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Encouraging Appropriate Behavior in the Classroom

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Student: Doug
Age: 7.9
Grade: 2nd Grade, 2nd Semester

Doug loves science and hands-on activities. He is interested in dinosaurs and robots, and enjoys using the computer to play games. Doug has shared that he likes putting together "Lego" sets and has brought several in to the classroom to share. Doug, however, is not performing well at school. His teacher and parents are concerned. He is failing grade-level requirements in reading and math, even though he has tested at grade level in these areas. Doug does have an identified learning disability and receives resource room assistance in written expression.

Doug gets easily frustrated when he has to copy and write assignments in any subject. He does have a computer available to use in the classroom as needed. His second grade teacher, Mr. McGrady, believes Doug is capable of doing the work required in class. Mr. McGrady has noted that Doug participates in class discussions and hands-on activities; however, he avoids and rarely starts assignments by himself. Mr. McGrady reports that while other students begin assignments, Doug can be found fiddling with "Lego gadgets" and drawing robots. Getting Doug started on most independent activities is like pulling teeth. Based on this information, Mr. McGrady has selected these goals for Doug to achieve within the next three months:

- Begin independent work assignments promptly
- Increase the number of completed assignments


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The expert examines encouraging appropriate behavior in the classroom.

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Let us review information gleaned from the Iris Center, based on a case study of a student named Doug, who has a passion for science and other interactive activities. Dinosaurs, robots, and computer games fascinate him. Doug says that he likes assembling interactive materials like "Lego" sets and has shared them in class several times. However, Doug has weaknesses in certain areas in school. As a team, the teacher and parents are both worried. He is not meeting expectations in reading or math, despite test results which would not bear this out. Doug receives resource room support for his learning disability in writing.

Doug's classroom teacher is frustrated with Doug's lack of drive in undertaking independent work assignments. Doug's frustrations due to his disability are copying and writing though a computer is handy in the classroom. A good clue is that when hands-on activities are available, Doug is engaged and willing to comply with the discussion.

The teacher set goals for Doug are to begin independent work assignments quickly and also to increase the number of completed assignments. Some educators may glean that Doug must be given the skills or motivation for doing so. Though Doug may not be a problem student in terms of acting out types of behavior, the ability to complete work is a kind of academic behavior as well. It is possible that Doug may also benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation if he has difficulty in writing skills.

The purpose of behavior management in early childhood is for educators to have methods to manage the students' unconstructive behaviors within the classroom. The child must feel safe, and supported in order for any real learning to occur. Therefore, it is up to the teacher to help create this type of atmosphere, not only for Doug but the others in the class as well. Researchers have also suggested that powerful, appropriate praise is: nonjudgmental; specific and descriptive; contingent and immediate; and sincere. In the early grades it only makes sense to not overuse praise though because otherwise it appears false (Smith, 2009).

The idea of combining literacy with behavior management was explored in one study called Effective Behavior Management and Literacy, Strategies for Preschoolers Exhibiting Negative Behavior (Smith, 2009). Her findings showed some relevant understandings that while there are children who learn age-appropriate language and social skills through their adult role models at home, it is equally true that others learn negative behaviors and might imitate them while in school (Kostelnik et al, 2007). It stands to reason also the latter students can sometimes exhibit the more severe behaviors in school. Preschoolers sometimes need a plan to unlearn their difficult behaviors in school (Smith, 2009). Astute teachers recognize that these children may not have become accustomed to much structure at home, and it is an adjustment to get used to a more structured environment with ...

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