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It’s officially spring! It’s time for planting gardens, riding bikes, and going for walks. In the school setting, it’s also time for state assessments, field trips, and assemblies, each of which means schedule changes for students. This combination can create the perfect storm for student behaviors that are different than those we expect- the behaviors that we have taught every day prior, such as when to transition from the classroom to the cafeteria for lunch.
Unexpected student behavior tends to spike during spring. Often, I hear teachers wishing their students would show more desired behaviors, referencing how their classrooms functioned back in September and October.
Sometimes I find myself thinking that a student should. Jake should sit down during carpet time so he can see the calendar and practice the Days of the Week Song. Selena should read her sight words instead of playing with the water from the faucet. Markus should walk in his spot in line, not run to the front to be line leader every. time. we. leave. the. classroom.
The question is, should I be assigning should statements, or could I be reflecting on what I can influence? How can I support students in choosing positive and prosocial behaviors through the year? The answer is that I need to make “Stephanie should” statements, and implement plans to help students have success.
Can I make Selena stay in her seat and pay attention to reading strategies that she needs in order to increase her reading fluency? No. It’s not my role to force students to do anything. What I can do is control how I set up their days to enable success.
I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and though I consider myself a seasoned teacher, I’m always learning and growing. My go to resource for shaping student behavior is CHAMPS by Randy Sprick and Safe and Civil Schools. This book is a tool kit for any teacher that wants to improve his or her practice with regard to building relationships with students, becoming more organized, tracking behavior data, and consistently correcting and reinforcing behavior.
To get started, take this 2 minute quiz to see which variables you can change to help your students have more success.
Think about your classroom set up. Are the desks, tables and chairs set up in a way that you can easily walk around the room and talk to each student privately if need be? You want to be able to cross the room quickly and not have to move furniture or jump over piles of notebooks on the floor. This is essential for safety (think about if there is a fire and you need to evacuate the building quickly) as well as monitoring student work. For example, if you are frustrated because students keep talking while you are teaching, you may want to change your seating arrangement, teach from different spots in the classroom, and provide more opportunities for students to directly interact with learning materials.
What is your daily schedule like? Whether you are a classroom teacher with students all day or you are a specialist that sees a group of students for 45 minutes a week, how do you incorporate movement into your learning activities? Physical activity helps students to be more engaged in learning.
Brain breaks are a great way to incorporate fun movement activities into your day, even if you only have a few minutes to do so. Go Noodle is a free website that gives educators access to hundreds of activities, including guided dance, meditation, stretches, and breathing. These can tie into Washington state's commitment to support students’ behavior needs through the Social Emotional Learning benchmarks.
How many times do I have positive interactions with each student? Do I only recognize the unexpected behavior they exhibit, or do I make sure a student knows that when he is sitting at the carpet, it makes me very, very happy? Research shows that a student needs multiple positive interactions for every behavior correction received. If the only attention I give Markus is when he is doing something I don’t like, he will continue to do it just to get attention from me. I would feel horrible if he went home each day with the perception that our relationship is based on negative interactions. Ensuring that positives far outweigh the negatives puts the emphasis on a caring and supported time in the classroom.
In addition to being the name of the book, CHAMPS is also an acronym used to teach students how I expect them to behave during the many transitions and activities throughout the day. Our school has Voice Levels that are consistent schoolwide, and my colleagues use the same language around these. Level 0 is silent, Level 1 is a whisper, Level 2 is table talk, Level 3 is teacher voice, and Level 4 is outside voice. We incorporate these Voice Levels into our CHAMPS acronym.
C- Conversation- Can students talk during this activity/transition?
H- Help- How do students get their questions answered/get your attention?
A- Activity- What is the task or objective? What is the expected end product?
M- Movement- Can students move around the room? Sharpen pencils?
P- Participation- What does expected behavior look and sound like?
After you answer these questions, you can make a visible list of what you expect from students. Use this visual as a teaching tool before students start the activity and throughout their work time.
This is an example of a visual CHAMPS tool that I use to teach my students how I expect them to enter my classroom.
Sometimes I truly believe I taught my intended expectations, when in reality, I haven’t been clear enough. Remember - telling is not teaching! Teach your expectations through multiple access points, have your students practice them, and then give specific feedback on their behaviors. What did they do well? What can they try again next time? Spring is a natural time for reviewing, reteaching, and renewing expectations to make for a smooth finish to the school year, so take advantage of this time to set students up for a successful end game.
What are some behavior challenges you experience in the classroom? What strategies do you use to help students have success?
- Brain Breaks
- Building Relationships
- Classroom Management
- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
- Social Emotional Learning
- Special Education
- Teacher Tools