Some Simple Strategies with Big Benefits

24 09 2013

easy

Are you settling into the new school year (a-h-h-h), or are you THRUSTING into the new school year? Back on the treadmill?

Is this your schedule?

Get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Manage to load them into the van and arrive at school on time. Whew! Rush to work and put in a whole day. Hustle out to your car. Hurry to school to pick up the kids. Have a “meaningful” conversation about their day while speeding to after-school sports practices. Drop them off. Swing by to pick up food for dinner. Dodge slow-moving shoppers in the market. Race your shopping cart through the parking lot. Shove the bags in the van. Shoot back to the field to pick up the kids. Head home.

Instruct the troops, “Wash your hands. Change. Eat your snack. Do your homework.”

Get bombarded with questions about homework while trying to make dinner.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of easy-to-implement strategies? Here’s a collection of my favorite ones.

Math Difficulties: Pre-teach the upcoming chapter. Often parents and tutors devote time to re-teaching concepts and skills a child hasn’t mastered. That’s like playing a catch-up game … a game the child can’t win. Instead, go to the chapter the teacher will be teaching next and introduce the concepts. When your child encounters them in school, s/he will be more confident. Maybe even confident enough to volunteer answers. The lesson will be a review. Your child will be more engaged. The teacher will begin to view your child as successful.

Reading Comprehension Difficulties: Reciprocal Questioning is a strategy that elevates a child’s attention to content while reading. Usually after a child reads a story, the adult asks questions. This is the reverse of what’s done during a typical review. In this case, the child thinks of questions s/he will ask you about the story. While reading the story, the child can write down questions or dictate them to you (stopping as s/he thinks of each question). After the story or a passage is read, the child asks you each question. Its fun to answer some of the incorrectly so the child can correct you (and provide the correct answer).

Homework Completion: Have the child predict how long it will take to complete each assignment. Often students can’t even begin their homework because the assignments loom so large in their minds. The task seems just too monumental to tackle. Why begin? Predicting how long each will take makes the job seem bearable. This seems like a simple strategy. But this approach works even with teens who have a learning disability. Optional: It’s fun to have the child use a timer to see how close s/he came to each prediction.

Behavior Management: A fresh perspective of the child can drastically improve behavior. It’s very motivating to a child when a respected adult believes in them. I once taught a second grader, Billy, who had ADHD. He struggled to pay attention, seemed hopelessly disorganized, interrupted often in class, and got in trouble regularly during recess. Each day numerous students told on the student for an assortment of offenses. Occasionally, his classmates compassionately asked for prayer for him (in our Christian school). Billy’s difficulties were no secret to anyone.

One day, out of desperation, I asked my students, “Has anyone else noticed Billy has improved his behavior?”

Billy’s eyes widened as big as saucers. He wondered how he’d miss such an accomplishment. My students responded with a deafening silence.

My inquiry wasn’t based on evidence of any improvement. I simply wanted to change the students’ expectations of Billy.

“No one? Well, if anyone does notice his improvement please tell me.”

Soon after, students began to report improved behavior. Why? Billy had renewed hope. His classmates began to watch for Billy’s good behavior (instead of studying him for any misbehavior).

Here’s the basis for the strategy:

Use the power to influence through the artful application of positive suggestion.  You can influence (but not control) what your students believe about themselves, you, the topic, learning, etc.  In fact, you already influence them in those areas.  You simply may have underestimated the power of that influence.  You could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is the hardest in the book, so everyone bear down!’ Or, you could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is my favorite, so get ready for a great experience.’  As an authority figure, the teacher carries the potential for vast influence.  It is common to have had a teacher tell us that we were ‘bad’ in math or spelling or writing.  Naturally, that subject became nearly impossible to master.  Such a bias can be carried with a student for the rest of their learning life.

From Brain-Based Learning Revised Edition  –  The New Science of Teaching and Training  by Eric Jensen

“Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) established that positive expectations tend to yield positive results and negative expectations yield negative results. 

They call this the Pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy.”

From The Owner’s Manual for the Brain – Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph. D.

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Caught Not Taught

21 03 2012

Young children imitate adults.  You’ve heard the expression that children learn what’s caught rather than what’s taught.  As a teacher and as a mother, I learned the power of modeling desired behavior.

