Positive expectations and affirmations are an easy way to support classroom behavior. This should not include “don’t” and “no”. Frame written and verbal expectations and directives in the positive. “Feet on the floor” rather than “no feet on the table”. “Quiet mouth” rather than “no talking.” “Nice hands” rather than “don’t touch”. Positive praise, catching them being good, and rewarding appropriate choices are sure to raise the level of compliance in your room. Some positive behavior supports include:
- You should give 4 positive verbal affirmations for every one negative correction.
- You should make positive statements to your class every 5 minutes throughout the day.
- When correcting, state the correction and disengage quickly. Do not get into a power struggle with the student.
- Give positive feedback to students when they comply after being corrected for behavior.
- Refer to your posted written expectations when you ask a student to comply. Seeing the visual helps support what you are saying.
Posted classroom rules and expectations should be limited to 5 simple directives, stated in the positive. For example:
In this class we –
- use walking feet
- raise our hand to ask a question
- sit crisscross on the carpet
- keep our feet under the table while working
- listen attentively
Obviously, for different ages and grades these expectations will be different. For older students instead of:
- No fighting
- Stay out of others lockers
- Respect your teacher
- Be polite, honest, and kind
- No running
Try something like:
We promise to –
- Keep our belongings orderly
- Use kind words with our peers
- Keep our hands to ourselves
- Keep our feet on the floor
- Respect the belongings of our peers
The expectation should always be for students and teachers to use positive language when speaking to each other. With teachers modeling this affirmation in their own speech, students are more likely to respect the environment you have created.
If you are a general education teacher who has not previously experienced the joy of having a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger Syndrome, there are a few things you should know before stepping foot into a classroom with this child. The first thing to know is that having had one child on the spectrum means you know how to support that one child. Every child is different. However, there are some strategies which are helpful with many of these students. The most prevalent deficits in a student with Autism are social skills and communication, which can lead to negative behavior. Here are some suggestions:
- Will do best with information that is very black and white, especially if it’s written and posted. Posting written expectations is a Tier 1 RTI/PBIS strategy.
- Be direct with your instructions, options have their place, but not when you need specific outcome. You can provide optional locations to complete the work, but the work must still be completed.
- Don’t ask it as a question unless you’re ready to accept no as an answer. (T – “Can you get started on your math?” S – “No, thank you”).
- May not understand sarcasm or exaggerations like “I’m dying for a drink” or “my feet are killing me.” Some students will be very concerned about your health after hearing these statements.
- May not fully understand emotions – this includes facial expressions and body language. Be very clear and direct in your information delivery.
- May take some time to learn the unspoken rules of the classroom, like when it’s appropriate to sharpen his pencil (not during silent reading or class discussion). Specific written expectations with visuals are best. Chris over at Autism Classroom News calls this discovering the hidden curriculum.
- May need space to work away from other students. This may be for focus or even sensory reasons. Sensory processing is a whole other article in itself, but well worth looking into to further. Here is a great resource: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)Resource Center.
- Possibly thinks in pictures, patterns, and symbols which makes it easier for him to explain without written words. Temple Grandin does a great job of explaining this in her book Thinking in Pictures.
In dealing with a child who is typically oppositional or defiant, provide more attention to the students positive behaviors than you do to their negative behaviors. It’s important to notice and praise them quickly before a difficult behavior over shadows the positive one. It’s easy to end up reinforcing the negative behavior if it happens quickly after the positive.
Ignore negative behavior to the greatest extent possible. Obviously, you do not want to allow a student to hurt himself or others, but if a child is dropping paper in the floor or jumping up and down at the back of the room during morning meeting, let them do it. They are seeking attention, and you should not give it to them. When it is necessary to redirect them, disengage quickly. Do not get into a power struggle with defiant children. As Douglas Riley, author of The Defiant Child, put it, “don’t get into a spraying match with a skunk.” Defiant children believe themselves to be equal with adults, telling them that they are not, does not change their defiant way of thinking. A power struggle of this type only gives the student more power, which is what you are trying to avoid.
It’s important to provide wait time for the student to process the request and decide the follow it. Often defiance is made worse by staff who want an immediate response to a demand they have placed. When asking the class to sit, the defiant student does not sit. Next, the child is given a direct instruction to sit and again does not respond. While this is a form of defiance, it is not as serious as the student who tells you “no” when refusing to sit. It’s possible the student needs time to process the request and decide in their mind what sitting looks and feels like before responding. It’s also possible that the student does not want to sit in response to an adult directive, though they may not be opposed to sitting in general. Often, when the adult walks away and moves on with class, the student will then comply under what they perceive as their own free will rather than your will.
