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You know what I mean. Some days it may seem like they are completely crazy as soon as they walk in the room. Talking, getting out of their seats, making fun of each other…. etc.
Sometimes it has an obvious cause: fire drill, pep rally, the day before Christmas break.
But what if it does not have an obvious cause? Asking yourself these questions can help you decide how to handle them.
Question 1: Am I in a bad mood?
This is literally the first thing I think when I am having problems with a class. Especially if I have two tough classes in a row. If I am in a bad mood, it is usually reflected in my class’ behavior. I have to work extra hard to make sure that they do not feel it.
If I am in a bad mood (I say I because I am sure you are all better than this), I tend to focus on bad things. I am quick to use my “teacher voice”. I forget to use positive reinforcement. And I let things get to me.
Don’t let things get to you. When a student is mad and they call you a name or shoot you a birdie, don’t let it get to you.
It may be hard, but don’t give in.
Actually, one of my favorite things in that situation is to not do anything (at least not publically, but notate it on the clipboard.)
It happens. Someone will say, “Mrs. Davis, so-and-so called you a mean name!”
And I say, “You know what? It doesn’t matter. Just because you call me something, doesn’t mean it is true. I am not going to let one person ruin my whole day. So I am going to go on having a good day, and that person will just have to change their attitude.”
And they look at me like I just started walking on the wall.
Now, sometimes it is harder than others. And sometimes they call you something bad enough you have to address it.
But if I can ignore it, I like to. The kids are not used to that. And hopefully, they understand that that means that if someone calls them a name, they don’t have to get mad. They don’t have to let it ruin their day. They can ignore it.
It hasn’t gotten that far yet, but we will see.
Question 2: When did they move?
Not like move seats, but move around. There is a tooon of research that says that students who have physical activity not only behave better, but also focus more easily.
If you cannot get them to stop moving for their lives, then let them move!
There are tons of ways you can do this. You could play a game like Simon Says. You could get on Go Noodle (if you are elementary, I highly suggest this). You could even just have them stand and shake out one hand and then the other and then a foot… You could have them do a song with movements. Get on the internet. It’s out there.
I guarantee you, a tired class is better behaved than a non-tired class.
You could even do Just Dance or Dance Dance Revolution videos on YouTube.
When I plan my lessons, I make sure there is movement. As a music teacher, this is easier for me than for a classroom teacher. My students do movement songs, learn dances, keep steady beats while marching around the classroom, etc.
And the more I wear them out, the better behaved they are.
Check out this article about how students who do not move enough have a hard time focusing.
Need some movement ideas? Here are some of my favorite movement based activity books:
Question 3: How many compliments have I given?
My mentor teacher use to say to give five compliments for every criticism. Now, you do not need to sit there and count them on your fingers, but if your class starts to go haywire think: Am I complimenting or criticizing?
Think about it: who wants to behave well when everything your teacher says is negative?
Also, if you want attention, it is easier to get it by acting up.
Instead of saying, “Johnny, sit in your seat!” Try, “Thank you so-and-so for sitting down. Who else is sitting down?”
I am not going to lie; this takes training. I have to constantly remind myself to do this.
Especially in line. I am serious about my lines. Every time the kids line up, I actively look for someone who is correct. Then I say, “Look at Johnny. He is facing forward, he has his hands to himself, his shirt is tucked in, and he is quiet. I am looking for other people doing to same thing.”
If you are in a bad mood, check out this post about Positive Management Strategies when You Don’t Feel Positive.
Question 4: Is this lesson too hard/too easy?
It is a proven fact: bored kids act up. And students who are either having a hard time understand content or who are not being challenged are the worst.
If your kids are off their rocker, ask yourself: Are they all understanding? Are some people confused? Do they already know how to do this?
If it is too easy or too hard, they will be bored. And they will act up.
Question 5: How long have I been talking?
Kids have short attention spans. If you have been running your mouth for an hour without them being able to do something, they will be bored.
Solution? Give them something to do!
This means you could talk less and have them do more activities. You could vary the activities, so that you talk some, they watch a video sometimes, sometimes the work, etc.
If you need to talk for a while, have them write something down. Have them physically take their finger and follow the text you are reading with it. If you are telling a story, have some people act it out.
Give them a job. This is my favorite. Assign everyone to be a 1 or a 2, and then say, “After I am finished, the A’s will tell the B’s what I said in their own words.”
Then they have to listen or they will look silly.
Moral of the story: don’t just talk at the kids. Let them have something to do.
Unless you teach college. Then you can ignore everything I am saying. Even though it is still completely true, college students are responsible for themselves.
So there you have it! Basically, do your best to keep them from being bored. Bored students misbehave. When you have problems, ask yourself these questions!
What are your tricks for keeping students engaged and behaving? Let me know in the comments!