Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If Pancakes Increase Attendance, Call Me Aunt Jemima

Our district is on a big push to increase attendance, and with startling drop-out and graduation rates, rightly so! Attendance has implications in so many areas of school that targeting poor attending students in the lower grades is critical. If they don't have a strong school connection by the time high school comes around, it can be much more difficult to get students to come to school.

In our building, we have two initiatives going on right now to promote attendance, and they're really making a different. What's the game changer? Food. Remember how I suggested having snacks or a meal on family nights at school, to encourage families to attend? It works for kiddos too!

Our first, and most successful, endeavor thus far has been "Breakfast Club." We targeted first grade students who were "chronic" non-attendees, meaning that they have missed up to 19% of the days of school thus far, leaving us with about 15 students. For the month of February, they were invited to attend Breakfast Club on Monday mornings if they came to school, where they would get special breakfast treats (like uber large cinnamon buns, nom nom) in a special room with some of our Student Support staff. On the other days of the week, a mentor checks in with them in the morning to congratulate them on coming to school and gives them a sticker. If they came to school for the entire week, they got a regular sized candy bar on Friday. During February, we saw attendance at Breakfast Club climb from 4 students (who remarked the whole thing was "weird" as they sat and stared at each other eating muffins), to 8, then 11 for the last two Mondays.

In March, we are continuing the program, but have moved Breakfast Club to Tuesdays. Now, students must attend Monday and Tuesday to be invited to their special breakfast. As the school year closes up, the day of Breakfast Club will be moved one day later every month, ending in June with it being held on Fridays. Students will be expected to attend every day prior to Breakfast Club to be allowed to attend. So far, so good! The kiddos look forward to Breakfast Club each week, and on their way up to class, have stopped adults and even the principal to tell them about their special treats.

Our other, shiny and new, program is another breakfast party (who doesn't love breakfast food, I always say). In February, we tracked the homerooms to see who had the best attendance for the whole month. This was some serious business, as it involved algorithms and advanced math beyond my comprehending. We had to make sure that no class was being penalized for having 25 students vs. 6, and that the one kid who's come to school for 4 days this whole year didn't bring his whole class down. In the end, the person calculating did some fancy average of the days possible, days missed, and number of students in the class. One of our third grade classes came out on top and won a stellar pancake breakfast.

Mmm... green.
Right before St. Patrick's Day, they had their pancakes, and we went all out. We decorated the cafeteria with balloons and table cloths, set out place settings, got scented special pencils for each student, griddled up some flapjacks, and provided a myriad of tasty toppings. Not only did we have regular pancakes, but there were also chocolate chip and GREEN pancakes. If colored pancakes don't get a kid to come to school, something is wrong. Add in the fact that kiddos could top their pancakes with bananas, chocolate chips, green sprinkles, whipped cream, syrup, and chocolate sauce, you've got a recipe for perfect attendance (and diabetes).

We had a blast, and the kids did too. Their faces lit up when they came down to the cafeteria in the morning and they were giddy the entire breakfast. I'm sure that they went back upstairs and told evvvverybody how great the treat was, which will hopefully get some more kiddos enticed to come to school. I've got a whole box of food coloring waiting for them.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Establishing & Maintaining Positive Relationships and Classroom Management, Part 4

So, we've touched on how to manage early stage misbehaviors in our series, but what about those students who intentionally, or chronically, break the rules?

Correcting Intentional Rule Violations

Intentional rule violations are deliberate misbehaviors that are serving a function for the student. It occurs despite the explicitly conveyed and modeled expected behaviors, and is not born out of ignorance of the expectations. This correlates to PBIS Tier II supports, suggesting that the middle 15% of students who do not respond to Tier I initiatives will respond to these. 

These consequences must be implemented consistently and without emotion. It is imperative that adults do not leave themselves open to inviting students to frustrate, anger, or hurt them, which only increases the reinforcement of inappropriate behaviors from students who seek a sense of power or control. 

