Posted in Elementary Education Preparation

Oh the Places You Might Go!

Most students can describe that one teacher, the one who does not have a smile but instead a sneer, the one who seems like they teach simply to terrorize their students, that one no good, very bad teacher. But where do these destructive teachers come from? Well the answer is very plain and simple: they sit beside us in class, they listen to the same lecture, write the same papers, and answer the same questions. In fact, they might even be us. These teachers were once bright-eyed students with dreams and a full future. But instead of reaching their potential, they fell into laziness and disdain.

On the trail to greatness, step lightly and carefully. One misstep may lead to a hopeless life, a living nightmare that was once your greatest dream. Dr. Seuss wrote in Oh the Places You’ll Go, “I’m sorry to say so, but sadly it’s true that bang ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”

Doubt. We all feel it creeping into our hopes and dreams. Each day waking up and walking across the cold, wet campus, I feel the immense weight of higher education on my shoulders. I feel entirely uncomfortable walking without a backpack. I have forgotten how it feels to be completely awake. Seeing a child is just weird. Day after day, month after month, my resolve begins to decay. I can’t help but wonder, what am I doing with my life? Where is my youth? Are they doomed to  be crushed each week by the weight of yet another paper and project, not to mention social life or even laundry? Internally, we all battle in our own hearts between what is easy and what is worth the struggle.

Do not give up! Inside every good teacher is an exhausted and over-worked college student. You see, I believe that anything worthwhile is not going to be easy to accomplish. In front of each bright-eyed education major are two very different paths. There is one path pursued by students who push their limits and stretch in the face of adversity, the students who take each class as a valuable experience and work to gain as much knowledge as possible. These teachers do not get bored with teaching, but instead their abilities and minds are opened to the value of the work they are performing.

The other path is tread by students who coast by, accomplishing the minimum requirements to graduate and couldn’t care less about creating an engaging classroom. The difference is small, but each day the choices that I make in each lecture will shape the kind of teacher I will be. So beware the no good, very bad temptation to become anything less than the best.

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Posted in Elementary Education Preparation

Interventions for Misbehavior

One of the many challenges of classroom management is dealing with behavior. Prevention strategies are important, and there are many things teachers can do to build students’ motivation to focus and behave well in the classroom. But when all else fails and students misbehave, teachers must know how to intervene. The purpose of intervening is not to discipline, but rather to “stop disruptive actions and return students back to academic activities” (Burden, Paul R. Classroom Management). Effective intervention requires an understanding of how to provide situational assistance, use both mild and moderate responses to misbehavior, and deal with chronic or challenging misbehavior, particularly bullying. There are several strategies that I believe will help me to accomplish these goals in my classroom.

Situational Assistance

The majority of my interventions will be very minor, requiring only situational assistance. Disruptive actions can generally be resolved quickly and quietly. They can be caused by a number of factors, such as distractions in the classroom, boredom, and excessive energy. I have seen each of these cases in BYU’s kindergarten where I work, and I have learned many things from my experiences teaching there that I will apply in my own classroom.

ImageFirst, I will do more to boost students’ interest. I will do this by being more animated while I instruct, including more kinesthetic activities, and providing more opportunities for students to participate. Second, I will be more flexible and alter the lesson if necessary. As every teacher has discovered, children sometimes get bored with what they are learning. When they get bored, students focus on other activities, which distract others from the learning process. This was the case during my most recent math lesson with my kindergarteners. I introduced them to Geoboards[1] and was showing them different shapes they could make with rubber bands. My excitement about the topic was not enough to interest them. If I could do it over again I would have had the students stand up and use the class carpet as a giant Geoboard. The students would pretend to be the rubber bands, and we would use our bodies to make shapes on the carpet. The students would be learning the same material, but the change would have helped them take more interest in it.

Third, I will remove distracting objects. My guided reading group works near the door that opens to the playground. The movement outside is very distracting and makes focusing very difficult for some of the students. To address this challenge, we rearranged the area and brought in a different table that enabled each student to face away from the window. It also gives me better access to each of the students, so I can more effectively meet their needs and help them stay on task. So much misbehavior can be addressed by simple situational interventions, like those I have mentioned. These interventions solve problems quickly and with minimal disruption of student learning.

