were 4 science experiments to do as well as reading the book Caves by Gail Gibbons, and two girls were in the tent. There was a group of six students in a Literacy Circle. Six students were reading independently, and three groups of two were partner reading.

She said she was going to give me a suggestion because of the four ADHD students I had in my room. She said every child should be doing the same thing at all times. She said there was  movement in my room, (Guilty), and that was too distracting to the ADHD kids. I suggested that perhaps those students could have been separated when class groupings were made. Why do you think the principal made this suggestion to me? Was she really concerned with the ADHD students?

The math program on the computer gives a detailed grade level. Teachers have a reading program used to tell an exact reading grade. Although it tests to level 8.0, we are required to stop at level 3.4, Most of my class met the 3.4 goal. We had a writing program called Empowering Writers. Writing papers were graded by the reading and second grade teachers. Grading was from 0-12. Most of my class got a 9-12. Soon after, the reading level was dropped to a maximum of 2.8 and the schools stopped using the math program. Why do you think the end of year math program was dropped and the reading level was dropped from level 3.4 to level 2.8?

I told the principal I would consider what she said, and I did for all of 5 seconds. These wonderful students deserve an individualized program just for them, not clumped together like a corporation. Parents should have the expectation their child will achieve one year’s growth. If their child is not on grade level, parents should expect their child to achieve grade level, and then succeed to the end of  the current grade. It is the school’s responsibility to do this.


#13 Surrender to Win

FullSizeRenderGenerally it takes between one to two weeks to get to know your students at the beginning of the school year. There are many different personalities. If you get a Master’s in Special Education you had better be prepared to teach it. The SPED classes gave me wonderful ideas about children as a whole, but I was unprepared for the disproportionate number of special students I would have compared to my co-workers. It was not unusual for me to have several SPED. I once had a child who had his own para until he came to me with none. There was no explanation other than he would not have a para during his year. At the end of the year, he was given a full time para for the next school year.

All school systems are different. Some require an actual degree for a pay increase, while other’s go by credits, 15, 30, 45, 60 and then Ph.D. If your system goes by credits, I wonder what would happen if you were one class short of your actual SPED degree?

Over thirty years ago I was sitting at a round table with other staff members. We were going to have a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting, and this was my first meeting. I asked the school psychologist what the post-it note on the child’s permanent meant. She laughed as she took it off. It said PITA and she said that she wanted to remind herself how difficult the parents were. (Pain in the ***).  Just to be clear I have never ever since that one time saw a note on any child’s record.

Fast forward to several years ago. I have never made a habit of looking through records or reading report cards at the beginning of the year, unless I had a reason to do so. Each student should start the school year new. After I looked, I discovered this was the second student in many years that had parent notes in the child’s record. You have to really try to achieve that goal. At any rate we were at a PPT meeting and the parents were concerned about a particular subject. The principal told the parents not to worry, that I would be glad to send home all worksheets and answer sheets two weeks in advance, so that they could help their child study at home. I sent home all the papers the parents requested. I enclosed a study guide, test, and all answer sheets.

The parents were not happy and requested another meeting. This time the parent was complaining because their child had done too well. The parent had printed out a graph that I could not see across the table, and wanted to know why the student’s scores were that high. I was stunned and remained silent. I felt as if someone was holding me underwater in The Twilight Zone. Everyone at the table knew why the scores were high. The principal who told me to give the notes and answer sheets, to the other spouse who stared at her hands nervously.

Finally the Special Education teacher gave some sort of response. The principal left and came back with standard test scores that we were told not to share with parents. Later that day I got a letter from the principal stating he was displeased with my performance at the PPT, and he sent this letter to the superintendent.


#12 Magnificent Math Multiplication



I especially loved teaching second grade. There were tricks I used to make my students very adept in math. To teach multiplication you will need a package of  half-inch grid paper. If your school doesn’t carry it, DO NOT BUY IT.

(Make a list of materials you know you will use and put each item on a post -it note with a Sharpie. Then, put each post-it note on your classroom easel. During Open House, Tell your parents you would be delighted if they would each take a note and purchase that supply for your classroom. You will be surprised at the wonderful items you can get. Don’t forget a thank you note.)

Instead, make half -inch squares on a piece of paper and copy as needed. You will probably never need more than four papers per pupil. Pass out one piece of paper to each student. Have them put their first and last names on the top line, one letter in each square. Then skip a line. On the third line, write the numbers 1-12, with one number in each square. On the next line, have students skip count by two’s. They will begin at 2 and end at 24. As the students are working, you model the skip counting on the white board. Can you guess what comes next? You will model skip counting by 3’s, putting one number in each box. Be careful when you are modeling. Many students will need to copy from you and you must not go too quickly. As long as they understand the concept they will do well. You may want to let them work in groups because they will think it’s fun and will be more apt to pay attention. I would stop this activity before 30 minutes at the most. (As a rule of thumb, I try to stop activities while student’s are still having fun because they will look forward to it the next time.)

On another day, pass out a grid paper again. Give the direction to write their name at the top and write the numbers 1-12 after they have skipped a line. Practice skip counting orally until you get to 5’s. Then model the numbers on your white board. As students get better and understand the concept you may have them work independently. Some will get skip counting by 12’s very quickly.

Next, when students have completed an assignment on regular paper and there is still time left, have them turn their paper over and write 1-12 at the top. They will need to leave spaces or the numbers won’t fit. Also, when you are waiting in the hall with your class, in a lowered voice, have them practice skip counting. When I had bus duty, I tried to get the bus lines to skip count. Students can get excellent at this quite quickly. When they get really good at skip counting, you can have them practice skip counting backward orally. Ask the class who can skip count backwards by 7’s beginning at 25? If you carry this out, students will be in a stronger position the next year. Happy Counting!



#11 Homework, Is it for students or parents?


# 11 Homework, Is it for parents or students?

Homework is the student’s responsibility. Parents should provide needed materials and a quiet place to work. Homework should not have tasks that have not previously been taught in school. All students should know what to do because directions should have been made clear in school, and homework is meant to be a review. I have had a friend whose children have come home from school, got a snack, and all four of them have sat at the kitchen table and have quietly and independently done their homework. Not surprisingly, all four were A students at the top of their class.

I always made clear at Open House that I do not give parent homework, because they have already graduated from the grade I was currently teaching. Most parents were pleased but some were very vocal in disagreement. I would say that this was my opinion and as a parent they should do what works for them. One parent insisted that it was her responsibility as a parent to sit with her child in case he had questions. I repeated that, as the parent, she should do whatever works for her family. I also stated that if a student was unable to do homework independently at home, than that child was also unable to work independently at school. This was the case with this student. He would sit at his desk and play with objects and bother those around him. He was used to his mother telling him exactly what to do, and was not able to work on his own.

After teaching the concept, having students practice, and giving time for students to pair up and explain the concept to each other, I would call on one or two students to explain to the class that night’s homework.  I usually passed out the homework and had students begin. After about ten minutes I asked the students to put the work in their folder and complete it for homework. While the class was working, this particular child was fooling around, and had a hard time getting started. This was because Mom would sit with him at home. How could she explain the fact that the other twenty-four students had no problems and did well? I would always reply to this paren’ts  notes and invite her in for a conference. She always ignored my notes. The next year I noticed this student spent time sitting in the hall. I inquired about him to his next teacher. He replied the student was fooling around and disturbing other students.