We are proud to have Katie Casey as a Guest Blogger this week. Katie is a Fifth Grade teacher, serves as a Summer Camps Manager for Kidventure and provides workshops for our teams on a variety of topics including Child Development and Behavioral techniques.
My name is Katie Casey, and I currently teach fifth grade reading and language arts. I am by no means a behavioral specialist or counseling professional, but I have learned a thing or two from teaching 2nd-4th grade, special education, reading instruction, kindergarten, and fifth grade. I have also spent the past six summer breaks working with Kidventure Summer Camp in Houston, Texas. I made my fair share of mistakes as a first year teacher, as well as classic group management no-no’s as a young camp counselor. Through the years of trial, error, and professional development I can now say my kids get to learn in a calm and fun environment. As for summer camp, now I teach new counselors and directors how to manage a large group of kids and what to do when those few kiddos need some extra love and attention. Now I would like to pass some of this experience and wisdom on to our parents.
The first thing I learned about behaviors is understanding where they come from. Now, for those teachers out there, we cannot be in our students homes everynight to know what happens. This makes that part a little tricky. What we can do, is look for patterns and functions of behaviors to learn how to prevent negative behaviors from happening. Children’s behaviors tend to be predictable, and when acting out we can determine if they are seeking attention, or escaping an undesired task. A little attention, and documentation can help you to pick the battles you are ready to face, or prevent them from even happening to begin with!
Although those in the childcare business cannot look through a magic window to see what our kids’ home lives are like, we do have a pretty powerful tool that is taken for granted. Telephones. We’ve all heard the saying “It takes a village”; and it takes teachers and parents working as a team to build a strong support system for our future leaders. As a teacher I remember making those phone calls home, and secretly praying it would go to voicemail, because there was no teamwork. A parent teacher relationship takes a lot of trust from both sides. Teachers, it is so important for you to be honest, let parents know what strategies you’ve used, and ask questions to dig deeper into helping your student. Parents, we need you to trust that teachers have your child’s best interest in mind. We call because we care, not to point fingers, complain, or judge.
When working with a large group of kids, I have found a few favorite strategies for keeping your group controlled, while still having fun.
- Attention Getters – I know you know these. “If you can hear me clap once, If you can hear me clap twice.” There are so many fun and creative ways to get the attention of a large group. The key here is TEACHING the strategy. Kids need to know your expectations of what to do during an attention getter. Chances are you’ll have to reteach it throughout the year, and that’s okay!
- Calming Music – Think about it. We play upbeat music to bring the energy, why not play calming music to soothe the room. When working on a low energy activity play classical music, or music that the kids DON’T KNOW the lyrics to. It will keep them focused, and calm.
Deep Breathing– This is my favorite trick. Adults do yoga for meditation and balance. Why not teach our kids how to calm their own bodies. This is as simple as teaching deep breathing. Breath in through your nose until your shoulders touch your ears, and breath out through your mouth like blowing bubbles.
Sometimes our issues are not with multiple kids, it may be one or two that struggle in a structured setting. These are the kiddos you need to watch their function of behavior, communicate with parents, and make a plan. These are a few of my go to tips and tricks for those special students.
- Token Board- This is a fancy way of staying sticker chart. Earn your stickers, get a reward. These are great because you can modify them to the needs of your kids, and child’s interests. My advice for token boards are make sure the child knows the guidelines before starting. Just like adults we want to know the rules of the game before we play. “You earn three stickers, you get to go to the treasure box.” “You earn five stars, you get five minutes of free draw.” The next thing to keep in mind is to work towards one behavior at a time. If the child struggles with multiple skills, pick the one that needs the most intervention. (hands to self, stay in assigned area, complete work)
- Visuals– It’s simple! Some kids don’t want attention brought to them when being corrected. Print out some pictures of the expected behavior. When needing that extra reminder, point to the picture to redirect the child.
- Cool Down– Cool down can be tricky, because it is going to look different for each kid. Cool down should be in an area where the child is visible, so they can be on their own without being bothered. The biggest thing I’ve learned about behavior is that when kids are upset, you need to let them cool down on their own. Our interactions while they are upset can escalate their behavior. When they are ready to talk, they will let you know! Cool down needs to pre taught so children know what to do before they are angry. It takes a lot of planning, but can work wonders!
Lastly, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE!! When you start to see those behaviors changing, and being modified, you must praise. Recognize the good behavior, the change they are making, and reminding them that they CAN do it! Challenging behaviors are not easy, and you won’t always know what to do the first time that kid acts out, or the first time you lose control of a group. We’ve all been there. Parents and teachers, work together to find out what works for your child, it will make your lives easier, but more importantly it will make theirs easier too.
Guest Blogger: Katie Casey
Katie Casey is a fifth grade reading and language arts teacher in Cypress, Texas. She graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in communication disorders. She has previously taught special ed reading intervention and kindergarten. She and her husband live in Houston Texas with their two pups Penny and Coach. She enjoys tending to the many fruit trees in her backyard and spending time exploring Houston.