Elementary Teacher’s Discipline Problem Solver:
A Practical A-Z Guide for Managing Classroom Behavior Problems
by Kenneth Shore
Available from Amazon.com
I bought the A to Z Discipline Problem Solver after my first year of teaching. It helped me address many problems—some I saw coming, and many I didn’t.
Do you have problems with gum chewing? Gossip? Crying? Bullying? The problem solver offers sound advice. Keep it on your teacher-books shelf. You will refer to it several times a year … not just your first year, but every year.
You can always ask veteran teachers or your principal for advice, but the Discipline Problem Solver can give you a starting point for discussion and help you solve many problems yourself. It’s nice to feel like you don’t have to run to someone for advice on every little thing. Run to this book instead.
This is the first in a series of posts aimed at helping first year teachers. Tell me your concerns and share your ideas, and we’ll continue this conversation throughout the year.
By Chip Wood
Available from Amazon.com
In an easy-to-read format, Yardsticks helps you understand the characteristics and concerns of children at each age from 4-14.
Why are six-year-olds exuberant and seven-year-olds perfectionists? How should a teacher cope with a third grader’s boundless enthusiasm and limited attention span? How do parents help thirteen-year-olds build self confidence and personal identity?
Yardsticks is one of the most helpful teaching books I own. I refer to it often—especially if I am teaching a new grade level. Children face different concerns at different ages, and Yardsticks helps the adults in their lives guide them.
Yardsticks doesn’t give you a perfect description of every child at every age: it’s a yardstick. A general measure that is helpful in looking at the personality of your class as a whole.
I recommend Yardsticks for parents, teachers, counselors, social workers, and education majors.
I also recommend Yardsticks to children’s book writers. Yardsticks will help you identify typical personality traits and characteristics for your characters. Your story will be more authentic when you anchor school scenes with the truths you learned from Yardsticks.
Sometimes the entire class can help a student solve a problem. All for one and one for all, like the Three Musketeers’ motto, can be achieved through whole-class incentives.
I have seen this strategy work for many grade levels in solving various problems. It takes is a creative teacher and a cooperative class. Oh, and a bribe reward!
In my classes, we add marbles to a big jar (it must be transparent – plastic is best) as incentives for many reasons. The class can see progress as the marbles fill the jar over time. When the jar is full, we celebrate our accomplishments.
Once I had a few students who tipped their chairs and fell to the floor. It was disruptive and unsafe. I offered my class a deal: “You remind each other not to tip the chairs, and if I happen to look up and notice that no one is tipping chairs, we will add to the jar!” No one fell out of their chair after the entire class had an incentive to help each other stop the chair-tipping.
Serious problems may call for a more concerted effort. If a student does not do school work — I mean really, really resists doing work — the whole class might help that child develop better work habits. Give the whole class a reward every time the student completes assignments. Student tutors will come out of the woodwork to help. It doesn’t take long to develop a track record of success when the whole class works as a team.
Use whole-class incentives to help a child who has difficulty getting along with others. Every time the student has an incident-free recess (or whatever the problem area is), the class gets a reward in the form of adding to the jar. If instant gratification would be more appropriate, give the class a few minutes to play silent ball or another classroom game.
Feeling skeptical? So was I—until the first time I tried whole-class incentives. Now I’m a believer!
Being a substitute teacher is fun. Really.
It’s not like the children’s book Thirteen Ways to Sink a Sub. Elementary kids, at least, are not out to get you. Most elementary students love all of their teachers.
Children’s book writers can benefit from substitute teaching. There is no better way to learn about today’s kids. You will learn a lot about kids and how schools are run today. You can get a feel for the rhythm of the school day. You observe typical behavior for each grade and watch social interactions. You will get a good sense of how children really read—the books they choose, and the proficiency with which they read them.
Parents can benefit from substitute teaching. If you have a college degree, you can get a sub license and work in your child’s district. Your child’s school will be glad to have a parent they can call for last-minute jobs, such as when the scheduled sub doesn’t show up. Working as a substitute teacher will give you insight into your child’s school day.
Use the summer to get your substitute teacher license.
1. Visit your state’s Department of Education home page and read the requirements.
2. Apply for a fingerprint clearance card. You can get fingerprinted at the police station, and you probably have to pay a fee.
3. Apply to the state for a license. This also requires a fee.
4. You still need to apply to the school district. If you want to work only occasionally, put yourself on the do-not-call list, but give your resume and cover letter to a few schools.
I invented a fun game for practicing basic math facts. It takes a while to play, so it’s good for Friday afternoons or rainy days.
I call it The Math Smackdown. Basically, it’s a variation on the traditional spelling bee.
All you need are flashcards for your chosen operation: addition, multiplication, subtraction or division.
> Have the class form two teams. For instant motivation, let them play boys against girls.
> Appoint one student to keep score on the board using a tally system. Your job is to hold up flash cards and run the game.
> Each team forms a line parallel to the other.
> Hold up a flash card. The students at the front of each line compete to see who can answer correctly first. The student who wins remains in place, and the student who loses goes to the back of his line. Give the winning team a point.
> Repeat the process indefinitely.
You may need a mercy rule. If one student has beaten ten kids on the opposite team, retire that student to the back of the line. (This should be to great applause from both teams.) The game continues.
Quiet rowdy teams with extra rules. If one team talks, the opposing team gets a point. If one team shouts out an answer, the opposing team gets five points.
If interest lags, switch to a different math operation. Or declare Round One over and appoint new captains. Let the kids form teams just like they do in sports. This game is great for a rainy day, and it motivates kids to learn their facts so they’ll be one of the first team picks.
You can spice up almost any classroom game or activity by declaring boys against girls competition.
> Who can score the most points in the test review game?
> Who uses the neatest handwriting on their essay?
> Which team will score the most As on the math test?
> Who can keep their desk the neatest?
> Which team can pick up the most scraps from the floor?
> Which team can earn the most AR (Accelerated Reader) points?
… you get the idea. Boys versus girls can work for any activity, academic or otherwise. Try it!
Students love report cards, but it doesn’t mean they know how to read them. Students do all right with first quarter grades, but after that, they get very confused. End-of-year grades are particularly confusing because the report cards are so full.
Display a sample report card on your document camera or overhead projector. Show students how to read the columns: first quarter grades, for second quarter grades, and so on.
This will really cut down on the questions you receive after handing out report cards!
At the end of the year, many parents want to send in a present for the teacher. Here are some ideas for gifts that are always appreciated.
> A handmade card from the child with a heartfelt note
> A handwritten thank-you note from the parent
> A handmade gift: an ornament (appropriate at Christmastime), jewelry, a decorated vase, etc.
> School supplies
> Gift card for the classroom: a teacher store, an office store, a discount store like Wal-Mart
I know of a parent who sent in a gift nestled in shredded homework. People are still talking about it!
When this year’s lesson plan book is dog-eared, falling apart, and loaded with loose papers, next year’s lesson plan book promises a perfect year.
Buy next year’s lesson plan book now. Give a willing student with neat handwriting a copy of next year’s school calendar. Ask the student to write the days in next year’s blank book. (Recess is a good time for this activity, which has admittedly limited educational value.)
For now, I just have the days labeled in my book. I haven’t written a daily schedule because it could change. Once I know for sure, I will write it in for the first few weeks. Next year, I’ll ask a volunteer to write the daily schedule across the top of each page.
Use your helpers! Don’t forget to reward them.