Opinions on "Free/Choice Time"

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by Lopesss, Dec 7, 2019.

  1. Lopesss

    Lopesss Rookie

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    Dec 7, 2019

    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you in advance for your honest opinions and advice. I am a second year special education teacher. I teach 4th grade resource replacement for Math and ELA. This year I have a very behavioral class (diagnoses of ADHD, Mood Disorders, Autism, etc.) Our morning is broken up by specials and science/social studies in their homerooms, but our afternoon (12:30-3:10) is straight up instructional time. When the school year first started, it was extremely rough. Not to mention I have eleven students and no paraprofessional.. but that's beside the point. Behaviors were high, focus was lacking, and it was just very rough for my students to make it through the day.

    My students REALLY enjoy art. So as a behavior management technique, I cut out 15 minutes of their day for "Choice Time" where they can choose from three options: color, free draw, or another choice (it'll usually be a math mystery puzzle, mindfulness meditation, etc). Since I've implemented this, I have seen behaviors significantly go down and focus has been MUCH better. I mentioned in passing to my principal that this is something I do and she immediately said that if an administrator was to walk in during that time they would flip out because instructional time is being taken away from the students. I defended myself by saying that these 15 minutes HELP them refocus themselves once we return back to work and it has really helped behaviors in my class, but she wasn't buying it. She suggested I tie it in with curriculum or do away with Choice Time altogether.

    I guess my question here is... do any of you implement a similar type of thing in your classroom? Or do you have any suggestions on how I can tie it in to curriculum somehow? Thanks so much.
     
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  3. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Habitué

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    Dec 7, 2019

    Free choice time has become a "bad word" in some places. Sorry that you have to deal with it. Just an idea/ Rename it- Tell the kids that you have new exciting activities for them during the time if they earn it ( most young kids fall for it if you act excited..! :)
    1 choice- you could write a math problem on a small whiteboard that you know the child understands and have the student illustrate the problem with dry erase markers ( still drawing something they like), but w/ the math problem under it in case someone walks in....
    Do you have any games or can you make 1 that has an academic skill(s) into the game? You can make tons of academic games with dice and cards even. That could be another choice. Do you have computers? There are tons of academic games for free.
    If coloring or drawing, you can almost always tie math to it. From counting, skip counting, adding, subtracting to multiplying, you can find pictures that have the skill on it or you can write the skill under the picture depending on the skill level. Best of luck! :)
     
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  4. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Dec 7, 2019

    When I recently returned to public school teaching, I found the following were considered unacceptable at my new school:

    -Centers or workstations. Not allowed in any form. (This shocked me.)
    -Using crayons, glue, or markers. Not allowed in any form.
    -Artsy projects. Seen as a waste of time and not allowed in any form.
    -Making holiday gifts, Mother's Day gifts, Father's Day gifts, etc. Not allowed in any form.
    -Singing Happy Birthday on a child's birthday. Not allowed in any form.
    -Art or drawing (including illustrations). Not allowed.
    -Brain breaks, stretching, getting the wiggles out. Not allowed.
    -Fun Friday. Not allowed.
    -Giving prizes for good behavior. Not allowed.
    -Using food or candy in any form. Not allowed.
    -Checking homework during classtime. Not allowed. (But assigning homework was mandatory.)
    -Putting stickers or smiley faces on children's work. Highly discouraged. (It makes the ones who didn't get it "feel bad.")
    -Putting an X next to a wrong answer. Not allowed. You could only put a check next to a correct answer, but not mark an incorrect one.
    -Putting scores or grades on checked assignments. Not allowed.
    -No saying "good job" or "great work" or "great thinking." It makes the others think their way of thinking is wrong, or that they aren't good enough.

    I could go on, but you get the point.

    This is where things are headed, and they wonder why our education system is in a crisis.

    When I got scolded by admin for drawing a smiley face on the paper of a child who had worked exceptionally hard, turned in a neat and complete assignment, and gotten all the answers correct, because "not giving it to everyone would make others feel bad" I knew it was time for me to get out of that public education system.
     
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  5. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Habitué

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    Dec 8, 2019

    I know we should not cuss, but wt _? You have got to be kidding me. That is insane! I had heard some crazy crap about Florida, but that takes the cake.
     
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  6. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Dec 8, 2019

    Your administrator is right when it comes to instructional minutes. If the students are slated for 2.5 hours of special education instructional minutes in math and/or ela, that is what it is for. It is not for a form of "recess" where the choice is something that is not tied to any curricular standards but free time with some limits as to what is allowed during the free time. Your school could get sued for not providing the students with adequate instructional minutes.

    It is easy to tie into the curriculum. The choice is to use art to show learning for 15 minutes a few times a week or have them do another non-art work product to demonstrate learning. You still require demonstration of knowledge but their choice is how they go about it.
     
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  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Dec 8, 2019

    I agree with the others above. You can keep the 15 min choice time. You just have to re-brand it. Instead of "free choice time", call it "centers" or "stations". You could even put the word "learning" in front of one of those words ("learning centers" or "learning stations"). You can still offer the same choices, and your students can still choose where to go. Maybe you add in a few more "academic" choices that are tied to what you've been teaching, but maybe you don't... Instead of talking about it as a behavior management technique, brand it as a way to implement differentiated, personalized, inquiry-based learning. Admin love those buzz words. They'll be satisfied, and you can keep on keeping on with what works for you.
     
  8. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Habitué

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    Dec 8, 2019

    Laughing! I love the creativity of good teachers! :)
     
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  9. whizkid

    whizkid Habitué

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    Dec 8, 2019

    [​IMG]
     
  10. CherryOak

    CherryOak Companion

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    Dec 8, 2019

    Sounds like fine motor skill development to me....or is that too much of a stretch for fourth? :rolleyes: Judging by my fourth graders' handwriting, it probably should be in my daily activities, too.
     
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  11. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Dec 8, 2019

    CherryOaks,
    Good try, but fine motor skill development is not part of the 4th grade curriculum.
     
  12. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Dec 9, 2019

    It can be on an IEP. You just have to get it on there. I'm sure they will be glad to give those minutes to someone other than an occupational therapist.
     
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  13. urban teacher

    urban teacher Rookie

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    Dec 11, 2019

    Also, it can be written as IEP goal time. Most principals don't have any idea what goes into an IEP so they rarely question goal times.
     
  14. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Dec 11, 2019

    As it should not be, but golly, with some of the aforementioned no-nos, is it any wonder we have kids lacking fine motor skills?
     
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  15. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Dec 11, 2019

    It isn't surprising to me because in the early grades, k-3, they barely color or have handwriting instruction (in my district). Then when they get older and can't perform it becomes coloring time. It is Bass Ackwards.
     
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  16. Preschool0929

    Preschool0929 Cohort

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    Jan 2, 2020

    I’m a sped teacher and I do free choice time. I have to give my students something to work for or they would all fall apart. I call it “choice time” but if someone comes in I usually will refer to it as social skill practice, since most of the free choice activities are board games or something that involves working with others. It’s only 10 minutes, but it gives them time to relax.
     
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