S.O.S.!!!! (& Featured Freebies)

September 2, 2012

My first week is over and it has been chall-en-ging.
Honesty time:
My students are not listening to me.
I know this is the first week and we are setting the rules and expectations. We are creating a structure in our classroom so we can begin focusing on our academics. But, it is not working.

Every year there are those bright-eyed cuties that can be challenging in classroom, but this year, I have 7.


All with their own story and background that contribute to why they are the way they are.

I feel for them. All seven of them.

I want to help them so badly. I am not and never have been a “Negative Nancy,” I just feel as though I have used everything in my “bag of tricks” to get them to listen/follow directions already and it is only week 1!

Now I’m sending out an S.O.S. (The Police anyone?) and I need to know, what is in your bag of tricks?!?!?

 A little background & what I’ve tried already:
The challenges I am having overlap with many of the students.
Yes, I went to their respective kinder teachers and they all had the same challenges there…. somehow, they all ended up in my classroom this year.

{Listening/Following directions:}
We use Give me Five and CHAMPS school-wide.
Give me 5 may as well be a joke in my class. We have tried waiting and waiting and they still talk to one another. We have tried counting down to 0 and they still talk to each other. My kids are at the emergent level when it comes to mastering CHAMPS voice levels 0 and 1.

I use the following attention gainers:

  • 1-2-3… eyes on you
  • Echo clap
  • Teacher whispers “if you can hear me put your hands on your shoulders” and repeats whispers with other movements until whole class is paying attention.
  • Teacher sings, “Everyone do what I’m doing…” while touching nose, or head, etc.
  • Head up (student repeats) Hands on your head (repeat) Eyes on me (repeat)

None have worked.
Students that are doing the appropriate thing are always given “cool cash” (school-wide incentive) and/or move their pin up! I also have Mel D’s fabulous {reward coupons} that my attentive students love. I have yet to find what my seven love and will work for.

{Talking Back:}
Only one student does this, but it is difficult!
Student moves clip down for this.

Some have hit others, one punches himself, another throws a crying fit.
Students move clip, are ignored, talked to 1-on-1 or sent to the office based on the incident.

Positive reinforcements and praises are given as often as possible to ALL students. On the flip side, parents have already been called. and recesses have already been taken 🙁

I have made a sticker-chart for 2 of my students who are working on keeping their hands and feet to themselves. I just need to find out what they are willing to work for!

I am sure there is more, but I am drained.

So pretty please, share your wisdom with me!!!!!!!
What do you do with those difficult children? and what do you do when you have so many??

. . .

Last, but not least, I wanted to share that my Star of the Week freebie was featured on The Cornerstone!! Very exciting 🙂
The Cornerstone For Teachers

Go grab all the other fabulous freebies!!

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  • aww, I feel for you. Had a few rough years like this. One of my biggest weapons is humor and building a strong connection with the kiddos. You can start as simple as telling him/her you like something they wearing on a daily basis. It also helps to give them little jobs, even though they don't really "deserve it." Have you tried brain breaks at all? Telling you what has worked with my kiddos like this is so hard, because he one has been soooo different. It is such a case by case deal.

    • Thanks Alisha! We have been using brain breaks in the afternoon since it is so long! I agree with you, it is such a case-by-case deal and I am working on building our connection. I think I am just a bit scared for the challenges of the year to come!

    • Hi Susan, I had that kind of a year last year with my Grade 3's and I felt exactly the same way as you do right now. I made sure the students knew my boundaries (and I had to really tighten them that year) and they knew what the consequences when they went beyond the boundaries. I also had just come from a SWPBS school or I think they call it Positive Behaviour Support over there (?) I used a lot of the role playing of correct/incorrect behaviour and really concentrated on having the targeted child/ren perform the correct behaviour role play. Hope that helps, although it may just be a case of maintaining your sanity. The kids I had last year are still "challenging" students for their new teacher. Just keep on keeping on and walk in with a smile everyday.
      Mrs Poultney's Ponderings

    • I love the modeling of good/bad behavior! We are doing that now with the Daily 5, but adding it the classroom and school-wide rules is perfect. Thanks for the idea, Tania! It may take a pep-talk or two, but I am determined to show up with a smile every day this year!

  • aw that's not fun! have you tried using whole brain teaching? I L-O-V-E the class attention getter Teacher: "Class!" Students:"Yes!" However you say class they have to say yes. So you could say, "Classity Class" and they would say, "Yessity Yes". I also like the scoreboard- draw a smiley face on one side and a frowny on the other side of a table, drawn on the board, and you mark tallies for good and bad. so if you try the class, yes and there are still talkers talking, you put a tally mark under the frowny face and have everyone do a 1-second groan. But if you see everyone working hard, etc, you give a smiley face tally and everyone gives a one-second "OH YEAH!". Look at http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/ for more how-tos and ideas. I've had lots of success with it!

    The Gypsy Teacher

    • Allie,

      Thank you SO much for this!! I love that idea! I have only heard of whole brain teaching a few times, I am definitely going to look into it. That smiley face idea sounds great!

