Book Study Part 3: Choice

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Welcome back! I hope your Monday is going well. If you haven't seen yet, I've been reading the book You Can't Teach a Class You Can't Manage by Donna Whyte. I reviewed the first few chapters already and it's time to talk about Cornerstone #2 for building a strong foundation for classroom management: Choice.


If you missed Parts 1 or 2, you can check them out here or here. Otherwise, let's get started. All my slides are notes and quotes from the book. I hope there is something there that speaks to you.


So many people today, adults and children, seem to think that everything around them is what causes them to behave the way they do. That the choices they made couldn't possibly have anything to do with the situation that they are in. Children need to understand that they have power in their choice, and it can either lead to positive or negative consequences. Using their words to appropriately ask for what they want gets much better results than grabbing for the coveted crayon or screaming at the friend that has it. 


One of my college professors claimed she was not our teacher, but guide along this journey. My initial thought was that this woman was crazy, but after observing her teaching style and way of questioning, I could see what she meant by that. If we always tell our students how to look at things instead of where to look, they'll never be able to make connections for themselves. 


We talk about this all the time in our class. Every morning we review the class rules and we've added the Golden Rule down at the bottom. You know the one: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. We give examples of this almost daily. And when someone is bothering someone else, I often hear someone remind the friend of this specific rule. There are several great books for teaching this concept, but these are my favorites:




We also practice a manner a day and review others from Ron Clark's Essential 55. I love this book! And breaking it up into a manner or two a day makes it very manageable for our little learners. 




It always angers me when I hear someone say, "Make them." Whether they're talking about sitting, being quiet, being nice, paying attention, whatever. You cannot respectfully MAKE someone do something. I have had classes where even if I was standing on my head or dressed like a Batman and I had a stash of cupcakes lying around for rewards, I would not be able to MAKE THEM all do something. Children have to want it. As adults, we pay our bills so we keep our utilities on. I'd much rather go on a shopping spree every payday, but the payoff of having utilities trumps the payoff of having new shoes. Children need to see that payoff too. Asking nicely and getting what you want, or at least finding a good solution, and still having friends can and should trump throwing a temper tantrum, getting nothing, and losing your friend. As their teachers, we need to show them how that payoff works. 


I tried this this week with one of my neediest little guys. He magically figured it out all by himself. Amazing how that works.


My son is the master of excuses. Nothing is ever his fault, or the reason he did do it was because of X, Y, or Z. None of which has anything to do with how to prevent this outcome in the future. He now has a reflection journal to help him think through what happened, what other choices he had, and what he might do in future situations.

So how do we begin? 


If only these skills were in the standards...Maybe we'd have time to teach them explicitly. But since they're not, these everyday skills become embedded in our teaching on a daily basis. Sometimes taking the place of a core subject for the day. But if the skill isn't taught, the behavior takes over and then nothing gets done. Ever. 


I'm sure most of us offer our students choice on a daily basis, either in math or literacy centers, social centers, or by offering an option in which order your students do their work. I know in my friend's class in 4th grade she has a "Must Do" and a "May Do" board. The kids can work on the "Must Do's" in any order they wish as long as they get it all done. Then they may choose from any of the "May Do's." In my class, the kids have certain centers they go to each day, but within each center are several choices. Some are used more than others, but they all have the same objective. And the kids appreciate having the option of which activity to complete.


Natural consequences are direct results of the choice. If the child chooses to throw his sticky bug he just got out of the treasure box into the air and it gets stuck to the ceiling (yes, this happened), the natural consequence is the loss of the sticky bug and possibly no more sticky bugs from the treasure box again. 

Punishment would be a time-out, call to the office, etc. Now I'm not saying that a break from playing and talk about it isn't warranted, just that there's a difference. 


One behavior sheet I saw had spaces for the child to write or draw what happened, what they could do next time, and how they are going to fix it. The child had to think about how they were going to remedy the situation, either by cleaning up the mess, apologizing, drawing a picture for the person they hurt, or something so they don't just get a time out and that be the end of it. I LOVE having a child think through not only how they could do it differently in the future, but how they are going to fix what they have done. 


Oh, tough one. Even for some adults...


God help me, I am trying to instill this on my littles! Many already grasp this, but it is an everyday challenge for some. 

I hope that by choosing to read all the way down to the end of this page that you are getting something out of this. I  can't wait to see Donna Whyte present in Vegas in July so got a head start in reading her book. 

I'll be posting about Cornerstone #3 by Saturday (I hope!). 

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