Throughout my years of teaching and my ongoing education, the most important lesson I have learned is that consequences have to be immediate, whether positive or negative. If Ethan, my focal student, had reached his fifth penny on his token reward chart, he was to get his reward immediately. If we were going to lunch, I would stay behind with him and let him go on the ipad for five minutes. He would set the timer and when time was up, he would go to lunch.
Each student has a "behavior stick", slotted into color-coded envelopes according to each day's behavior.
If a child hit a friend or teacher, they would have to write an apology note and then sat out for choice time, during which they could read their books in the "cozy" corner or draw a picture of how they felt. In the corner, there was a mirror, intended for students to look at their own faces, see how they were feeling, and describe it through drawings. They also had stuffed animals and stress balls to help them get through whatever was bothering them. Students who could not self-regulate were not able to use the cozy corner, as it became a distraction and they would abuse the privilege of going there to calm themselves down and think.
One of my student’s composed the drawing below while in the cozy corner. He was mad at himself for hitting his friend. He wrote, “To hit is not fun" and posted it for his friends to see:
I went to the hardware store and bought a variety of tactile materials. I glued them on a piece of wood to make a sensory board. Some of my boys were on the autism spectrum and needed to have sensory toys to help contain their excitement or anger. The sensory toys alleviate whatever emotion they are feeling by redirecting their attention and energy somewhere else.
Feelings Circle and Wall
Another support for positive behaviors was a feelings circle. A feelings circle is arranged when someone feels happy or sad and would like to address their feelings with the group. I learned about feelings circles at an inquiry-to-action team session. We used my pointer--called the “magic wand"--as a "talking stick" and each student had a chance to address each other’s feelings. I tried doing it a few times; however, students with speech and language issues proved that it was not very effective, as they had trouble communicating. Since I have these students again next year, I am going to try to do a circle every day since they will be older and will hopefully have acquired a higher level of vocabulary and syntax.
Over my desk, I posted paint color samples to make a “shades of feeling” wall. Whenever we learned new words for a feeling, we added them to our cards:
Bean Bags and Fidget Toys
Before students could listen with their whole bodies and follow directions, I needed them to gather together in a single meeting area. Previously, I used pictures of students taped on the floor to demarcate their spots. However, my boys had trouble sitting on the floor--they would touch and bother each other. So I started to have them bring individual bean bags into the meeting space.
The bean bags, however, became distracting. Eventually, I used the bean bags as a reward. If they could sit on their floor spots in either "criss-cross applesauce" or "mountain" (on their knees), they would be able to use the bean bags after snack time or during a read-aloud. I believe one of the most important things to teach our students is how to respect personal space.
I made sure to keep stuffed animals and other "fidget toys" within reach to help them stay focused. Using a fidget toy helped them to keep their hands to themselves.