Friday, September 24, 2010

Discipline in the Elementary Spanish Classroom

It is important to set up a structure as well as procedures for any classroom (Chapman & King, 2008; Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004; McIntosh & Peck, 2005; Wong, 1997). It is also essential that procedures and rules are communicated and even modeled for the students so that they know what to expect. As a Spanish teacher, structure is important because of the limited time that we have in class. I do not have the flexibility like most homeroom teachers and therefore, having a set of rules, procedures, and routines are important in this setting. The next blog posts will outline my approach to dealing with discipline along with an outline of my classroom management plan for an elementary Spanish classroom. I’m offering my plans to paint a picture of my classroom in hopes of guiding new teachers in the field.

Positive Reinforcement

In order to promote a constructive learning environment, positive reinforcement is used to highlight desired behavior (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004). Instead of drawing attention to negative behaviors, I reward and constantly praise students for exhibiting exemplary behaviors and actions. Many times I remind students of the school motto which reads, “I have my own mind. I have my own business. I make a difference to me.” This motto is a way for me to help redirect focus among students but also to remind them that they are accountable for their own actions.

I also have a system that rewards students as a group and individually. Whenever a class shows a positive attitude and makes an effort during assignments and activities, I issue them a star for that class period. This star is placed on a chart that lists all homeroom classes. Students must earn a designated number of stars for that term or nine weeks to earn a class party. During this party, students may bring snacks or treats for themselves or for the whole class. I usually bring an animated film in Spanish for them to watch while they eat their treats. Other parties can also have a theme to celebrate holidays, such as Mexican Independence, El Dia de los Muertos, etc. During these events, I offer a list of snacks or treats that relate to the theme of the party, such as flan or pan de muertos.

If the class as a whole does not receive this star, I issue fake cash to individual students who demonstrated commendable behavior. This fake cash can be used in the reward system in that student’s homeroom. Most of the time, the homeroom teachers allow students to use this cash to redeem a prize from their class treasure box. Sometimes, the cash may be used to earn points to participate in school-wide events such as The Grand Theater, where students may watch a movie in the auditorium, or a class field trip.

Another way I acknowledge students’ positive attitude and efforts is to elect a Student of the Term. For each term, I pick one student from each homeroom and allow them to get a prize from my treasure box. This is the highest honor because only four students in each homeroom are selected for the whole year. Also, I recognize these students by printing their names in the newsletter that I send home each nine weeks.

Classroom Rules

The classroom rules are based on the school rules. These rules include, a) be respectful, b) be responsible, c) be safe, and d) be engaged. At the beginning of each school year I outline these rules and explain what each one means and might look like. It is important that these rules are discussed and that students understand the expectations for behavior (Chapman & King, 2008; Wong, 1997). I do this by designing activities such as skits, where students determine the appropriate action or behavior for a scenario. For example, one skit showed the principal walking into the classroom while students were working at centers. I asked students what would be the appropriate thing to do and what rules reflected their actions. Modeling how to problem solve situations that may arise not only shows concrete examples of the rules but also develops accountability and personal responsibility (Chapman & King, 2008; McIntosh & Peck, 2005). Curtain and Dahlberg (2004) also recommend that there be consistency between rules in the foreign language class, the homeroom class, and school policies. Therefore, instead of creating my own rules, I have adopted the school-wide rules.

Consequences for Breaking the Rules

Several steps are taken when students break classroom rules. First, when I notice a student start to lose focus I usually give them a non-verbal warning. This could consist of a look or a tap on the shoulder to indicate that they are not doing what they are supposed to. Starting with nonverbal cues is a recommended strategy because many times the cause of the disruption is to draw attention to the student (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004). Next, if the student continues with his/her action, I give them a verbal warning. This means that I call his/her name and ask him/her to complete a task or question in order to redirect focus. In this step is important not to draw attention to the behavior, but rather to redirect the student (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004). Thirdly, if the student does not change their behavior, they are moved to a different part of the room to avoid further distractions. At this point, the student will complete assignments in his/her folder and not participate in the rest of the activities planned for that class period (i.e. games, centers, etc.). The next step is then to contact a parent or guardian. If the student’s behavior is not corrected by the end of that class period or if this behavior continues to another class period, I will complete an office referral for that student. This usually means that the student is removed from my classroom. Starting with nonverbal cues is a recommended strategy because many times the cause of the disruption is to draw attention to the student (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004).

Chapman, C. & King, R. (2008). Differentiated instructional management: Work
smarter, not harder. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Curtain, H.,& Dahlberg, C.A. (2004). Languages and children- making the match: New languages for young learners. Boston, MA: Pearson.

McIntosh, E., & Peck, M. (2005). Multisensory strategies: Lessons and classroom management techniques to reach and teach all learners. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Wong, H. (1997). First days of school. Mountain View, CA: Harry Wong Publications.

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