I’m going to share with you something that humbled and relieved me all at once with disruptive behavior in the classroom. Throughout the past 9 weeks, Pam and I have been delivering our Daily Concept Builders program to some incredible students and we have been blown away by their results in the classroom. It has been an honor to work with such dedicated teachers and to collaborate on making student learning experiences better. So what was my turning point moment?
I realized that I wasn’t practicing the strategies for independent learning I was teaching inside our program!
Why strategies for independent learning are essential for your students
That was a major “oh crap” moment. After all, if I believe in strategies for independent learning, shouldn’t I be doing them? Here’s the thing, practice is so so much harder than principle. I can know something to be true and still have trouble doing it, right?
So if you’ve been reading our posts, emails, watching our content, you might be thinking “yeah in my dreams.” But here’s the thing, reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom is possible in more than just your dreams.
Independent learning helps disruptive behavior in the classroom by providing:
- More enriching learning experiences
- Motivation and goal setting
- Development of executive functioning and problem solving skills
- Collaboration and cooperation
And it gives us the most important asset of all…TIME!
When students don’t pay attention in class, it’s because they aren’t connected.
I know for me personally, when students don’t pay attention in class, I immediately think one of two things:
- They are rude
- I am boring
But it isn’t as simple as that. The reality is, you could be doing everything exactly by the book, and still have students who don’t pay attention in class. Students need to be connected to or invested in their learning in order to really pay attention.
Think about your training experiences. Did you learn more from the ones where you discussed ideas and contributed your thoughts, or the ones where you sat and listened the whole time?
And when students aren’t paying attention, we see more disruptive behavior in the classroom. So, one of the simplest ways to connect your students is by teaching them some independence and responsibility for their learning.
The biggest roadblock to engaging with students through independent learning
The biggest mistake teachers make in cultivating their independent classrooms and engaging with students is that they try to tackle everything all at once.
I, for example, thought I had to create independent little learners in all of my classes right the heck now. You wanna know how many students I have as a music teacher? Over 200! So I thought, “meh this isn’t for me, I have too many kids.” FALSE!
Cultivating an independent learning classroom is a step-by-step process. The important part isn’t the destination, but the journey. Changing yourself little by little. Changing your students little by little. Changing your classroom little by little. These little changes will lead you to exponential growth and you will see a major shift in disruptive behavior in the classroom.
3 instant ways to transform behavior of students in the classroom
In the spirit of taking things one step at a time to improve the behavior of students in the classroom, I challenge you to do these three things to cultivate independent learning.
1. Project based learning ideas in partners
Give your students some mini project based learning ideas to go with whatever lesson you’re teaching. Give them a little bit of info and then use a guiding question to help them stay on track. They have to solve some sort of problem or accomplish some sort of goal with their “project.” This is a great way to manage the disruptive classroom behavior because your students are taking ownership of something.
CLICK HERE for more info on project based learning ideas
This is a musical example, but I’m sure you could get creative with it. My first “aha” was with my Kindergarten class this week. The Tuesday group had a really hard time following along with the movement we were doing for the song. Their behavior in the classroom was beyond disruptive! They were completely out of control.
So, instead of me giving my Wednesday group a specific set of movements, I gave them guidelines. I wanted them to show me the difference between high and low. Each partner group had to create a movement that showed high to low. Some students used their legs. Some did “head, shoulders, knees, toes.” Some did a corkscrew with their bodies. It was amazing!
The point is, they did something on their own. They used their own ideas, and it still gave me a good idea as to who understood the vocabulary. You can easily apply a lot of this movement, pantomiming, etc. to vocabulary in your classroom, especially if you are using Daily Concept Builders vocabulary.
2. Try some Independent Learning Centers for engaging with students
Learning centers are the best way to give your students choice, independent learning, and self-confidence. Give them something easy to start with, like legos, tangrams, even crayons and paper! Give them an assignment that assesses what you want to see, without giving them a-z directions.
Quick, easy, and effective learning centers
3. Use thinking questions during instruction time
Ask thinking questions during instruction or morning meeting activities that might have more than one answer or invite them to expand on their thinking. They might feel self-conscious about “explaining” their thinking, so phrase it “wow that’s very interesting, can you tell me more?” Avoid the word “why” as much as you can.
Disruptive behavior in the classroom often starts with a student need to be connected. They either need to understand better, or to understand how what they are learning applies to them. The more independence we foster as teachers, the more investment we will get from our students.
These three simple quick win strategies will get you more engagement and enthusiasm, and less disruptive behavior in your classroom. Try these out and comment below with how they worked for your students.
Are you looking for more strategies to cultivate your classroom for independent learning? We are opening the doors to our fresh new Cultivate Your Classroom program in just a few short weeks and we want honest, hardworking, passionate, creative teachers like you to join us.
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