Thursday, July 19, 2012

Being the Best ME I Can Be: Teaching Social Skills

I've had requests to share first week of school activities and how I handle classroom management. I'll try to cover both with this post.    I gather my kids close and share a lot of read alouds during those first few days of school.  Most are short and sweet but serve a few different  purposes.
One reason is to begin adding strategies to the CAFE board.  This board has the CAFE on the top when students arrive on the first day but the students and I add the strategies gradually as I introduce and  model them.  By the end of the week, I want to have at least one strategy under each letter.  I posted about this board last summer so you could check back there for more info or better yet, read the book by the sisters: Gail Boushey and Joan Moser:
Here is the CAFE board that we create and refer back to all year long:

Another reason I read aloud is to begin conversation about our PBIS  (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program that we run in our school.  It is a school wide system that focuses on students being: responsible, respectful and productive.

I love the positive aspect of this program and most students respond well to it. Let's face it though for whatever reason we will all have some students who still have a hard time being respectful to others, responsible about their learning and productive in getting work done.
Years and years ago I worked at another school with a large population of students with behavioral concerns.  Negative behavior was impacting student success in such a big way that we spent our professional development time one summer being trained by The Boys Town Education Group from NYC. It was an amazing week of inservice and the manner in which I handled discipline in my classroom was forever changed. 
The truth of the matter is that some children are coming to us without an understanding of the social skills they need in order to be successful.  We can complain and say it's the parents' jobs to teach them but if it hasn't been done, someone has to step up to the plate and do what is right for the benefit of these students and their classmates.  So yes, I sacrifice some time in the beginning of the year  to explicitly teach students how to behave and to give them the all important "rationale" (Boys Town Word)  for doing so.  We go as far as doing some quick role playing of scenarios and situations and then after it is taught, students are held accountable for their excuses.  My mantra is: I say what I mean and mean what I say.  Kids are smart, if I'm not consistent in my follow through they will notice, take advantage and the program will never work as it is intended. This is KEY for behavior management success!

So here are some award winning books by Julia Cook.  They were written for the Boys Town Best Me I Can Be program and are excellent springboards into discussions about those social skills I want students to be practicing all year long.  There are more in the series so check them out.  I got my books from Amazon.  I read one a day until all skills have been introduced.  I refer back to them all year long.  These books are engaging, entertaining and the messages are empowering to kids.  

  After all books are read and social skills introduced, I have my students reflect on which one they believe they need to work on if they are to be the best third grader they can be. We share them while practicing our respectful listening.  Students make a pledge to work on it and write and decorate a pennant which we hang.  We work as a classroom family to help and support each other in keeping our promises.  We celebrate success when students do so.
You can download the copies of the pennants free by visiting me here:

So now I'd love to hear from you!  How do you help your students maintain positive behavior in your classroom?