Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starting Routines & Breaking a Habit

Tomorrow is day 12 of school and I am trying to slowly start to get into some routines.  One routine is using the ISN.  Since the fourth day of school I have been making them set up their page headings and TOC themselves.  I keep reminding them where to find the information, but they have to do it themselves.  Each day there are more kids that remember what to do so hopefully one day soon they will all remember.  For only being up to page 8 in their ISN I think things are going well.

Another routine is classroom management.  I have posted about my classroom expectations before, but what I haven't talked about is how I get to making these work.

Now let me start this by saying there may be tons of people that disagree with me on this.  I think the general consensus is that you should be firm in the beginning of the year and ease up as the year goes on.  I generally don't really do this.  I definitely start out the year letting them know what the expectations are, but I'm pretty lenient with them for a little while.

The reason for this is that I like to see what the kids will do before I start coming down on them for things.  It all comes down to picking my battles.  Before I can do that, I need to see what I'm working with.  I don't want to start out the year picking every single battle just to prove that I'm in charge.

In no way does this mean my room is chaos for the first couple weeks.  I certainly don't ignore bad behavior, I just don't make a huge deal out of it.  I make sure to say something to the kid and then make a mental note of it for myself.  What this has done for me, is let me know which are the big things I need to focus on.  So as I start the third week now, I know which battles I am choosing.

One of them is cell phones.  I don't know if it is because my experience is with younger kids, but I have never seen kids that are on their phones SO much.  Now for the first week or so I have been very lenient with it.  I certainly don't allow them to be on their phones, but I have just been giving out verbal warnings.  At this point, however, the phones are going to start to be taken away.  I will start Monday by letting them all know this.  I don't like arguments so I am just very clear that it will be happening.  I will tell them that I'm not doing it just because it's a rule, but because it is a specific issue that we are having in our class.

The other battle I'm choosing is cursing.  This is one that I don't have all that much experience with since I'm used to younger kids.  Sure my middle school kids cursed every now and then, but it was rare and almost always an unintentional.

My classroom is very informal and there is a lot of group work and collaboration going on so there is a lot of conversation going on, which I'm ok with for the most part.   But what I have been noticing over the past week is that a few kids have a particularly bad habit of cursing.  They do it without thinking though, and when I say something (or just give them "the look") they immediately apologize. They aren't cursing at anyone or even using it an angry way, it's just unfortunately the way they are used to speaking.  They are really nice kids, but they also need to understand that's not an acceptable way to speak in a classroom.  They talk like that with their friends and some may even be used to talking like that at home. This makes it even harder to stop because it's not an issue like just taking away a phone, it's an issue of actually breaking a habit which is really tough.

On Friday, I put my new plan into effect.  On this shelf I have a little glass jar with my little x-face picture on it, a jar with 50 marbles, and a little notepad.


Every time someone curses, they put their name on the list and put a marble into the glass jar.  Each time they curse, they must repeat the process (if their name is already on the list, they will just add a tally mark).  When all 50 marbles are  in the jar, everyone that has their name on the list will earn a detention.  The masking tape is showing roughly where all 50 marbles come up to just to give them an idea as it's filling up.

Everyone's first question was, "What if I just curse a whole bunch of times just to get detention for everyone on the list?" and I told them that any cursing that is on purpose or directed at someone else will be written up individually.  So of course if a kid curses me or another kid out I'm going to do more than have them put a marble in a jar.  This is designed for those times where it's not quite on purpose. I'm pretty sure they knew this, but they are kids and always need to ask the "what if" question.

Here's why I chose to do it:

  • It address the real issue, which is breaking a habit.  Every time a kid curses they have to get up out of their seat and go do something.  Having them get up will make them more aware of what they are doing, break up what they were doing, and allow them to refocus.  I've been reading things on how to break habits and I've seen this suggestion often.  In all honestly, the point of this system is not the punishment, it's to make the kids more aware of what they are doing.
  • Other kids will begin to hold each other accountable.  Once a kid's name is on the list they are at risk of getting in trouble so they are going to have a problem if there's another kid that keeps cursing.  It creates an environment where everyone is vested in the rules, not just me.
  • It doesn't punish everyone, just the kids that curse.  I'm not ok with punishing the whole class for something that only a few kids did, and this addresses that.  The only kids in danger are the ones that acted inappropriately.
Now this system is brand new and I have absolutely know idea if it's going to work.  I can say, however, that we had very little cursing on Friday.  Only one kid did, and as soon as I told him he had to go start off the jar he begged to let it not count and promised to not curse anymore and so on.  Of course I stood by the new system so he had to go but a marble in, but I can say a few days ago it would have been an "ah I'm sorry" from him and then he would have forgotten all about what had just happened. My hopes are that from now on he'll be much more aware.

