Secondary Classrooms Page 2 link

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I've got a student who blurts constantly. I've tried speaking with him. I've tried behavior contracts. I've spoken with his mother. He still blurts a half-dozen times during the period. When I talked with his other teachers, they all said the same thing. Apparently, he's been doing this since first grade. Any suggestions? I'm getting desperate.

I suggested he go to the web site and read about a strategy called Red Hands. It's an idea elementary teachers use for curbing this annoying behavior by handing the blurter an Ellison die-cut red hand. The student then writes his name, #, and the date on the hand and then drops it into a "Thou shalt not blurt" container. (The reference to an 11th commandment is a joke. However, you should check out the cool "Blurt Alert" mini-trash can photo sent in by a teacher using this strategy.)

Middle school students, though, won't respond well to the Red Hand. They'd deride it for being elementary schoolish. But you could achieve the same effect by using a red square of paper. The red square eliminates the "baby stuff" complaints while maintaining the effectiveness of both action--handing out squares--and documentation--creating a record of how many squares each student received.

Click here to download the blackline master Red Hand bulletin. There's a form for hands and a form for squares.

Another way to go would be to use a seating chart and letter codes for documenting non-compliance. (This strategy is explained in the book Eight Great Ideas, in the chapter called ADOPT Your Class.) Every time a student blurts out, a B is written in his space. At the end of the period, you could hold back the students who are the biggest abusers. Continued blurting would result in some appropriate consequence.

Important: Just talking about blurting will do no good.

The elimination of blurting requires: 1) a calm, controlled demeanor; 2) some type of action; and 3) a paper trail that can be used to confront the child with his lack of proper comportment. Put those three things together, let them marinate for a few weeks, and you should see some real progress.

One more thought: I'm wondering if, instead of using a red square, a red octogon would be more appropriate. Cutting the corners off of the square would turn it into a mini-stop sign. Extending to the blurter that image--Stop!--might actually add to the message.

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I teach Special Education at a middle school. It's a Special Day Class and I have some of the same students in more than one period. Should they have just one number or a different number for each period?

Unless you can figure out a way to make it work, I'd say, "Different numbers by period."

Every idea I've created has gone through a period of modification and change. Very rarely does an idea work exactly right the first time. There's always a great deal of experimenting, modifying, and just plain playing around with the idea before I finally figure out how to make it work properly.

It would probably be better--and I say 'probably' because of what I just said above--if you were to assign a separate number for each period. Depending upon the student's name and the manner in which you wish to order your students, this could lead to some interesting student number patterns.

Let's say, for example, that you decided to number your students based on the alphabetical order of their first names. (Highly recommended.) And let's also say that you had a student named Aaron Rogers enrolled in Periods 1, 3, and 4. Well, there's a strong possibility, since his name starts with two a's, that his number is going to be 1 in each period. However, since you're going to be using three-digit numbers to help keep things organized--again, highly recommended for secondary teachers--Aaron's three numbers are going to be 101, 301, and 401. This will make things much easier for both of you.

At a glance, you'll both be able to realize that the assignment you're looking at--the one with his name and #301 on it--is a third period assignment and, as such, needs to go with all of the other assignments numbered in the 300's.

But what if his name is not Aaron Rogers but Roger Aaron? In this case, he'll most likely end up with a more random collection of numbers. Nonetheless, his numbers--124, 329, and 422--will still help both of you to keep things neat and organized. And although Roger's three different numbers are not as easy to remember as Aaron's three numbers, it'll eventually become second nature to both you and Roger.

Important factor: I can't emphasis enough how critical I think the three-digit number is in the secondary setting. That extra digit in the hundred's column will create a foundation for your entire day and help everyone to keep track of what goes with what.

Or would you rather have six different students each numbered 17?

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It's always such a hassle passing out and collecting books at the beginning and end of each period. It takes them so long to find their books--the books are numbered because we are using student numbers--that it seems as if we're wasting a lot of time. Any suggestions?

Successful problem solving requires that you reduce the conflict down to its core. And in this situation, the core issue is that book #17 could be any of the books piled in the back of the room. That means that student #217--secondary teachers know to use three-digit numbers because the hundred's numeral acts as a period reminder--has to look through the entire pile of books as he attempts to find his.

But what if the books were chunked? Chunking is the management word for taking a large task and breaking it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Imagine that the books were placed in stacks of five books each with a label in front of them indicating which numbers were in the stack. This simple act would make it so much easier for student #217--not to mention students 117, 317, 417, 517, and 617--to find book #17. It's always going to be in the 16-to-20 stack.

And if you had students organize the books in order, with #16 on top and #20 on the bottom, you'd really be flyin'.

The possibilities for organizing things fairly boggles the mind.

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I teach a chorus class that contains a number of students who have been kicked out of other electives. There are only about 4 or 5 that cause problems, but they really mess up things for everyone. I'm beginning to feel like a pirate and I hate that.

Being able to focus your attention--which is Core Principle #4 of the six I've listed below--is one of the most effective things a teacher can do to gain control of difficult students. The teacher just needs a tool which enhances the ability to focus. One of the easiest techniques is the use of a seating chart on a clipboard.

A student who tests the limits of the classroom--and that's all misbehavior is: limit testing--has a letter code written in his space on the seating chart. It could be an O for being off-task or a T for social talking. (The codes will vary from class to class since not every teacher has to deal with the same issues.) At the end of the period, students could be dismissed by the number of codes recorded. No codes? First out. One code? Next to leave. The teacher could then hold back, for a minute of so, the student--or three--who had the most codes recorded. A week or two of this will have most students changing their behavior.

And, since we're recording marks for negative behavior, why not record them for positives? I suggested making a dot in a student's space for anyone who was attentive and ready to go at the beginning of class. With the clipboard in one hand and a pencil in the other, the teacher could point at an attentive student with the pencil and then make the dot. A subtle point-and-smile would let the student know he was being "dotted" and help to reinforce attentive behavior.

At the end of the week, a student could go through the seating charts and record the number of points for each student. Points could then be spent for some reward or privilege.

Core Principles (as identified in the book, Eight Great Ideas.

#1 You have safe relationships with your students.

#2 Your words equal your actions.

#3 You are fair, firm, and consistent.

#4 You can focus your attention.

( Don't speak to everyone about the needs of a few.)

#5 Your classroom is manageable for everyone.

#6 Your students are problem solvers.



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