  • One of my colleagues just started a new discipline system in her class. When the student(s) is/are not meeting her/the class expectations,she has a post-it note on their desk. If their name is written on the post-it so many times throughout the day, they are given a consequence. If no name's written, they get something.
    It sounds like you're trying something similar to this with the stickers…but when I've had difficult students not willing to comply, I've talked with the parents and then set up a contract between the three/four of us. When the student meets expectations at school, there is some kind of recognition, not only at school, but also at home.
    I'm so sorry to hear you're having so much trouble so early into the year. It certainly makes for a long year ahead until something works with these kiddos.

    Learning With Susie Q


    • Yes, that is exactly how I'm feeling… like it is going to be a LONG, hard year 🙁 and I hate feeling this way! So I am determined to change it!! I like the post-it idea too! I will certainly be meeting with many parents, so I like the idea of contracts! Thank you!!

  • This sounds like my class last year…I am so sorry!! I had to put several kids on contracts for tier 3. I also used a sticker chart and broke their days up into hours and would give them a sticker if they met their goal. Then at the end of the day, they earned a coin (much like your school cash program) for each sticker that they earned and then they could spend them in our school store. For some this worked, for others, not so much.

    Here is a link to some attention grabbers that I have been using this year.


    You could also check out Class Dojo. If you haven't heard of it, it is a free behavior management system but you have to have a smartboard. I haven't used it but I have heard such good things.

    Good luck!

    Life's A Beach in First Grade

    • Thank you Carol for the reminder! I am too hard on myself and thankfully my fiance reminds me that I am trying my best and that is all I can do. Sometimes it just becomes so overwhelming!

  • Aww, man! I had very rough first grade classes for 3 years in a row so I can definitely relate. I would keep up with the incentive charts and give them rewards in VERY small increments. For some kids, I'd let them get their reward between every single transition. (Which can be exhausting, but ended up working.) Have you ever read "My Mouth is a Volcano" by Julia Cook? That book worked wonders with the interrupting/shouting out, especially since I put up volcano clipart around the room and constantly referred back to it. I heard this author has many other books to teach desirable behaviors, so maybe check them out? It sounds like you're already doing this, but keep focusing on the positives and send home the charts every day so parents can also give rewards at home. Hang in there- it'll get better with time!
    iTeach 1:1

    • I love My Mouth is a Volcano!! I read it on our second day and we did a little activity with it too! I like your idea of putting clipart around because it will remind ME to keep referring back to it! Thank you Kristin!

  • I'm having a similar year this year. We have been in school since July and it's just starting to improve. I'm using many of the same strategies and some Whole Brain Teaching. Parents are involved and I'm trying to get them to raise their expectations at home. Exhausting as it is, staying very calm and consistent does work. Good luck!

    Heather at TeachItToday!

    • I am working on staying calm and consistent. I notice towards the end of the day I am just feeling overwhelmed and I feel like it is obvious to the children as well. I am focusing on patience, patience, patience.

  • I can SO feel your pain! This is my challenging class this year too… anger, outbursts, wiggle bodies, special education you name it I got it. I agree though with whole brain teaching! The class/yes is something I use 100 times a day… and I just keep saying it over in silly voices til the special sweeties get the drift. I do A LOT of waiting, sitting down staring at them hoping they get the hint to BE QUIET. Sometimes they do… sometimes they don't lol. WBT rules are great too – we go over them every day and when a kiddo shouts out I say "Rule #2!" and they shout out "Raise your hand for permission to speak!"… a not so subtle reminder to the offenders. The "mirror" and "blow it in your hand" techniques work wonders to keep them occupied during whole group. We do lots of SHORT sessions since their attention spans are shot. Hope this helped a little… Hurray for 3 day weekend!!

    Shout out to the other Kristin Kennedy above! 🙂

  • I feel for you!! This sounds just like the first class I ever had. My tried and true for whole class attention getting is the "Class- Yes" from Whole Brain Teaching. I don't implement the whole program – although deff. thinking I need to add more components the more I learn about it. But I think it works because you can change the way you say it a million times so it keeps them engaged. I also have my kiddos "SLANT" (working on a blog post about this) It stands for S- Sit Up L-Listen A-Ask & Answer Q's N-No talking T- Track the speaker. That last one (Track) is the biggest one. It quickly becomes and remains a common language term that we use ALL YEAR and helps direct their attention. So I can ask a question, and then hands go up, and then I can call on a kid by saying, "Track Alex for his answer" and it helps direct the kids to pay attention to Alex. Or, if I've got too many kids not paying attention to me when they should be I will say "Ok everyone show me SLANT on 3 (clap) 2 (clap) 1 (clap)" and they all sit up, stop talking, and refocus. I will tell them to track things on the board, across the room, whatever you want them paying attention to. If you walk into my room right now I use the word so much it could drive you bonkers but that's because we're training. By mid year, it's become fairly automatic. As for individual behaviors, I'd try sticker charts or something similar too and keep setting goals. So for the most difficult kids, even setting goals for the morning and then another for the afternoon because you know that kiddo won't reach his/her goal if they have to make it through the whole day. Talking to the kid about something they'd want to earn might help increase their motivation to attain it. And to conclude my novel of a comment, I just want to say that I know exactly what you're going through and when you have 7 of *those* kids, finding that thing that works is so much easier said (or speculated) than actually done. Hang in there friend!! You will find it!

