Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wheels that don’t squeak.

Anyone who’s taught knows that sometimes unresponsive, unruly or disruptive students can present a real classroom management challenge – as the saying, goes, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." But when you devote more of your energy toward the misbehavers than to the students who are meeting your expectations, you are inadvertently reinforcing the bad behavior. This “rewarding through punishment” may subconsciously motivate students to act out so that they can get the attention they crave.

Problems in the classroom definitely need to be addressed, but it is important to remember that well-behaved students deserve our attention, too. You can make an example of a student exhibiting positive behaviors just as easily as you can a misbehaving student. This is known as social reinforcement.  Taking the time to comment on a student’s good behavior (“Good job,” “I can tell you’re working hard,” etc.) communicates to the rest of the class that acting up isn’t the only way to get on your radar.

Unfortunately, some teachers still implement the disciplinary tactic of writing the names of misbehaving students on the board. An alternate, and much more successful, method could be to write the names of the students who are demonstrating positive behaviors on the board. This works as a motivator – rather than have students behave out of fear of having their name added to the “naughty” list, they want to be included. (Of course, as a guest teacher, consult with the school’s policy regarding this kind of activity before taking it upon yourself.)

In some situations, it may be appropriate to offer productive students a reward – a sticker, free time at the end of the period, etc. (Again, check with the school to see what is acceptable.)

“But isn’t that bribery?” you might be asking. A reward is not the same as a bribe. Bribes are given to someone who is not doing what you want to try and incentivize them to change their behavior. A reward is something which is given only once the desired behavior has been successfully demonstrated.

It is important to be consistent when administering positive reinforcement. It should also be unambiguous. Students should be able to detect a clear pattern of cause-and-effect. It might be tempting to praise a student for whom you feel sorry, or to heap praise upon a select few. But the class as a whole will not be able to connect the dots, and the effectiveness of your positive reinforcement strategy will suffer.

When a misbehaving student catches on and starts to get with the program, resist the urge to say something counterproductive or sarcastic. Don’t hold grudges. “It’s about time,” or other similar comments will feel like punishment to the newly behaving student. No matter how difficult a student has been behaving previously, once they begin to demonstrate appropriate behavior, they should receive all the same positive reinforcement anyone else is getting. Behaving should feel better to the student than misbehaving.

You’ll find there’s more than enough grease to go around, and to keep things running smoothly.

Feel free to share other positive reinforcement examples you've used successfully in the comments below.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Games that Promote Learning

Who doesn’t love playing games?  And as a substitute teacher they are an invaluable learning tool when you are left sans lesson plans or there is extra time after the lessons have been completed. They have the potential to be a great addition to any lesson, lecture or test review.  Classic games like hangman, bingo and jeopardy are always a crowd favorite.  These are great because they can be modified for any subject.  Puzzles can also be a great way to learn.  You can find a great puzzle maker for crossword puzzles, printable Sudoku, and many more activities for every grade level and subject online   

You can also make use of new technology like SMARTboards. Games like Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to be a Millionaire are great options.  Students have the ability to be interactive while using the SMARTboard.

Your goal as a substitute teacher is to keep the class engaged and learning. Playing educational games allows them to do this but also have fun and interact with their fellow classmates. Just make sure that before playing games in the classroom, the lesson plans that were left have been completed and you are clear about the school’s policy regarding games.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

I, Carly

Carly Fleishmann is a teenage girl who was diagnosed at age 2 with severe autism and cognitive delay, as well as a disorder called oral motor apraxia, which left her unable to speak

Then, one day, when she was 11, something remarkable happened 

Her story was chronicled on ABC's 20/20:

Carly, once considered beyond help, ended up attending a mainstream high school (and enrolled in their gifted program), is active on social media, and even co-wrote a book with her father, Arthur, about her experiences. 

There would seem to be a lot to learn here for each of us.