Monday, October 29, 2012

I Need a Break! Using Break Cards in Your Classroom

Recently I have been dealing with students who have a tendency to elope from class. When students elope, they leave the assigned area without permission. This is a very serious concern for our administration and faculty because when a student is away from their assigned area, unsupervised, anything can happen. Just recently there was a story on the news where two young students in a nearby school eloped from class and actually left the building. They were found blocks away from the school with their belongings ready to get on public transportation.....they were in kindergarten. Of course the parents flipped out and I am sure the school received a great deal of backlash for this. Unfortunately with budget cuts we don't have as many "eyes" in the hallway like in the past. With this in mind, I find a presing need to be proactive versus reactive when dealing with students who tend to wander.

The students that I see in my office for leaving their assigned area without permission are usually in my office for other behavioral concerns as well. I usually suggest that teachers place these students on behavior plans; however, I found that there needed to be something in the plan that addressed eloping sepecifically. In the past, what was in the plan usually only noted when a student eloped but it didn't give specific steps to take to prevent the eloping. With this is mind, I helped to revise some of the plans. The bottom line is some students need to leave the class. period. And, when you try to fight it, sometimes this leads to a bigger behavioral issue. So I now add "break cards" to student behavior plans when necessary. This is something that has to be added to the behavior plan and both the parents and students have a clear understanding of how this will work.

For those that really need a break, issue them two break cards at the start of every day. The student must understand that they can take their break whenever they like; however, once the break cards are gone, they are gone for the day. In addition, students must self-monitor their behavior throughout the day in order to take their break. This helps those who are reluctant to self-monitor their behavior using a self-monitoring sheet. Finally, before the student is permitted to leave the room, their teacher must give a heads up to the adult that the student would like to take their break with. The student should highlight three to five adults in advance, the teacher should have a conversation with these adults in advance, so that when the child needs to take the break- they are supervised.
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So...this is how you can organize this in your class. Assuming that this child is on a behavior plan- they should be given a behavior modification folder. In this folder they should have a student copy of their behavior contract as well as any necessary forms that they use to monitor their behavior. I have some students who have a de-escalation plan in their folder. This is a list of things they can do to calm down when they are upset. To read more about de-escalation plans, check back here on Thursday.... I have a post scheduled to go out where I discuss how to use de-escalation strategies in your class with students who tend to "explode when upset"....Other things I include in this folder are their break cards, self-monitoring chart and a guideline sheet for their break.
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How to use this self-monitoring sheet. When monitoring student behavior, students can use the sheet below to keep track of their points. Students can earn a point when they follow a directive the first time given. Students should establish goals based on how many points they earn in a day. The easiest way to keep students motivated is to have them earn their recess for the first part of the day and earn a prize from the prize box at the end of the day.  (i.e. 15 points in the am = recess, 15 points in the pm = a prize from the prize box). The prize box should be simple-- not costly (the goal is to remain consistent so you want it to be easy to maintain a daily prize). Sample prizes might be 1. earn an extra break 2. pencil 3. computer time 4. work on the rug pass 5. sit with a buddy 6. lunch with the teacher. For the older kids, you might want to have them cash their points in for prizes at the end of the week.

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At the start of the day, students should be reminded about tracking their behavior and using their self-monitoring sheet. They should be reminded of their goals and incentives (keep it positive and focus on the good, not the negative).

Some teachers need support with monitoring the students who are on behavior plans. I will admit it can be time consuming but it is an important piece of classroom manangement. Especially when you work in an environment with persistent problematic behaviors. I cannot stress how important managing these behaviors are. Without strong classroom management, there is no instruction. I always say if you put it in the hard work in the half of school, your class will run on its own in the second half of the school year. It is ideal to collect the student's self-monitoring sheet after it has been sent home and signed by the parent/caretaker. But that doesn't alwasy happen. So I've created a form that has four copies of the student's self-monitoring sheet. When a student is given their sheet, the teacher can keep a copy on their clip board. When they direct a student to mark a point on their personal sheet, the teacher can keep track on their clip board. This way, the teacher also has a record of the students daily behavior for progress monitoring purposes.
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I hope you find these resources helpful!