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Friday, January 21, 2011

Just Behave: Linking Learning and Behavior

"Why can't the kids just behave?  My job would be so much easier if I didn't have to deal with behavior all of the time."  Does this sound like something you would like to say or do say? 

In my work with educators, I hear this comment all of the time.  There is a simple lesson here that we all need to learn.  Interested kids do behave.  So, the key is how to interest and engage students in school?  Here are some steps linking beavior and learning.  None of these are new.  None of these take the knowledge of a rocket scientist.

1.  Get to know your students.  I mean really get to know your students beyond what you teach.  What do they like to do?  Who are their friends?  What is their favorite food?  Any information that will help you understand your students.
2.  Take a ride or a walk through their neighborhoods.  One of the best experiences I had as a new teacher was taking a drive through the small rural and poor district where I secured my first teaching job.  This was an eyeopener!
3.  Plan your lessons!  The best teachers have great plans.  As we grow in experience, some of us get relaxed in our planning.  Develop your plans electronically.  This way you can store and revise them.
4.  Smile!.  Did you know that students score higher on high stakes tests when the teachers smile when they talk about the assessments, do practice assessments or review the directions to the assessments?  Smiling makes everyone feel better, students included. 
5.  Acknowledge the small things frequently.  Celebrate the big things.  A sincere recognition of effort by a teacher will inspire a student to keep trying.  The secret with acknowledgement is students need to feel like they have truly accomplished something.  Sometimes we hand out recognition in a wholesale manner too frequently.  Kids find that type of recognition to be artificial.
6.  Engage.  Plan all lessons for engagement.  A simple rule that I learned is the person who manipulates the materials the most and talks the most about the topic, learns the most.   Give students interesting questions to answer and guide them through the process of answering the questions. 
7.  Plan instruction systematically.  Think about how students are learning and plan the next steps to take them to the next level of learning.  Don't assume that they have learned. 
8.  If inappropriate behavior is a barrier in your classroom, then teach the appropriate behavior before, during and after instruction.  Model, what should be heard and seen.  Ask students to define appropriate behaviors for a specific situation.  Do quick practices with the students in an engaging manner. 
9.  Be organized!  Students do not naturally know how to organize their various tasks.  provide that guidance.  Use checklists, provide models.  If you expect work to be done in a certain manner, involve students with reviewing different work samples. They can identify positive and negative indicators in each sample. 
10.  School for many students is the most stable part of their lives.  Teachers must provide an environment that is welcoming, predictible, consistant, and immdediate. 

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