I love Back to School. Teachers are excited to meet their new students (maybe a little nervous if you know you have that “one” student on your class roll.) Students are excited to meet you and see what friends they’ll have in their class. Usually, the students are fairly mellow the first few weeks of school because they are still nervous and getting used to their classroom. However, we all know that this doesn’t last. Eventually the magic of back to school stops, and many of you find that some of your students are not as calm and willing to please as they were when school first started. For me, this seemed to happen around the beginning of October. I think it was a combination of the kids getting comfortable in class and Halloween approaching. Why they get excited for Halloween a month before, I don’t know. So, what are you supposed to do when you notice your kids start to not comply with the rules?
1. Have High Expectations
I was strict at the beginning of the school year. I did this so that I could loosen up a little later but still have a well-managed class. So, once your kids meet your expectations, it is okay to loosen up a little bit. But, the moment you notice that your students are getting a little too comfortable in your class and are starting to test you, buckle down. Remind your students of the high expectations. If that means taking time out of a lesson to practice procedures again, do it. Don't accept anything less than what you want when it comes to managing your class.
2. Be Consistent
This is the time of year where some of your students are getting comfortable in class and will start to test the waters. Don’t let your students get away with not following procedures or breaking one of the rules. The moment your students see you ignore misbehavior, you are allowing them to walk all over you. If you are not consistent with your management, your class will become impossible to manage. Don't let things slide. So if you feel really strongly about having something done a certain way in your class, make sure the students do it correctly every single time.
3. Reward Them
Most of you probably have reward systems in your class. I had a whole class, group, and individual reward system in my class. After introducing each reward system, I tried to give my students a reward quickly so that they saw they would actually get rewarded for good behavior. This increased their motivation a lot.
So, if you haven’t had a class party, or given your students whatever reward they might be working towards yet, try to do so quickly. If it takes them forever to earn, the students will eventually stop trying, especially in the younger grades. Find every opportunity you can to give them that point, sticker, clip up, or whatever they need to earn that reward. Once you give them a reward once, then you can slow down on how often you give them those points. But give your students some encouragement, by rewarding them quickly at first.
4. Change Things Up
Hopefully your students aren’t already bored with the management systems you have in place, but if you notice that your students are not responding as well to your attention signals, reward systems, or even the seating chart, change things up. I ended up changing my reward systems about once every quarter to keep my students motivated. Usually they would work towards earning the same or very similar rewards, but I just changed the way it was presented, and it worked. They were all of a sudden motivated to follow the classroom rules again.
5. Praise Praise Praise
Praise is my favorite management tool. If you use it correctly, it can prevent or stop most misbehavior. Praise can be particularly useful in cueing students to remind them of the expectations. I was able to correct many of my students’ behavior simply by praising a student close in proximity to them for doing the thing that my target student wasn’t. Once, they corrected their behavior, I would then reinforce it by praising them. For example, if Billy shouts out an answer instead of raising his hand, I would say to Maggie, who sits at the same table group as Billy, “Thank you Maggie for raising your hand.” Then, 9/10 times, Billy will remember the expectations and raise his hand. As soon as he does this, I reinforce his behavior by saying, "Thank you Billy for remembering how to make a comment in class."
For particularly difficult students, it can be extremely hard to find any time to praise them, but you have to force yourself to look for it. These students need to hear it most. They are so used to being called out and being told what they are doing wrong, that they start to expect only that. Praise these students for the simplest things. They might not be sitting exactly how they are supposed to, but they are looking at you. Or they might have not been doing their work, but they just picked up their pencil to write their name at the top of their paper. Praise them for anything you can. Pointing out what they do right will have so much more meaning to them than pointing out what they do wrong. It will be hard at first to find anything, but if you really try, eventually it will get easier for you to find things because these difficult students will start to expect to receive praise and will try to have the behavior to earn it.
So, maybe your class isn’t as compliant as they were a month ago, or maybe they were never as compliant as you wanted them to be because you didn’t focus as much as you needed to on management. Wherever you are, there is a way to regain control of your classroom. It can be tempting to blame it on your students because they are the ones misbehaving. But, it can be helpful to take a step back and think about what you are doing, or even aren’t doing that could be causing them to act this way. You can’t control your students, but you can control you, so look for ways that you can improve your classroom, and often times this will improve your students.
Hi! I'm Mackenzie. Teacher, wife, and Washingtonian. Check out my blog to get ideas and products for your class.
© Mackenzie Allen 2016.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.