Monday, August 24, 2015

Teaching Classroom Behavior to Diverse Learners

As I am setting up my classroom, I am organizing my space and thinking about how to set up classroom expectations.

One thing I have done to improve student focus during lessons is let them STAND!

Of course, like all things, I have a visual for this! And I teach classroom expectations. Some students are what I like to call "wiggly bugs." And for a wiggly bug, standing up behind your chair, with your hands on the back of your chair, might be what it takes to keep you engaged in the lesson. Or being able to stand while you complete a workbook page, etc. I recently read in the Summer 2015 issue of NEA Today that students are more on task by 12% when they are able to stand. The article also stated that that equals up to 7 extra minutes per hour of instructional time they are benefiting from. So for my wiggly bugs, we have an agreement: as long as you follow the expectations you can stand. They don't ask, they just do it when they feel they need it. If they don't follow the expectations, they may get a warning in the form of me pointing to the expectations. Or saying, "The expectation for standing is ____. Show me you can do that, or you will have to sit." But I have to say, I cannot recall ever getting past the warning stage (we have a 3 warning system). 

My go-to for behavior management, classroom expectations and teaching social skills is always WHOLE BODY LISTENING!!

Anyone who has ever sat in an RTI meeting with me will tell you this: Whole Body Listening is my magic bullet for what ails you. 

   For those of you who are not familiar with Whole Body Listening, check out the Social Thinking Webpage. I was first introduced to this program when I was student teaching. When I was working in a low-income school with challenging student behaviors, my mentor teacher suggested it to me again. It has been both life-saving for me and incredibly effective for teaching my students. 

Here's how I use it: 

Step 1: 
Set up the visuals!
I have large "Whole Body Listening Larry" posters in each space where a group is being taught. 


Step 2: 
I do a read aloud with EACH GROUP of students. 
For 5th graders, we may do a refresher or try to "grow up" the content a bit. There are a lot of resources for this on TeachersPayTeachers. One of my favorite teachers found a visual with a slightly older looking girl. Woohoo! Why should Larry have all the fun? 

Step 3:
For younger students or those that need frequent reminders, I teach with a small visual on the table in between me and the students. If a student is not "listening with their eyes," by looking at me, I just point to that icon on the visual as a nonverbal reminder. For those who need it, they can get stars for doing what is expected. That way, I can TEACH, REMIND and REWARD all at once. I also LOVE that it can be nonverbal.

This visual appears in the back of the book, to be used as a teaching aid. 

Step 4:
I collaborate with mainstream teachers!
Over the years, many teachers I work with have begun to use this book and the visuals in their own classroom. The visual from step 2 can be used as a centerpiece at student tables or on the corner of a student in need of frequent reminders and teaching around classroom behavior. It's incredibly adaptable and translates easily into PBiS expectations and goals on behavior cards. I even go as far as talking to my students during reading group about how we "listen with our brains," by sounding out words in our head before we read them out loud. 

My first year teaching, I had a very challenging 3rd grade math group. I had my mentor come and observe and she tallied how many praise statements I used: 35 in 28 minutes. I rely heavily on praise, because research (and my heart!) shows that when you praise a student, they will continue to seek that positive reinforcement. It also makes kids see YOU as someone who is encouraging and wants the best for them. But anyway, back to the point. By the end of the school year, we had worked SO HARD on Whole Body Listening that the students were engaged in the lessons, excited about learning and most exciting of all their general education teachers told me they REALLY SAW THE DIFFERENCE! That's what we want, right??? Our kids to generalize what we teach them and take it outside the special education classroom! 

I am in no way affiliated with SocialThinking, but when I find a teaching tool I love, I share it with the world! I can only hope that this changes your classroom the way it has mine. 

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