Like all student behavior management systems, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, especially with distance learning and virtual teaching. Without being a physical presence and being able to walk around a room, it can be difficult to get our students to behave and focus. In distance learning, us teachers need to get creative, think about what we already know and tweak it to work with the new world of virtual classrooms.
Some children are driven by prizes, while other kids love affirmations … whatever type of behavior management system you choose for distance learning, here are some things to consider!
1. Set up goals and rules, just like in the classroom
Similar to an in-school setting, set up goals for behavior and rules while teaching online. Unless you are very specific about appropriate behaviors, children won’t know how to act accordingly … even if we assume they might.
Take a day to go over rules and expectations in depth with your students and give reminders as time goes on. You can also create a document with rules and goals listed to send to each student. Let your artistic side show with this and be sure to add color and graphics.
2. Give students a break!
Distance learning, a global pandemic, and other events going on right now aren’t easy on adults – and they definitely aren’t easy on kids! Some children can better deal with all of the stress and emotions, and some can’t. Though I love fluid behavior systems where children can move in and out throughout the day, this may be the perfect time to focus on positive behaviors only.
Instead of correcting or discussing a negative behavior, find a child who is acting as an example! For instance, if child #3 is fooling around on the screen, find a couple of others who aren’t, and point that out! “I love the way that (child #7) and (child #18) are sitting nicely while we are working on this math problem.” This has a three-fold effect:
- Child #3’s behavior is ignored
- Child #3 may very well look at child #7 and child #18 to see what they are doing and follow their example.
- Child #7 and child #18 feel proud for how they are acting.
3. Use what works for you!
Not all behavior management systems work for all students, teachers, and situations. Do what has worked for you in the past, with the knowledge that it may or may not need to be adjusted while teaching virtually. If behavior charts with stickers works for you and your students, continue that during distance learning. Tape the charts to a large poster board, and point out when you are adding a sticker to a student’s chart.
4. If rewards and prizes work for you, keep it going!
The main thing to remember is that prizes and rewards do not have to be physical! Think about those special days that you would have in your class, like stuffed animal day or pajama day, and continue using those as rewards! The kids will still see each other online, and you can set aside time for them each to show off their stuffed animal or favorite pajamas. And hey, who doesn’t love a homework pass?!
Track overall class behavior with something like our So Sweet! Positive Behavior Jar. Decide how full the jar needs to be for a reward to be earned and add the candy pieces as students show positive behavior. Let students know when you are adding a piece of candy so they can see their good behavior being rewarded. Once they have reached the goal, you can give them your previously determined reward and start the process over again.
5. Mail postcards!
There’s nothing more exciting for your students than receiving a postcard from you with words of praise and encouragement!
It’s a very inexpensive way to make a connection with children in your class. For something extra special, you can send out handmade cards. Sets of blank greeting cards and envelopes tend to be inexpensive, and you can easily decorate them with drawings and stickers. Your students will love the customization. So, stock up on stamps and cards!
Overall, we must prepare and adjust (just like every other aspect of teaching during a pandemic) our norms and routines by looking at them through a different lens, and using what works for each individual teacher and student!
For more ideas and products to help you manage student behavior, click here.
By Angela French
Angela French is the Senior Product Development and Content Manager at Really Good Stuff. She has worked for the company for nearly seven years and has created hundreds of resources for the classroom. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Her classroom experiences include teaching grade levels K–5 and inclusion, special education, literacy intervention, and gifted and talented programs in three different states.