Yep, it's that time again. The end of the year, the last few weeks. The witching hour of the school year. That time of year when all of our students completely lose their minds and try to take us with them.
I'm not really looking for perfection at this point, I'm just trying to make to June with a shred of sanity left.
Survival mode has kicked in and I am just trying to get through SOL testing without losing my license because someone sneezed on their keyboard and I can't find the correct scripted response in the 87 page testing manual.
So what to do when a few of your little friends are really done with school this year and don't have it in them to pull off the expected behavior anymore? Here's a method that has worked for many of my students over the years.
Goal Setting FocusOne thing I have found to be helpful with challenging student behavior is personal goal setting and systematic praise. I use very simple, fairly open recording sheets to help kids focus on a specific target goal and keep track of each time he or she met the goal. You can create a quick grid, use a small game board, or a blank sticker chart.
The one piece of this that I have found to be the most helpful, the most powerful, is that nothing is taken away for not meeting the goal, only praise for success. The child soon begins to feel those happy, warm feelings of success without the sting of failure clouding the focus.
There is definitely a time and place for noting when kids don't do as expected, but this isn't one of them. This is only for helping kids to internalize a new target behavior. Here are a few helpful guidelines that I have discovered to be very effective.
I have seen this work wonders with a kid, even in as little as one day. They can't wait to fill in those circles and fill up that sheet. It may take an hour, or a day, or a couple of days. It all depends on how often you see the desired behavior. And once that sheet is filled in, start another one right away with the same goal. Keep going until you see that the goal has been internalized and will be met without constant reinforcement. Then, you can start on a new goal.
In terms of rewards for completing a sheet, you just have to look at each individual kid for that. I do not give tangible rewards to kids as a rule, but there is always one kid who responds really well to that, so just be open. Last year, I had a kid who wanted to call home. The student I am using this with this year really likes a note home to mom or lunch with me and a friend in the classroom, or even a couple of fun pencils.
Whole Class Goals
Sometimes the whole class is falling apart. The routines are getting old and boring, the stress of testing is getting to us all, and spring fever has hit epidemic proportions. Goal setting can also be helpful for a whole class.
I have been using a 'build it' model. In winter, we built a snowman. In June, we made a summer scene. In spring, we built a birdhouse. We set a class goal like quiet the first time asked or walking quietly in the hall - whatever we needed to work on. Then each time the class met the goal, we added a piece to the board. Once the whole picture was complete, we earned our reward. Maybe some extra recess or a little GoNoodle dance party at the end of the day or a freezy pop on a hot afternoon.
I hope this can help with some of your challenging little people. They're the ones who need us most and honestly, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel - summer is almost here :)
(If your're interested in any of the items shown in the photos, you can find them here:)