This will be my last post for those teachers who asked what they could do to deal with a student’s behavior if they didn’t use recess as a carrot for behavior. Troubling student behavior in today’s overcrowded, diverse classrooms is a huge problem for many teachers. I struggled even with smaller class sizes in special education until I got my stride. The goal with these posts are to ensure that teachers give their students much needed recess breaks and find other solutions to dealing with problematic behavior.
Some teachers don’t like the idea of using any kind of reinforcement and rewards, and if you can manage your classroom like that my hat is off to you.
But some students need more structure, and it can be done in a way that doesn’t hinder a student’s ability to communicate or be an individual with their own rights. I’m not talking rigid rules and monitoring every move a student makes. I do not want robots for students! But incorporating some classroom organization helps students understand boundaries, especially if they have behavioral difficulties.
Put aside your test prep, permit unconditional recess, and try the following:
Let students have ten minutes (or more) to write in a journal every day. Let them write how they feel or anything they want. Maybe they will draw a picture or write a story. If you have the time read their journal entries. If you can’t read them all, try to skim through them, and especially pay attention to the student who is having behavior difficulties. It is amazing how students will tell you things in a journal that they never would mention outright! Journal writing is freeing to a child with learning disabilities, yet you can pull the piece that is good, correct it and help them to rewrite it well. When you find the good in a student’s writing it makes a powerful impact.
I learned to use Fridays. Every Friday my students knew that if they flew right the rest of the week, they could do something different on the last day of the week. This wasn’t a free for all and I did use some negative reinforcement.
I planned out Friday’s carefully. Sometimes we’d see a movie but it was always a meaningful movie, usually from a book. The Education of Little Tree, Anne of Green Gables, Anne Frank, and The Secret Garden were favorites.
Sometimes we read together, or I read to the students. Even middle and high school students like to be read to.
Other times students played educational board games. Students liked chess. Or we played an educational game together.
Keeping Friday worth working for was the challenge. If you can’t find time to do this with today’s testing regimen, I’m sorry for you and your students. Fridays involved meaningful learning and students rarely missed participating.
Friday was something to earn. And I used a simple check system. Students had four warnings surrounding a couple of simple rules.
- No Disrespect of Anyone
- Work completion (Careful not to give more than a student can handle)
- Class participation
I’d jot down names and checks when rules were broken. Name/4 checks the students were to do extra work on Friday.
My Fridays were not recess. I owed no Friday to a student if they didn’t do well the rest of the week. If they intentionally didn’t do the work, or they acted out repeatedly, they completed the work or sat out on Friday. But this rarely happened because students loved Friday.
So use Friday instead of keeping kids inside working during recess. Give students the breaks they deserve every day.
And if anyone has other suggestions feel free to add your insight into what works for you in your classroom when it comes to behavior.
Good luck and enjoy recess!
Joyce Reynolds-Ward says
Free/pleasant Fridays are HUGE. The only time they can become problematic is if you have a large group of disrupters who want to disrupt to ruin the pleasure of others, and that’s not necessarily the typical state of affairs. However, if you’ve got that situation, you’ve usually got bigger school and classroom problems to deal with, because your top 5% of bad actors has swollen to 15% or more.
I also used denial of recess as a time to discuss the problem with the student, not quiet makework. Most of the time we came to a meeting of the minds and mutual apologies, and I’d release the kid at that point.