Managing 8th grade student behavior?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Meglin, Aug 22, 2014.

  1. Meglin

    Meglin Rookie

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    Aug 22, 2014

    The 3rd week of school just ended today, which also marks the end of my 3rd week student teaching. The program I am in requires one full school year of student teaching experience, so I will be with my mentor and students until May.

    I am in an 8th grade science classroom and today was my first "real day" teaching since my mentor was absent (a sub was present, but I had requested that he let me try managing the entire day.)

    My mentor had decided the students would do a round robin reading on a science packet, covering the scientific method. I implemented an incentive to all 4 of our classes that the class who behaved the most appropriately and listened/spoke at the right times would receive some kind of snack party in their period next week. I have tally marks on the board tracking the progress of each class. What I found is that two periods made it a point to be very attentive, engaged, and followed my directions, but my other two periods did not. They were chatty, messing around, weren't following the reading, and a whole bunch of other common scenarios I'm sure my veteran teachers are all too familiar with. I wrote an infraction for one student during a fire drill and he argued about it with me when we got back to class, students were pushing each other in the hallway, and I felt like the classroom was in a state of disarray for those two particular periods.

    My mentor is gone on Monday as well, so I will be the "main teacher" again, but after some reflection I realize that I need to get a better handle on managing behavior. I've read a few books this summer on the subject, but find that its easier to read something in a book than to put it into practice.

    What I'm looking for is any advice or suggestions to create a better classroom atmosphere. I am going to discuss these observations and reflections with my mentor on Wednesday when he returns, but I want to be set up for success for my day with the kids Monday. Moreso, I want to ensure I am set up for success the rest of the school year. Most of the kids generally respect me, but I am not sure if thats only because my mentor teacher is present.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    [edit] Should also mention that I am in a low-income school, and I know that most of my kids come from single-parent low-income households and a few of my kids are homeless. Not sure if this changes the way I manage this particular class, but I assumed it would be a relevant factor.
     
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  3. daisycakes

    daisycakes Companion

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    Aug 23, 2014

    I taught in a similar school for 3 years. If a student argues with you, send them out. They don't get to question your authority in front of the class because that just makes you look weak and now everyone will try to take advantage. Some people would say never send a kid out because admin will be ******, but the point of sending one kid out is that everyone's sees you are serious, shapes up and you don't need to send any more out.

    Also, if they can't come back from a drill and get to work, make them redo standing in line and coming back in over and over again to establish your authority and get them to calm down.

    Basically, you need to show them you are in charge and giving you any crap will result in some sort of negative consequence for them.
     
  4. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Aug 23, 2014

    When I taught 8th grade, my most effective way of managing them had two steps that many teachers disagreed with.

    First, I wrote five tally marks on the board that meant at the end of the 80 minute period they could have five minutes of free time. As needed, I erased marks. It was a good visual for them.

    I also passed out candy (mints, jolly ranchers, and dum dum suckers) to those who were doing what they were supposed to be doing. This worked great! Many teachers see it as bribing or hate giving out candy but my students were not at all intrinsically motivated.

    As a side note, round robin can be an awful way to do reading depending on your students, which could have also contributed to the issue. What are they like for your mentor teacher?
     
  5. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Aug 23, 2014

    We can no longer provide food to students in NJ, so what can be a good incentive has gone out the window. I agree to send out a student who is challenging you, especially since you have a sub in the class room to help. May I suggest that you find out what the sub would do?? Some have years of experience that may benefit you. When I read your post, the first thing that struck me was that jumping right into using the snack party as incentive your first time at bat may signal you are not confident. That is like waving a red flag in front of potentially defiant students. I also work with low income students, and I can tell you that some students fail to respond positively at all if they don't believe the goal or incentive is attainable. I think something along the lines of the tallies on the board and something positive happening today may work better. I also kept a chart and the kids would see me put tally marks, but I was noting on task behaviors, not bad behavior. I never said a word when I placed a mark, nor did I miss a beat as I was teaching. I would have some premade certificates that could be used for a treat in the lunch room waiting, and I would hand them out to the students who were outstanding in their behavior as they left the room, with a simple "Well done." No making a spectacle - the kids will figure it out all on their own. It may not help the first time you do it, it might. It is a powerful thing, the way students share news in the hall!
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Aug 23, 2014

    When you do things like "Whichever class has the best behavior will win a party." you will inevitably find some classes just don't believe they can win, so there is no real buy in from them. They know they have the worst students in their class, and all it serves as is an opportunity to lose as badly as they can, because if the only consequence is they won't get a party, well they knew they weren't going to get one anyway.

    With arguments, just refuse to get into them. State your expectation or your consequence, and walk away. If they follow you and continue to argue, up the consequence.

    In order to have better behavior next time, clearly state the rules and consequences that your teacher already has in place (you may want to conference with her about them), and state that you will be applying these rules as faithfully as possible to protect the learning environment for those who are trying to learn, and everyone should be here to learn.

    Then just follow through. If someone breaks a rule, inform them of the expectation and the consequence once. If it continues, apply the consequence and walk away.

    Keep the office phone number in your back pocket in case you need a support call or someone to escort a student to the office in extreme cases. Above all, don't lose your head, just stay cool, act like keeping students accountable for their behavior is the most normal thing in the world and just a part of daily business (i.e. don't get angry, lecture, just be you, and be relaxed).
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Aug 25, 2014

    Lots of good advice given already! I may be repeating some things, but here are my thoughts:
    - you should continue with the same procedures, strategies and incentives if your teacher is out. Changing it up might cause problems, one of the main reasons why being a sub can be hard: the students are taken out of their routine. You're in the classroom all the time, so you should keep that continuum.
    - as someone already mentioned, don't give away a snack party so quickly, as soon as your teacher is out, and only for 1 day. It does signal a weakness.
    - instead of sending a kid out who argues with you, just send them right outside for a few seconds, go out there, talk to them, and then have them come back in. This way the situation is diffused, and you're not arguing with a student in front of the class.
    - some strategies don't work well when your regular teacher is out, or they may not work well with all classes. You can definitely change things up to provide more structure. For example instead of partner or group work, change it back to individual work, or round robin reading, have it done as a whole class reading (1 student reads at a time). Might not be the best strategy, but if it keep the classroom managed, and the students get their work done, then that's all that matters.
    - a fire drill can definitely disrupt a class, so it might be hard to get them back with perfect behavior.
     

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