Corrective consequences are meant to positively change a student's behavior, not inflict misery or pain. They must fit the severity and frequency of the intentional misbehavior--mild enough that you are able to and comfortable enough to implement it every time a student exhibits the behavior. There is no evidence to suggest that punitive measures such as writing a statement 100x, putting gum on the end of your nose, etc, have any positive impact on effecting change in student behavior. All they really do is erode a relationship with a student, foster creative ways for them to avoid or complete the task with no investment in changing the behavior, and perpetuate the "one-upping" escalation that makes it student vs. teacher.

Plan to interact with the student briefly at the time of the misbehavior without arguing--simply state the rule and the corrective response, no explaining or justifying. If the student needs to discuss this with you, they are free to make an appointment to see you at a time that does not disrupt teaching. Again, the overarching concept is NOT to transfer power to the misbehaving student.

Responding to Chronic Misbehavior

Chronic misbehavior is often the "habitualization" of intentional misbehavior. These students are the 5% that fall at PBIS Tier III and do not respond to strategies implemented in Tier I or II. Once a behavior becomes chronic, intervention is necessary to break the pattern of misbehavior. Without proactive planning, adults run the very real risk of reacting to misbehavior in ways that reinforce it, rather than decrease it. 

Corrective consequences at this level are only effective if they reduce the occurrence of the misbehavior in the long-term. The response to the behavior should not be merely to resolve the problem at the time, but to resolve it for the future. Thus, many corrective actions for chronic misbehavior are most effective when they address the underlying causes of the behavior. 

By the time a behavior becomes chronic, there is often a power struggle between the adult and student. Power struggles happen because the student wants to "save face" with their peers and adults frequently do not recognize the onset of the struggle, nor how to diffuse it. 

Diffusing a Power Struggle

  • Deliver the message to the student quietly and privately, say "thanks," and walk away. There is no power struggle if the teacher is not there. The student may mumble under their breath--keep moving and get back to teaching. 
  • Remain calm, collected, and appropriate.
  • Employ LAAD: 
    • listen (pay attention to what the student says) 
    • acknowledge (let the student know you heard them)
    • agree (let the student know that what they are saying might be or is true--agreeing with someone is a tried-and-true tactic to diffuse most people!)
    • defer (discuss at a later time)
Note: these resources are not mine, but that of my district's professional development dept.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Parable of the Starfish

AKA "The Parable of the School Psychologist" 

One day, an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide, and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish that the water had carried in and then left behind.

The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach's dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking. 

Soon afterward, the man came upon a small child on the beach who was throwing one starfish after another back into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child, "What are you doing?" 

"I'm saving the starfish," the child replied. 

"Why waste your time? There are so many you can't save them all, so why does it matter?" asked the man.

Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water. "It matters to this one," the child said.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Establishing & Maintaining Positive Relationships and Classroom Management, Part 3

Here we go again, the third installment in our series on positive relationships and classroom management. On the menu today, we're going to check out some resources for correcting misbehavior. Never a fun thing, but always necessary, and when done delicately, can help the adult save face and protect the adult-student relationship.

Correcting Early Stage Misbehavior

Early stage misbehaviors are those that are not yet a pattern or habitual. These are typically not intentional violations and are aligned with PBIS Tier I, or the universal level, meaning that 80% of students will respond to these correction strategies. The best corrections for early stage misbehaviors are addressed using explicit instruction, rather than a consequence or punishment orientation.