Mild Responses

ImageIn addition to knowing how to provide situation assistance, teachers must also be able to effectively use mild responses to misbehavior. There are several things I have learned while working with my kindergarteners that I plan to do in my own future classrooms. First, I will ignore misbehavior that seeks attention. Children will often abandon their misbehavior when it does not attract the attention they want from the teacher or other students. Second, I will use appropriate touch. This will show students that I am aware of their misbehavior, and it gives them an opportunity to correct it. Recently, one of my kindergarteners was being a bit too rowdy. I put my hand gently on his head and suggested that he not be so silly, and he immediately corrected his behavior. As this example demonstrates, appropriate touch is often accompanied by a verbal response, which is the third thing I will use to address misbehavior. Students will often correct their own behavior when the teacher asks them what they should be doing. Teachers can also suggest alternative behaviors for students to choose from. When I see a student antagonize a classmate, I often ask the student what they could have done differently to avoid offending their peer. This not only responds to misbehavior, but it also helps students learn how to self-correct and exhibit more appropriate behavior in the future.

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Moderate Responses

Sometimes students do not respond to situational assistance or mild responses. In these cases, teachers must use moderate responses to misbehavior. These are “punitive ways of decreasing the occurrence of stopping inappropriate behavior” (Interventions PowerPoint, slide 15). The first moderate intervention I will use is offering the misbehaving student a choice. For example, the student can choose to either correct his or her own behavior or face a specific consequence. Students often find self-correcting more appealing than suffering a consequence given by the teacher, so they return to what they are supposed to be doing. Withdrawing privileges is another moderate intervention I plan to use. For example, I might take away the privilege of choosing what to do at recess. This provides effective discipline while still giving students the health benefits of play. I will also use written reflections to address misbehavior. These not only resolve disruptions in the classroom, but they also help students assess their own behavior and learn from their mistakes. Each of these moderate interventions will help me resolve behavior and hopefully prevent my having to deal with chronic or challenging behavior in the future.

Responses to Chronic or Challenging Misbehavior

There will undoubtedly be cases of this level of misbehavior, though. Bullying is one example. I will not tolerate bullying in my classroom. I will talk about it often with my students and will incorporate it into our routines and the books we read. I will have strict discipline policies for it and will strongly encourage my students to report it if it occurs. As part of my intervention for bullying and other forms of chronic misbehavior, I will use a four-step plan.

The first step is to state what my expectations are and give the student an opportunity to correct his or her behavior. Next, I will either thank them for cooperating or state a second time what my expectations are for their behavior. If they comply I will thank them or otherwise enact a consequence. If the misbehavior continues to persist, I will enforce more severe consequences. This set process will help these students know what consequences they can expect to receive for their severe misbehavior. As I follow these steps, I will work hard to love and care for these students. I will help them either overcome or appropriately deal with their behavior problems. This is a life skill that will serve them well in the future.Image

The elementary school years are a vulnerable stage of life. Behaviors that become habit will likely persist into adulthood and create significant problems. Many of these behaviors can be nipped in the bud with the use of effective intervention strategies. I am confident that by providing situational assistance, using both mild and moderate responses to misbehavior, and dealing with bullying and other chronic or challenging misbehavior I can help my students learn how to demonstrate appropriate behavior in the classroom and ultimately contribute positively to society.


[1] The Geoboard is a tool for exploring a variety of mathematical topics introduced in the elementary and middle grades. Learners stretch bands around the pegs to form line segments and polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions, and more. (www.mathlearningcenter.org/web-apps/geoboard/)

Posted in Miscellaneous

8 Powerful Tools Students and Teachers Can Rely On

Every so often, we have guest bloggers who can add to the conversation on education. Today, we have Robert Morris, who lives in New York with his family. He graduated from NYU in 2006 and has worked in education for over 7 years as a teacher and a school newspaper adviser. Now he is early childhood literacy consultant and online literature tutor. He provides teaching and learning materials by writing useful posts for educators. You can find Robert on Google+.