If removed from the classroom for their behavior, they should not be greeted with shame upon reentry. The fact that they have returned to try again should mean a clean slate and not an opportunity to remind them of previous behavior. Shaming any student is never a good move, but it’s especially detrimental in a situation where the student already thinks they are above or equal to you. A low blow like this proves to them that they are correct in their flawed thinking. You don’t have to like their prior behavior, you just have to let it go.
Don’t take it personally. Defiant behavior has more to do with the student than it has to to with you. The student is struggling with many things, and while you may be the person initiating some of the things that seem to cause these struggles, the issue is still not you. As long as you are using necessary strategies to support the student, you are not part of the problem, but you may be the only person able to help the student get past it.
Of course there are a few non-negotiable behaviors including when students distract the class with their verbal behavior, destroy or attempt to destroy property should be removed from the room. These are behaviors that should be addressed by the office and not expected to be addressed by classroom or Specials teachers.
Remember these students are still children who need love and attention as much as all others, if not more. Make time to get to know them and teach them better coping strategies to benefit everyone in their circle.
First and most important, build rapport with students. Rapport is building a bond with your students that helps them to associate you with positive things. It helps them to feel safe and wanted in your classroom; without this, learning is likely to be more difficult. For some students, learning is not possible in an environment they feel is hostile. Students can read your mood, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues. Often these cues can incorrectly tell a student that you do not like them or that you are upset with them. When a student feels unwanted in the place where he is expected to be part of a learning team, the students ability to learn is significantly hampered. Additionally, students with learning disabilities, neurological differences, and emotional disorders respond best to adults with whom they have an emotional connection. In order to establish and maintain rapport with students on a daily or even hour by hour basis it is important to:
- Make eye contact when speaking to a student.
- Listen attentively to them when they talk to you.
- Respond with “what I hear you saying is____”.
- Make connections between your personal experiences and theirs.
- Take time to clearly explain your expectations.
- Give students an opportunity to journal when appropriate and respond to their journal entries with respect and concern.
- Know them well enough to recognize when they are struggling not just academically, but emotionally.
One of my wonderful classroom Aides, Dawn Dill, put together this apple activity to introduce our students with Autism to the taste, smell, texture, sound, and sight of apples in a few different varieties, namely red delicious, golden delicious, and granny smith.
It’s a great opportunity to document student opinions regarding their likes and dislikes versus those of their classmates. It’s also a way to introduce graphs and charts to your students in a fun and entertaining environment. Often my students are apprehensive about learning a new skill, but this teaches it to them without it feeling like they are learning. The following apple graph can be found at http://www.teachwithme.com/downloads/item/3767-apple-activities-and-crafts.
- Alphabet of Thankfulness: F is for Freebie’s! (acrowdedclassroom.wordpress.com)
I am thankful for teachers who post free items on their blogs and their Teachers Pay Teachers sites. So, to pay this forward, the following Dolch Sight Word Read Trace Write Paste are all FREE on my TpT site:
My students typically cut the Read column into individual words and paste them on the paste column in line with the correct word so they are also doing a matching exercise with this activity. Each link takes you to the entire set of words for that level. There are 7-9 pages for each set. My students do a sheet a day while we are working on these words in isolation before we move into putting them into sentences. Enjoy!
- Alphabet of Thankfulness – E is for Electronics (acrowdedclassroom.wordpress.com)
I am thankful for electronics in my classroom. Almost 4 years ago the district invested in iPods and iPads for all Special Education classrooms. This has allowed us to add several more learning opportunities to each day. Following is a list of just a few of the FREE apps that I use in my classroom:
- Shapes Toddler Preschool by Toddler Teasers
- Tiny Hands Sorting 3 by Tiny Hands apps
- Amazing Coins by Joy Preschool Game
- Articulation Station by Little Bee Speech
- Paint Sparkles Draw by Kids Games Club
- ABC Magnet Board Plus by Tatiana Churanova
- Baby Sign and Learn by Baby Sign and Learn
- Spelling Bug by Power Math Apps
- ABC Phonics Rhyming Words Lite by Abitalk Incorporated
- Spelling City by Spelling City
- Stack the States Lite by Dan Russell Pinson
- Toddler Counting Free by iTot Apps, LLC
- Preschool Memory Match by Darren Murtha Designs
- Mathmateer Free by Dan Russell-Pinson
Two of my favorite developers with free apps to check out are:
- ABC Alphabet by Little Sorter
- Rhyming words
- Little Reader
- Little Speller
- Things That Go Together
- Sight Words by Photo Touch
- ABA Receptive Identification by Class
- ABA Which go Together?
- ABA What Rhymes?
- ABA Alphabet Flash Cards
- ABA Animal Flash Cards
- ABA Food Flash Cards
I paid nothing for each of these apps over the past 4 years, but there is a possibility they are no longer free. There are great free apps available all the time and make great remediation and practice for students or your own children.