Jo Ann Flaxbeard - Boys Town National Training
The New Year is a time for a fresh start. It’s also a time to reflect on past triumphs, tribulations and plan goals for the coming months. As you return to school well-rested and energetic after the holiday break, and ready to tackle the remainder of the academic year, remember to keep the momentum going with social and emotional learning as well! Here are some New Year’s resolutions regarding social and emotional learning to consider as you return to your classroom:
The first few moments returning to school after a long break are the perfect opportunity to take time to review and re-establish those all-important procedures and routines. These basic classroom components are what make the school day run more smoothly. Students not only need to but want to know what is expected of them as they enter and leave the classroom, what to do when they first arrive to class, how to get the supplies they need and what they need to do with any completed homework. Just a few examples of the basic practices that make a classroom environment predictable.
A great way to re-establish these expectations is to start off 2016 with goal setting. Here are two great activities from the Grit & Bear It Activity Guide. Making Time Count will help you and your students set goals for the classroom. To help your students set personal goals and learn to persevere with an action plan use Dominoes. One last way to get kids involved in setting expectations for the classroom is creating a class motto together.
And, don’t forget those other areas of the school that have the potential to be problematic. Establishing expectations for hallways, restrooms, cafeteria, auditorium and the school office can go a long way in reducing unwanted behaviors.
Take some time to reflect on those times and situations where your classroom was overpowered by behavior issues and academic learning took a back seat. Use the information to plan and provide proactive behavioral teaching opportunities. Do your students need a refresher on Following Instructions? Do your students need additional practice Staying on Task? Perhaps they continue to have difficulty with Asking for Help or Getting the Teacher’s Attention. These are all skills that most teachers find will help their students be successful with behaviors so that they can concentrate on academic learning. We have supports for many of these skills. You may find a lesson plan or video on our website helpful, or perhaps a book from the Boys Town Press will enhance these teaching opportunities.
Once your students become proficient with basic social skills, prepare them to develop more advanced skills. This could mean teaching them how to code switch taking basic skills and adapting them for use in different situations). For instance, perhaps you have taught your students how to Greet Others when meeting you at the classroom door each morning. Your next step could be to teach and practice what it looks and sounds like when you greet a classroom visitor.
It could also mean that once your students are proficient in a skill, you teach them a higher level compatible skill. For instance, perhaps your students are proficient at Getting the Teacher’s Attention. You may want to think about how to teach and have them practice how to get an adult’s attention in various situations such as in the lunchroom or at an assembly. Building on successes with social skills by teaching more advanced skills has the potential to help students understand and develop ways to generalize and apply behavioral learning outside the classroom.
Too often as teachers we can easily get caught up in focusing on those things our students do wrong and trying to fix them. This is most likely not a reflection of a flaw in our character, rather it can be our urgency to teach students what they need to know in the quickest way possible. Thus, it’s easy just to tell our students what they need to do. But know that there is great power in letting kids know what they are doing correctly by praising them. Take the time to “call out” when a students is exhibiting behavior you are proud of. General praise is good. “Way to go!”, “Good for you!” and “Terrific!” are words that flow easily off the tongue of many teachers. Make it more powerful by attaching a specific behavior to it. “Way to go! You followed instructions right away!” or “Good for you. You remembered to raise your hand when you wanted my attention.” Praising a student specifically not only enables a child to hear exactly what she is doing correctly, it also makes it more likely she will be able to replicate the positive behavior in the future.
Resolutions are a great way to begin the New Year. They not only help us to reflect on the past year’s strengths and challenges and but help us to plan for continuous successes and problem solve anticipated challenges. As you make your resolutions for 2016, don’t forget to resolve to help your students become more successful in your classroom!