As a teacher:

One September I injured my vocal chords yelling during a dirt car race.  It was my first experience. The cars didn’t have mufflers to add to the excitement and the noise.  So, my cousin gave me ear plugs.  But I felt the need to be social and talk (yell).

After the races were over my voice was useless.  I thought I had laryngitis.  After several weeks, I still didn’t have my voice back.  I went to the doctor who informed me that I had injured my vocal chords.  He told me I would have to stop using my voice in order to let it heal.  A teacher can’t teach very well without a voice.

So, I devised a plan.  I told my second graders that I’d need an official announcer each day to pronounce loudly important messages I’d whisper in his/her ear.  Each chosen student took their job seriously – standing straight and tall, declaring clearly and accurately each message I whispered.

Whenever I whispered to a student, that student whispered back to me.  It was adorable. An example of how children automatically imitate adults. My classroom took on a quieter, calm atmosphere. I almost didn’t want my voice to be healed.

As a mother:

When our sons were five and seven years old, I remember countless times telling them to clear the table when finished eating. “Don’t forget to take your dirty dishes to the sink…Come back here and put your plate and silverware in the sink…”

I was so tired of reminding them every day. Over and over again. Resentment grew. Annoyance simmered. Irritation boiled. It’s amazing how one seemingly minor request can lead to sheer frustration.

I became desperate!

Telling them wasn’t working. Reminders were ineffective (ignored?).

Time for another strategy.

Both our boys emulated their father. So, I privately asked my husband to pointedly take his dirty dishes to the sink the next night.

The following day after dinner, my husband said, “Well, I’m finished eating.”

Clang went his knife and fork on the plate.

“That was good. Thanks,”

Clatter went his cup and dirty dishes into the sink.

On cue each boy repeated his words… and his actions!

Caught, not taught!

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

What has your child learned from your example?





Getting Kids to Do What You Want Them to Do

12 02 2012

Managing the behavior of children can sometimes seem impossible.

 

A well-prepared teacher can have a lesson sabotaged by one mischievous student.

“Stop talking…Don’t get out of your seat…Stop bothering George …This is not the time to play with your toy…Please stop spinning your ruler…Don’t lean back on your chair…”

A responsible parent trying to shop may follow this all-familiar script:

“Don’t touch that…Leave the mannequin alone…Don’t run inside…Stop saying that over and over…No, you can’t go there…No, we can’t buy that…”

Children can wear us out!             

Instead of telling them what not to do, give them something very specific to do.

Sometimes teachers tell students what to do without getting the resistant student to comply. That’s when being very specific helps.

Vague: “Get to work.”

Very specific: “Pick up your pencil and answer the questions now. Keep working until you are finished.”

In the home, the script might sound like this:

Vague: “Do your chores.”

Very specific: “Pick up all those toys and put them in the toy box. Pick up every book and put them in the book shelf. Throw all the trash in the trash can. Put all the clothes in the laundry basket.”

If the child talks back, simply get closer to the child and repeat the directions like a broken record without raising your voice.

Here’s a real conversation I had with my teenage son:

Me: “Move your clothes from the living room and take them to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (while walking up the steps empty handed) “I’ll do it later.”

Me: (following close behind him) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (in the bathroom) “I’m going to take a shower now.”

Me: (putting my foot in the door to keep it from closing) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (still in the bathroom) “I don’t have any clothes on.”

Me: “Put a towel around you and move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (huffing in frustration and resignation) “Oh, all right.”

Practice watching adult-child interactions in the mall.

Look for parents telling their children simply what not to do.  They’ve entered the Land of Not -where people speak only “don’t” and “stop.”

Then listen for parents telling their children what to do.

“Hold onto my coat. Look for a white jacket. Tell me when you see a sale sign.”

Before our sons could read, I gave them their own food list. Pictures on their list were of things I needed to buy. Their job was to look for those items. It kept them busy and helped me.

If you’re interested in learning more about this method of behavior management, check out Michael Valentine’s website.

http://www.michael-valentine.com/outline.html

What’s your greatest behavior management challenge?