15 comments:

  1. Why 50? I was thinking of a much lower number. But I love the idea; I have the same exact problem. I've never felt okay with punishment when I feel like it was unintentional.

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    1. I'm not really sure why 50. I think that a lower number and I'd be giving out a lot of detention with my kids. I didn't want the focus to really be on the consequence but more so on the act of putting in the marble, if that makes sense. When we hit 50 I think I'll refill the jar with a smaller number each time.

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  2. Great idea! My 8th grade students last year would have benefited from this, this year I haven't noticed much swearing at this point in time. I do the same as you, start off learning where my battles are before I jump in with my system. They get a lot more warnings and discussions with me in the beginning. I am also at that point where things will start counting, I always dislike the first week or so, but they tend to fall in line. I will keep this in mind if the swearing picks up!

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    1. Good luck! If you end up trying it out, I would be interested to hear how it goes.

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  3. Swearing and cell phones...those would be my top two issues as well. I'd love to hear how the marble jar goes! I teach eighth grade and it seems like this year the swearing is worse than normal. Maybe I should take their phones as a punishment for cussing??

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    1. Yep my issue was also that it is way more than I'm used to so I need to cut it down. You could certainly try out anything! My kids are so touchy about their phones that I feel like I can only get away with taking them if they are actually using them. I am to the point though where they're getting taken away when I see them.

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  4. I definitely feel like a prude living in a bubble. I teach 7th, and cursing is an automatic detention. It may not have been intentional, but it is still inappropriate and unacceptable in my room. I'm happy to say that I haven't had much of an issue with it at all. Cell phones are taken for a parent to pick up if they are using them, without permission, during the day. (That is a school policy.) I hope your plan works out for you. I can appreciate your creativity. I can also appreciate you choosing your battles. My battle, particularly at the beginning of the school year is respect: to self, to others, and to surroundings. This would be a "biggie" to me for that reason. :) Good luck! Can't wait to hear how it works long term.

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    1. Thanks! I would love to be able to have a zero tolerance policy, but with the school that I'm in it's just not feasible. I'll certainly be updating on how it goes.

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  5. I'm jealous that you can take phones. We are only allowed to "encourage students to turn phones off and put them out of sight," even though the county policy clearly states that they are not to have electronic devices at school, turned on or otherwise. But I like the marble jar idea! Luckily, cursing hasn't been a huge thing in my 7th grade classroom so far [knock on wood] -- yelling out rude comments and trying to have the last word have been. I may try your method, though we're in week 8, so habits will be hard to break.

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    1. Ah that's tough. The marble idea could easily be for phones instead of cursing too, I like that idea. If you try it out I'd love to hear how it goes. It's never really too late to try something new, just let them know that you're doing it because it has become a big problem. Good luck!

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  6. At the beginning of the year, we talk about cell phone etiquette. Not sure how much they get out of our talk, but at least I feel good. :) If cell phones become a problem, have students keep their phone on their desk in plain site. It works. I can see their phone and their group members can see their phone. (Have them put it in their pocket if you are doing any sort of moving around.)

    On the other hand, I let them use their cell phones if they need a calculator. They know they have to use a hand held calculator for testing, so it's not a big deal. For some students, it is the only calculator they will ever have.

    Another teacher in my building has a cell phone basket and students are to put their phones in the basket on testing days for the entire hour.

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    1. I love the idea to keep them out on their desks so they can't be sneaky, I may give this one a try!! Thanks for sharing :)

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  7. I don't have an issue with cursing in my classes, but I'm wondering if excessive talking could be curbed by using the jar. Any thoughts on that? As for cell phones, it is school policy that if they are out during the day, the student is supposed to be sent immediately to ISS. I started off lenient with that (would just tell them to put it away), but I am now at the point of enforcing the school policy. I figured these kids were new to the school and needed to get acquainted with how things were done.

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    1. Sure, give it a try! I honestly never have any idea if things are going to work out, I just give them shot and see how it goes! I agree with you too on being lenient at first. I feel like it gives me more room to enforce things because they have been warned plenty of times by the time I take action. Good luck!

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  8. Great idea! I think this could be used in so many ways. The students that have tally marks, do they get multiple detentions?

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