    ❤ -Stephanie
    Falling Into First

    • I VERY much appreciate your novel friend!! SLANT sounds great. Like I said, my usual ideas are just not working for this group, so I am willing to try everything until I find what works!! Thank you for taking so much time to give me ideas – it means the world!!

  • I'm working on trying to get some of mine to listen. They play with their shoes, turn and talk to a neighbor, don't respond until I say something 3-4 times. WBT's "Class, Class, Yes, Yes" worked SO well the first 5 days and I'm already having to do that twice to get those 5 or 6 to listen. You're not alone. I'm really hoping they just need some adjustment time.
    First Grade Found Me

    • Okay I am definitely trying the WBT classity class thing!! It sounds great. I'm with you Chrissy! I think I'm going to have to try to keep my own sanity throughout the year and help those kiddos the best I can!

  • Hi! So sorry to hear that your year is starting out in a challenging manner…mine, too! I saw an idea on Teeny Tiny Teacher for talking. She has a music box that she winds up daily. When kids are talking, she opens the music box. When the class is quiet, she shuts the box. At the end of the day, the whole class waits with breathless anticipation for her to open the music box one last time to see if there is any music left in the box. If there is, she gives them each a Starburst. It might be another tool to put into your bag of tricks…peer pressure can sometimes be a wonderful thing! 🙂 Good luck and keep your chin up! They've got a great teacher and I know you will be a positive influence on their life! Take care ~ Catherine 🙂

  • I understand your frustration completely! I have felt the same way so many times over the past 3 weeks. One of my tricks is to compliment all of the students that are on task. "Wow, I love the way Bobby is sitting down with his lips closed and his eyes watching. Is there anyone else that is ready to learn?" I continue until I have complimented everyone for being on task. It almost always works for my challenging students because one, they like the positive attention and two, they are seeing and hearing the expectations over and over again. Instead of hearing what not to do ("stop talking), they hear what they should be doing ("sit with your eyes watching and ears listening"). Remember that "fair isn't everyone getting the same thing, fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful." Maybe moving their clip down or up isn't the best strategy for them and you may have to do something completely different. Is that ok? Yes! They need something to make them successful.
    I hope this helps!
    Kindergarten Schmindergarten

    • Vanessa, thank you so much! I feel like all I've done the past few days is point out the BAD – I need to keep pointing out the good. Even I hate it when all I do is focus on the negative, so I can only imagine how the kids feel!

  • I had a case a few years ago where I set up an individual rewards program. Every 15 to 30 minutes I would award the child with a good behavior ticket {if the child was behaving of course}. At the end of the day, we would count the tickets together. I had a list of prizes for certain amounts of tickets. Some days, the child would only earn two tickets {bad day!} but would still receive a small prize, like a mini eraser. Other days, the child would earn 10 tickets and would get a bigger prize, like a toy from my treasure bin, etc. I must say, it *did* work! You just need to be on top of giving tickets. Another person recommended I use a little timer that went off every 15 or 30 minutes {whatever I decided} so I would remember to give the tickets. Also, I had a little magnetic bin on the front of the child's desk where I would put the tickets, so the child could see them. Hope this helps!
    A Cupcake for the Teacher

  • This sounds just like my group last year…you will be in my thoughts, Susan! I have heard good things about WBT & classroom dojo, but have not looked very seriously into either one myself. I recently started using Teeny Tiny Teachers Quiet Creature & gold tag system, and I love them! Like Alisha, I also recommend a lot of brain breaks AM & PM! By the way, just bought your healthy fruits & veggie pack, and it's fabulous! Best of luck to you on finding the right system for you & the "magnificent" seven;)

    • I am definitely going to up the brain breaks. I have a feeling we will need A LOT of them!! I have to look into Kristen's quiet creature and gold tag system! Thank you so much for the tips!

  • Hi Susan,
    I know I posted earlier about the music box idea, but I was wondering if you had ever heard of "Skill Streaming?" My school's primary resource teacher used it in my classroom a couple of years ago and we just had our first lesson on Wednesday (for my challenging student and to reward the rest of the class for being on task). There are many different lessons in the Skill Streaming arsenal, but the first one is called Good Listening. Ask your resource teacher…it might something that she can come in and teach to your class that would be easy for you to keep going and it might work for your class! If you need help, just contact me on Interact. My last name is Roeder. 🙂 Here's to a short week! 🙂 Take care ~ Catherine

  • The book called Teach Like A Champion is filled with so many great ideas. Last year when I went to a new school and had 32 first graders I was overwhellmed! Every night I would read a new strategy as what to do! Check it.