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I've got a student who just cannot sit still. It seems as if he is all over the room. I've asked him many times to either stay in his seat or sit quietly on the carpet when we are meeting together as a group or to not leave his learning center until it time to rotate to a new center but he just ignores me and does what he wants. Any suggestions?

It's a bit difficult to offer suggestions regarding the behavior of an individual student without the benefit of actually interacting with the student in question. (Let's call him Calvin.) Nonetheless, I'm going to make a recommendation anyway.

Reduce the words and increase the action.

Calvin's demonstrated disregard of his teacher's spoken requests would seem to indicate that he lives with adults who do not mean what they say. Consequently, he has learned over the years that he can ignore words spoken by an adult and is now applying this same operating principle to his teacher.

Note: I'm assuming that Calvin does not have some medical/physiological reason for his behavior. Although many students are misdiagnosed with ADHD, some are actually card-caring members. And in those situations--which would have required the assessment of a professional--expecting Calvin to exhibit more self-control simply won't work. It's not a matter of will power. It's the fact that a chemical imbalance is affecting Calvin's ability to conform his behavior to what we think is reasonable for classroom life.

Personal note: One of my good friends, an award-winning graphic artist who runs a highly successful marketing firm, found out recently that he is ADHD. His doctor prescribed some medication which he took out of curiosity. He told me that within fifteen minutes of taking the pill, he could tell the difference.

"It was as if a ventilation system had been running in the back of my consciousness for years and years and someone flipped the switch and turned it off. I didn't even realize this background noise had been there until it was gone. And for the first time in my career I was able to stay with an idea I was working on and really explore its possibilities. Before that, I would create one idea and then quickly jump to another one based on the first. Now, though, I am able to focus on an idea more completely before moving on to something else."


My first suggestion for action is to use some type of isolation strategy. That is, you want to remove Calvin from the situation in which he is not exhibiting the proper self-control. A simple technique is to have a carpet square to which he can be sent. Not for a long period of time, mind you, but enough time to show Calvin you are serious enough about your stated expectations that you are willing to back up your statements with action.

To help make this consequence more effective, you might want to think about allowing Calvin to decide when he can leave the carpet.

Reality: Power and control are two big issues that come into play with students who willfully disregard teacher requests. And although I'm not advocating that we pander to Calvin's need for power by letting him do whatever he wants--after all, that is what started this post in the first place--it does make sense to provide him with opportunities to self-correct his misbehavior and get a feel for what self-control is all about.

So, basically, Calvin will be told that being sent to the carpet is meant to show him that he needs to exhibit more self-control but that when he feels he is once again in charge of himself, he can leave the carpet and get back in the game. And if it takes a dozen trips to the carpet square during the course of the morning, then a dozen trips he gets with each intervention being done, it should be noted, with a calm, reassured tone of voice and a firm countenance.

Which leads to my second suggestion.

Two-Tiered Isolation
Lay down two different carpet squares--a green one and a red one--for Calvin to use. The green one, you may have quickly figured out, is the one where he gets to decide when he is able to leave the carpet square. The red one, though, is where you will send him and he has to stay until you release him. (I was thinking of a traffic signal: green for go and red for stop.) This two-tiered approach will go a long way to showing Calvin how serious you are about him truly gaining control of his behavior.

The red carpet square basically says:

Hey. The green carpet square isn't a game. It's a message that you need to get a grip. We are not going to pretend that there isn't an issue the way your parents are pretending everything is fine. We don't fake it in this classroom. We're serious about student responsibility. And when you are sent to the green carpet square it's because you have chosen to ignore one of your responsibilities. But when you release yourself and then resume the same behavior that got you sent in the first place, you're just asking for something more restrictive. That's why we have a red carpet square where you'll need to wait until I release you. Your freedom to decide when you leave has been revoked because you were abusing that freedom.

I just hope that everyone involved realizes that Calvin's issues are not going to be solved overnight. We're talking a long-term commitment to change. For every three steps forward the teacher takes with him, his parents take him two steps back. (Not intentionally, but life at home is the major reason he is the way he is.)

