Taking over existing resource middle school classes, having trouble
I'm teaching for the rest of this school year in two resource classes for 8th grade. Resource classes mean that the special education students can get help on their academic skills, regular class work, and homework. I tried the approach today going over my rules/consequences/rewards, but I still had students being disruptive throughout the classes.
What should I do for tomorrow? Go over the same things and keep practicing how to behave appropriately? I don't think I should start doing major academics or small groups until I get the whole group instruction under control.
What attention signal do you use? I used the "class, I need your attention please," with my arm out and they reacted really strangely to it!
Should I use different consequences or rewards? What do you use that works?
Finally, I had a student who was supposed to stay in for lunch for 5 minutes. He sneaked out of class. I found him in another class later on and took him up to the office to talk to admin. The office manager took on that commanding tone of voice that students seem to respond to so well and he was contrite with her while not with me. I can't fake that tone of voice, but how can I be more like that?
You have 4 years of experience, so you probably already know to pick your battles. Get to know the students, allow yourself some humor and make sure they know you like them (find them funny, cool, smart, sensitive, etc.). I've found that comraderie goes a long way when managing a small group with difficult students. Try to pick out the disruptive leaders. It is often just a few students who are toppling the apple cart. If you can get those students to buy in, the rest will most likely follow.
And you are right, you can't do small groups until the majority of students are willing to work with/for you.
I know how to pick my battles, but I was so disappointed today! I wanted to take my time and teach the rules and what behavior I expect out of whole group instruction. I worked on what I wanted to teach for a long time the day before. But it bombed! About half of of both of my classes (I have around 10 kids in each class) were still talking back, not raising their hands to speak, or telling me "no" to working.
How do I do it over again tomorrow? My consequences are verbal warning, loss of points, detention, calling parents/more detention/refocus form (that is sending the student out with a paper to fill out what he did), and referral. A friend suggested I don't use verbal warning and jump right to calling the parents on my cellphone for the first violation. But this is not like me--I want to use positive reinforcement, I want to give warnings, and I really don't know about calling right in the middle of class.
Do you have other suggestions or should I call right then in class if the student gets to the point I am supposed to call? My whole concern is I'm trying to be clear on what I expect out of the students, and they are not complying with learning that.
So basically, it sounds like you have a little bit of a defiant group. I would speak honestly with them right now. You are new to their group, they have probably been together half the year. Let them know that you understand these rules might be new to them and they will need some time to leave the rules, which is why you are giving warnings. This will allow you to move through the process much more quickly later in the year. Second, I would also let them know that some behaviors will warrant moving right to calling the parents (threatening, etc).
I would not call a parent on my cell phone ever! Let alone in the middle of class. I have composed an email or letter to go home with a student watching or had a student call right after class.
You may want to sit down with the students and have them "help" you write out the rules for resource and the expectations. They could help you come up with the positive consequences that they would like to receive (notes home, work with a friend, play a game, extra recess, etc)---try to think free or cheap.
I noticed that you put 4th grade down as the level you teach. I don't know what grades you have for middle school but if it is 7th and 8th grade, you may be treating them like 4th graders. (Yes, they are probably acting like preschool!) I agree with the poster who said that you have to "win" them over. They have to decide if they trust you or not. I'll be honest 7th and 8th grade have their own way of acting and it takes some honesty about yourself and about them.
By all means give them positive reinforcement, but back it up by meaningful consequences.
I'm reading this book now that I think would be effective called "1-2-3 magic for teachers". Essentially you count one at the first offense. Explain it only if absolutely necessary. Two at the second offense, say nothing else. And at 3, you give them a consequences. In the book it's a time out, but an equal consequence in which they're removed from the group for a length of time while remaining silent and not allowed to participate is fine. All you have to do is count and in fact saying anything else or getting emotional would be detrimental.
This is to get them to stop doing things you don't want them to do, like being disruptive. To get them to start doing things, you will probably have to use positive reinforcement.
Thank you all for the advice. I'm not teaching 4th grade, I have 4 years of experience, but sometimes I feel like I have less.
I don't know if I'm treating them inappropriately for the age. I'll be honest, this 7th/8th grade age baffles me because they act like little kids at time and at other times act like teenagers.
I tried positive reinforcement with tickets for a raffle drawing with food. It worked ok. I'm not getting the great behaviors I hoped for, but I'm going to keep working on it with them. I'm also trying not to upset myself so much that it isn't going perfectly--other teachers explained to me that I DO have two tough groups of students in these two classes. So I'm trying to look at this like a learning experience for me rather than failure...
I figure I'm going to keep going over the rules/rewards/consequences with them and enforcing them over and over again until I myself get clearer (and stricter) and the students understand. I'll be calling parents each day I need to either for bad behaviors or for good behaviors for those students who struggle. Some of my students in each of my classes are very well-behaved. But I have 2 to 3 in both classes who I'm going to have a hard time with.
I might try the magic 123 idea, but say what the rule violation is. At 3 I could use our refocus forms (the school has forms where you send the student out to write up on why he needs to stop being disruptive).
Thanks for the ideas. Any more you have is appreciated.
With middle school students, you want to treat them with respect and provide choices (whether it is behavioral or academical). The choice allows them to feel more in control and adult while keeping things in your control.
You're right about being consistent and clear with your rules.
When I had a grade 7 and 8 resource room (11 boys), I got their input into incentives that were important to them. Some of the things that they wanted to work towards: 10 minutes outside at the basketball court (this was a favourite!), 30 minute Connect 4 or checkers tournament, listening to music while they worked, popcorn snack, trip to the movie theatre (they never earned this one, but they were close, and my principal did approve it).
I also enlisted their input into criteria for earning the rewards but having them pinpoint the key behaviours that needed to change. That said, I did try to keep things a little more relaxed in the resource room. The students still had to work hard, listen respectfully while someone was talking, etc., but I didn't hold a hard line on raising hands to speak, working silently, not moving around, etc. This certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but it's what these boys needed.
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop