Both new students arrived in mid January, bringing a lot of baggage and drama with them. It's impossible to wrap one's mind around how a seven year old can bring baggage and drama to a second grade classroom, but it happened, times two, and my class of sweet kiddos had turned into bratty teenagers before my eyes. Fortunately for us, one of the student's family issues caused them to move again (sadly, for the third time this school year), which has helped some, but one thing we've worked on since returning to school last week is some classroom community building. The tattling and blaming and not taking responsibility for one's actions had gotten out of control and coming together as a class to work on this was a must. We spent the week learning about being a "Bucket Filler" and not a "Bucket Dipper", which are cute ways of reminding everyone to be kind. We've also started a community circle each afternoon which is a time when we get a chance to share positive thoughts about each other. It's amazing the change that has made in the room, even after just one week!
The other behavior issue I've been struggling with it the shouting out and talking during instruction. In my relatively short (17 years) teaching career, this is a behavior that has been getting worse and worse each new school year. Kids, by nature, are self-centered and impatient. It's our job to teach them to wait their turn and learn how to be respectful when they aren't the center of attention. In my observations, many kids aren't required to do that anymore at home. Their parents cater to their child's whim, rather than the other way around. And rather than a child be made to sit quietly and be patient, so often they are handed an electronic device to keep them busy, and quiet. In my opinion, this has done a disservice to kids. They no longer know how to just "be" and also do not know how to wait their turn. In addition, with the change in curriculum to the Common Core and the need for student discourse, kids are talking all the time. My group this year is mostly quite bright and very excited about learning. Unfortunately, because of that, they think that they can talk out or with others anytime they feel like it. I've struggled this year with not wanting to stifle this excitement for learning and not having multiple students shouting out at me at any given time. After some research on some of the teacher blogs and using children's literature, I came up with a plan that I enacted last Monday morning.
The kids listened to the story My Mouth is a Volcano, which is about a boy who can not keep his thoughts to himself and interrupts everyone in his life. Then one day some other students interrupt him when he's talking to the class, and he doesn't like it one bit. Then we did some role playing where during discussions I interrupted whoever was speaking. No one liked that very much, which was powerful. The kids also did some writing on how they were going to keep their volcano mouth under control. Lastly, I introduced "Blurt Beans".
Each student starts the day with 3 beans. Anytime they blurt out/interrupt while someone else is talking or turn and talk to a neighbor during instruction, they have to return a bean to the blurt bean container. At the end of the day, anyone who still has beans left (one, two, or all three) get to put them in the reward jar. When the beans reach a certain level, they earn that reward. It's been in place for about a week now, and so far the results have been favorable. There are still the repeat offenders who just "can't help it", but after losing one bean (and the rest of the class being disappointed) they are able to keep things under control. Using peer pressure for good is always quite helpful!
I am a huge proponent of classroom management and feel that if kids aren't behaving, learning is going to be a challenge for them, as well as their classmates. I spend a large portion of the new school year on classroom management, trying to invest in it heavily early on in order to reap the benefits of it for the rest of the year. That usually is the case. Sometimes though, there is a need to change things up, As hard as it can be, I'm more than willing to give up some academic instruction time to nip poor behavior in the bud. Everyone is always happier in the long run, especially the teacher!