Net result: One step forward.

That's a good thing. Do that long enough and you'll begin to see some real results. And if you could get the parents on-board--not always easy--you'd really be making some progress.

Parent support
Before parents can become willing participants in your plan to improve Calvin's behavior, they need to be made aware of its severity. One of the best ways to do this is to create some type of simple record-keeping tool that you can show them. This kind of hard evidence is hard to ignore.

To make the documentation easy to use--a critical component of whether or not you'll continue to use it--place the form on a clipboard and hang it near the carpet squares. Then, whenever Calvin is sent to either the green square or the red one, he marks an X inside the proper box.

Carpet Log

To add to the effectiveness of the record, you might want to create number codes that represent the kinds of behavior for which he is being isolated. A "1" could be mean "out of seat wandering around." A ""2 could mean "rolling around on the carpet during group time." A "3" could mean "bothering another student during group time." Etc., etc. I'd cap it at five codes.

Then, when Calvin is sent to sit on a carpet square, you could show him, with the fingers of one hand, which code you want him to write on the form on the clipboard. The number he writes would replace the generic X he had been making.

Carpet Log with Codes

The advantage of the codes is that everyone involved--Calvin, his parents, and the teacher--would have specific information as to which misbehavior is causing the most problems. That awareness would enable everyone to concentrate on that one issue and work at correcting it. Then, when that behavior is becoming less of a concern, you could move on to another issue.

Here's a simple Carpet Log form I created. Feel free to make a copy or use it as inspiration for creating your own.

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If you're using the Yellow Slips for social talking in addition to the Clip Chart for general behavior, do you get a Yellow Slip for talking and also have to move your clip down one level?

Nope. It's one or the other. The choice is yours.

If, however, social talking is really an issue for the student, I'd go with the Yellow Slip over the "clip down" response. The documentation it provides will be beneficial when talking with the student, parent, or counselor about your concerns regarding the degree of social talking in which the student engages. The Clip Chart does not provide the same record keeping ability. Once the clips are reset the next morning to the Ready to Learn section, the crime scene is wiped clean.

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During the seminar you mentioned that you allow your students to work away from their assigned seats. I like the idea but, at the same time, am a bit worried that students might just move to another spot to goof off. How do you handle that?

Your concern is both justified and reasonable because every classroom is populated with students who try to take advantage of the freedom granted them by the teacher.

Thinking about what he just heard:
--Ooohhh. I get to move to another spot to work? Sweet. I'll go sit next to Andy and we can talk about Xbox.--

And before you know it, a dozen students have relocated. Some of them moved to empty seats, some to the unoccupied reading table, and some grabbed a clipboard and are now working on the carpet. Unfortunately, several of them seem to be engaged in social talk and are not doing much of anything else.

The danger here is to do the Old School thing and demand that everyone return to their normal seats. And, sadly, everyone means that even the students who had been doing a good job of staying on task have to trudge back home. Punishing everyone for the actions of a few not only violates Core Principle #4: Focus your attention, it's also a major relationship killer.

What you need to be able to do in these kinds of situations is to separate the wheat from the chaff. One simple way to do this is to post a list of names on a bulletin board. Anyone who relocates himself but, for whatever reason, strays off-task is asked to draw a line through his name on the list and return to his seat. (You could do the same thing on a magnetic whiteboard with a set of magnetic numbered tiles. Anyone asked to return to his seat removes his tile from the board and drops it into a little container. This more visible indicator might make it a bit easier for the teacher to monitor who has the privilege of relocating and who doesn't. Just a thought.)

Any argument or resistance is met with a calm presentation of a choice: You can draw a line through your name or I can do it for you. Of course, if I have to do it, I'll need to see you at recess time for a brief talk about defiance.

Then, for the remainder of the week, this student is no longer allowed to relocate. No second chances. No change of heart.

No means no.

But don't despair, little buddy. On Monday the teacher is going to post a new list of names--or have a student pull the tiles out of the container and return them to the whiteboard--which means that everyone once again has the freedom to relocate.

