Behavior Management Strategies by Tessa Maguire
by Tessa Maguire, Guest Blogger
Managing behaviors is usually the number one issue with a new teacher. Student teaching, while giving you lots of opportunities, just isn’t the full experience of managing your very own classroom. Generally, you follow the systems your cooperating teacher already has in place and they establish the routines with the students early on. It’s not until you are truly on your own, that you completely figure it out. I’ve definitely had my own struggles managing behaviors within my classroom, but I’ve learned strategies from some phenomenal teachers. I want to share a few of them with you today.
The year needs to begin with you explicitly modeling and teaching procedures with your students. What is your procedure for sharpening pencils? Show them. Have your students do it. Many times it’s the simple procedures that we don’t teach our students because we expect them to know standard school procedures. But they don’t, and they push their boundaries, and it’s those avoidable procedures that drive us the craziest! That first week might feel a little tedious with you teaching, reviewing, and practicing procedures, but it will save you a ton of head ache in the long run. Also remember that you should review and practice the procedures all year long. I always suggested reviewing them in early December, to try and head off some squirminess that will come up. I also recommend reviewing them after you come back from winter break so they are fresh in students’ minds.
We all learn in college that positive reinforcement is the most effective way of managing students’ behaviors. However, once we get in our own classrooms, many times our systems that get established don’t take that into account. The most popular system I’ve seen is a stoplight or red, yellow, and green cards. These systems start students on green. After they’ve made a poor choice or two, their card gets moved to yellow. This may be a phone call home or missed recess. If the child continues to make poor choices that day, they can then be moved to red which may result in a phone call home or being sent to the principal. However, with systems like this, a large majority of the students will never turn their card to yellow. For those students who will need reminders and reinforcement about their behavior throughout the year, they will continue to receive consequences. I also think that many times they will continue to do unwanted behaviors regardless of whether those consequences are in place. Now, I’m not in any way saying there shouldn’t be consequences. Please don’t shoot me. I’m just suggesting that a one-size-fits-all management system focusing on consequences isn’t the route to go.
Think about a positive reinforcement system that will work for you. It may be whole class? It can be set up for clusters or tables of students? Some ideas I’ve seen work are jars or cards that are filled for tables. Once the reward is earned, everyone gets changed up and starts over again. I’ve also seen whole classes working to earn a reward. The next thing you will need to identify will be what your consequences will be. Will you have a treasure chest students will pick from? Will they earn non-monetary rewards? How long will it take for students to earn it? With young students, or struggling students, they need to see the rewards pretty quickly for it to motivate them in the future. They struggle to work for something they’ll earn at the end of the month. You may need to start small and work on building into a longer time frame. I’ve seen different rewards work well for different people. It’s all about what works best for you and your students.
For those students who continue to struggle, I recommend setting up an individual behavior plan with them rather than just the standard color cards. This will allow you to brainstorm and tailor the plan to that individual child’s needs. It may even be something that you can develop with that child. If you can, it will be that much more motivating for them. I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about as you are preparing for the upcoming year!
About the Author
Tessa Maguire is a former reading teacher and differentiated instruction coach. She currently is a Curriculum Coordinator for a charter school. She spends her days helping her teachers find what works best for them and their students. She blogs about the resources she finds and creates and she shares tips and strategies for effective instruction. You can find out more information on her blog Tales from Outside the Classroom or on Facebook.