Sunday, January 9, 2011

Managing Behavior in Kindergarten (Part 2)

Ms. Dorothy,
My principal is concerned about my classroom management.  I am not a brand new teacher, but this is my first year in kindergarten.  All the tools in my bag of tricks seem to fall flat with these little guys.  The hardest thing is getting through transitions, but I guess I'm struggling with getting their attention at other times too.  I have a bell I ring, and I clap a rhythm, but they just aren't working well. I am sending home notes about behaviors daily and I'm not happy to have all this attention from the principal for what I'm not doing well.  Maybe you have some ideas I can try?
- 6th year teacher

It is always hard to be asked to examine your practice, especially when you aren't aware that you are having a problem with something, but the reflection and new learning you are doing will be worth the work, both for you and for those kindees.

In the world of coaching, getting attention for what you are not doing well is called "deficit focused development" and it seldom works the way people who are proponents of it, believe it will.

If your principal turns his/her attention to what you are doing successfully, and provides you with models of teachers who are not struggling with transitions, you are more likely to notice the great "tools" other teachers are using on your own, and adapt them to your classroom.

Take some time to reflect on what you do well, visit other teachers, and build on strengths.

The important thing to remember is that transitions require routines, and routines have to be learned, and kindergarten children need a lot of practice and a lot of encouragement to master new routines. 

Breaking your transition, or attention getting routine, down into the smallest possible parts, and instructing, and taking time to practice each of those steps, will yield the best results. There are some great resources for teaching routines available, just remember that kindergarten children need plenty of time dedicated to learning routines. 

For those children who are not cooperating, the best thing you can do for them is exactly what would work best for you.

In the world of kindergarten, getting attention for what you are not doing well is called "behavior management" and it seldom works the way teachers who are proponents of it, believe it will.

If you turn your attention to what the students are doing well and are successful at, and you provide them with models of what it looks like to be doing it correctly, they are likely to mimic the correct behavior to earn your praise.  They want to please you more than you can imagine, and that is the best tool in your bag of tricks by far!

I have some previous posts here, here, and here that talk about ways to encourage young children to "behave" in class.  When in doubt, try talking to them about the problem and asking them to help brainstorm ways to work together better. You can always go to their greatest strengths and build on them.

The important thing to remember is that WHEN a consequence is necessary, when a situation deliberately endangers someone's physical or mental well-being, the response should be immediate and directly connected to the situation. A threat, or a punishment at another time, or that seems unconnected to the "crime" will not be effective and will frustrate you both.  

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