It's this kind of simple action that speaks louder than words and eventually causes students to exhibit a greater degree of self-control.

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I have a student who always wants to help me teach a lesson. He'll just jump up and come up to the front of the room or wave his hand wildly as he asks if he can help me. The master teacher isn't very nice when he does this with her. She has a tendency to speak sternly about not interrupting and staying in his seat. Every time I hear this I feel bad for him. That's why I try to turn down his offer as positively as possible. But it's really starting to bug me.

Well, you've got a problem to solve. The fact that he's been doing this with the master teacher means that it's not something you're doing that is provoking the behavior. It's the student who is choosing to act out in this fashion. On the other hand, the fact that he is persistent in this behavior speaks to the ineffectiveness of the verbal recriminations he's been hearing from you both.

So maybe it's not just the student. Maybe it's the type of response he's been receiving from his teachers when he engages in this behavior that is equally culpable. Because whether the response is a negative denial--master teacher--or a positive one--student teacher--the inability of the response to correct the behavior stems from the fact that it is nothing more than a bunch of words.

What's missing? Action.

But as opposed to assigning some kind of consequence for interrupting a lesson with his pleas to be the center of attention, why not be preactive? (Preactive is a word I coined to describe an action that is taken before something happens. Proactive, the word that's been the default term for this type of behavior, doesn't really convey a sense of preventative action. It seems to have more to do with action that is supportive of something. I think we need a new word and preactive works for me.)

It might make more sense and, consequently more effective, to speak with Mr. Self-Appointed Teacher Assistant five minutes before the start of a lesson and inform him, quite clearly, that his assistance will not be needed for the lesson that is about to be presented.

Thanks, but no thanks. Short and sweet. Said with a smile. If this can be done with conviction and a direct approach, the message will most likely be conveyed.

However, should the student attempt to insert himself into the lesson in spite of the teacher's request not to, action would be the only effective and appropriate response.

  • Remove him from the group.
  • Deny him half of the next recess.
  • Prevent him from participating in the next fun activity you do.

Anything other than just talking about the problem.

Equally important will be any effort the teacher can make to build a better relationship with the student. Not pandering or fawning, the way parents are sometimes prone to do, but a genuine display of care and concern.

When it comes to negative behavior, it's rarely enough to just push students away from the bad. We need to also be able to call them over the good, and a relationship between the teacher and the student will go a long way to accomplish that.

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How should I introduce the 3R stamp to my students?

Here's a thought: Hand out paper copies of the 3R Club seal to your students. (Click on the link below to download the blackline master.) Explain that the 3 R's represent a student pledge which addresses three basic standards of behavior: 1) Respect myself by making good choices; 2) Respect my classmates by treating them kindly; and 3) Take responsibility for all of my actions. Tell them that as long as they are abiding by the 3 R's, they'll be able to keep their stamped paper. However, if they violate one of the standards, they will need to give back their stamped paper.

At the end of the day, everyone who still has his 3R Club paper can write his name on it and deposit it in a container. The teacher will then draw a paper--or twelve--from the container and hand out a simple prize.

After that simple introduction, you could then begin to use the stamp the way it was originally intended: to decorate notes, letters, and student behavior progress reports.

Download 3R stamp blackline master

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Thank you so much for sending me the information on the Choices program. My partner and I are working hard to put it into place for the new year. One question, regarding pink and white slips. I do understand that a student fills out a white slip when receiving a second pink slip. However, if he gets a third or fourth, do they continue to fill out white slips, or does he only fill out one white slip for the second infraction? This was unclear to me!

Sorry for the confusion. The student only needs one White Slip for the day. He picks it up after receiving his second Pink Slip and checks off the two standards he did not follow. If he were to be given another Pink Slip, he would merely check off the new standard--or double-check a standard he had previously checked--on his original White Slip.

We're trying to keep the whole Choices program manageable for everyone involved: the student, the parents, and the teacher. Thus, one White Slip to take home--with the appropriate standards checked--is sufficient for communicating your concerns with the parents.



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