  • Proximity - the closer you are to the student, the more likely it is that the behavior will cease and the student will exhibit the desired behavior. Proximity control is easily established when the adult moves about the room frequently and in unpredictable patterns. 
  • The Look - 'nuff said. :)
  • Gentle verbal correction - go to the student and quietly and clearly tell them what you expect them to do at that moment. Effective verbal corrections are short, direct, given in close proximity to the student (in private), are delivered in a respectful tone, are clear, and state the expected behavior, not an accusation of misbehavior.
  • Discussion - engage the student in a more detailed discussion at a neutral time and provide specific feedback on how the student can align their behavior with expectations and/or handle the situation in a more constructive manner in the future.
  • Use the student's name in the lesson
  • Use an "I-Message" - when addressing the misbehavior, use statements such as "I was disappointed when...," "I cannot allow students to...," etc, which puts emphasis on the teacher rather than the student feeling attacked.
  • Point to the rule or procedure expected without speaking
  • Keep your voice low and calm, rather than escalating a situation
  • Family contact - suggest that a family discussion regarding expectations for responsible and cooperative behavior with be helpful, being careful not to in any way imply that the student should be "punished" at home or that the family should "make" the student behave. The family must be left with the  genuine impression that you can work together as partners in helping the student reduce misbehavior and enjoy success. Family contact should be frequent and positive
  • Humor - sensitive humor can be a powerful and effective way to respond to typical misbehaviors. Appropriate humor does NOT include sarcasm or ridicule on the part of the adult.
  • Restitution - the goal of this tactic is to have the student learn that if their behavior causes damage to someone or something, they need to both repair the damage and not repeat the behavior. Repair is not viewed as punishment, but as reparation.
Note: these resources are not mine, but that of my district's professional development dept.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Establishing & Maintaining Positive Relationships and Classroom Management, Part 2

I have returned with more great resources and supports from my district's professional development department regarding positive behavior supports! I know you were waiting on pins and needles, right?

Cultivating Positive Relationships with Students

The lasting value of deliberately building positive relationships with students cannot be overestimated!! Here are some specific suggestions to help teachers and support staff accomplish this:
  • Greet students at the door - one foot in the hall and one room makes it easier to monitor what's happened in both settings, and allows staff to smile and positively greet each student as they enter the room.
  • Deliver at least four (4) positive statements for every correct statement with each student - if teachers only approach students with perceived negative comments, their guard is already up and corrective feedback is tuned out. Research has shown that 99% of positive feedback is given to the well-behaved students, while the students with more challenging behaviors need it waaaay more!
  • Regularly deliver private comments (positive, neutral, or corrective) to each student every day - this eliminates the "ooooooh!!" factor for the rest of the class when the teacher approaches an individual student for a private comment, question, or correct.
  • The 2x10 Strategy - this is useful with students who rarely participate in class. The "2" refers to 2 consecutive minutes and the "10" is for 10 consecutive days. Engage in a dialogue with a withdrawn student for 2 minutes every day for 10 consecutive days. Vary the content of the dialogue to their needs/interests every day. Even if the student is initially unresponsive, you are opening the door to a positive relationship, and they are learning something about you in the process.
  • Helping Hands Directory or Classroom Yellow Pages - engage the class in a discussion regarding things they feel they are "expert" in and/or willing to help others with (i.e. using the index of a textbook, alphabetizing, writing topic sentences, keeping notebooks organized. etc). Create a quick chart of the areas of expertise and the students who can help in that area. Create a directory using a binder, which alphabetically lists the areas and students willing to volunteer their services to peers. When someone needs help, they can check the binder before they turn to adults for assistance, promoting cooperative, service to others, and increasing individual self-esteem. 
  • "Celebrate" the positives in class - celebrations bring about laughter and humor, which establishes personal connections between adult and student. Here are some celebration ideas:
    1. High Fives
    2. Thumbs Up
    3. Round of Applause (have students clap hands in a circular, "round" motion)
    4. Kiss Your Brain (have students kiss their hand then touch their head)
    5. Spider Clap [have students spread the fingers of each hand as far apart as comfortable (the spider) then tap their fingertips together silently]
    6. Silent Cheer (have students cheer with as much enthusiasm as they can, but without sound)
    7. Play a song portion reserved just for celebrations ("Celebration" by Kool and the Gang is always good)

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