Just as Natasha provided us with a list of useful iPad apps, Robert goes on to list online tools that benefit both student and teacher. Natasha also pitches in with a few of her own “endorsements.”

If you would like to guest blog, send a post to mckayprteam@byu.edu (subject line: guest blog submission).

8 Powerful Tools Students and Teachers Can Rely On

According to recent estimations, the educational technology industry is expected to reach $60 billion by 2016. Both students and teachers have a lot to gain from “smarter” classrooms that rely on technology tools. Technology can not only make the learning process more interactive, but can also improve the outcome and way students approach different learning methods.

The following is a list of 8 tools that have great potential in increasing students’ capacity to learn and educators’ ability to teach.

Photo from: http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/968413/helping-encourage-technology-in-the-classroom

1. WritingHouse.org is a free bibliography maker, which makes citing in MLA, APA and Chicago styles quick and easy.

2. Skitch is a visual communication tool provided by Evernote. It’s a simple, but effective concept that has potential of increasing BYOD (bring your own device, i.e. laptops, tablets) classrooms. Students and teachers can use Skitch to display visuals with annotations  and discuss their ideas on a particular subject. Teachers can capture new images or use existing ones to explain the concepts better through visual cues.

Natasha’s endorsement: Not many schools have the technology to display visuals and add annotations easily, such as a Promethean board. Skitch is an easy tool that allows one to annotate images. In the classroom, teachers can use it to focus in on different aspects of an image to help reinforce or enhance their lessons. Students could use this to help efficiently and effectively get their ideas out on certain subjects.

Continue reading “8 Powerful Tools Students and Teachers Can Rely On”

Posted in Elementary Education Preparation

Motivation in the Classroom

One of the great challenges of teaching is motivating students in the classroom. It involves much more than giving Skittles to well-behaved students or promising a pizza party at the end of the year for hard work. Motivation is a process used to “arouse and initiate student behavior, give direction and purpose to behavior, help behavior to persist, and help the student choose a particular behavior” (Burton, Paul R. Classroom Management. p. 125). Successfully motivating students requires careful planning, intentional action, and consistent effort. Every endeavor to build students’ motivation must contribute to the end goal.

ImageMotivation has four facets: interest, relevance, expectancy, and satisfaction. Interest refers to the need for students to be engaged in their learning. To be motivating, instruction must spark and sustain students’ curiosity. Relevance refers to the need for instruction to meet students’ needs and help them reach their goals. Students will be more motivated when they are able to make meaningful connections between what they are learning at school and their personal lives. Expectancy refers to the need for students to feel that they can be successful in the classroom. In order to motivate their students, teachers must instill confidence in them that they can accomplish what they are being asked to do. Satisfaction refers to “[students’] intrinsic motivations and their responses to extrinsic rewards” (p. 125). Students will be more motivated to learn when a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is used to help them grow to enjoy the learning process. Each of these dimensions is a key ingredient in the recipe of student motivation.

Motivation, in all its forms, has strong connections to classroom learning. Instruction that is interesting, relevant, satisfying, and that prepares students for success, is the fuel that empowers teachers to motivate their students. However, every student has a different level of motivation. There are four levels: extrinsic, introjected, identified, and intrinsic. Students who are extrinsically motivated require external sources (i.e. a tangible rewards) to engage them in learning. A student on the introjected level of motivation will participate in the learning process to avoid an unpleasant feeling, like guilt. Those on the identified level will get involved because they recognize the value of what they are learning. Intrinsically motivated students seek learning because they enjoy it. The goal is to inspire each student to be more intrinsically motivated to learn, and in my classroom I will use a variety of strategies to accomplish this goal.

ImageHelping students become more intrinsically motivated requires using a balance of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Both are essential. Extrinsic rewards are important because they get students excited about learning. In my classroom, I will begin using extrinsic motivators very early in my students’ learning experience. Doing so will help them associate desirable outcomes with learning, increase their intrinsic motivation to learn, and make future motivators more effective. Timely praise can also be a powerful extrinsic motivator. It can quickly reinforce good behavior and strong work ethic. Students who know that their efforts to behave and work hard are recognized will be more motivated to continue exhibiting those characteristics.

Continue reading “Motivation in the Classroom”