Building Positive Relationships with Students
Building strong relationships is one of the most important things that you can do as a teacher. "A nurturing teacher-student relationship built on trust, understanding, and caring will foster students' cooperation and motivation, and promote their learning, social and emotional development, and academic achievement at school" (Carolyn Webster-Stratton, 2012). Building strong relationships with students does not take a lot of time but can make a huge difference. Having a simple two minute conversation with a child each day can do a lot to strengthen a relationship. A great way to foster trust and relationships between teacher and students is to allow the students to participate in child-directed play during break times. Students enjoy being in charge of the play, and the relationship between the students and the teacher is strengthened through shared games and play.
Preventing Behaviour Problems: The Proactive Teacher
It is easy to automatically react with emotion or frustration to a child's negative behaviour, rather than responding to the behaviour in a strategic way. Rather than reacting to problem behaviours when they arise, teachers can anticipate the kinds of classroom conditions that are likely to produce disruptive or disengaged behaviours and take proactive steps to prevent them. Proactively setting clear, concise rules that are easy for children to follow, establishing predictable routines and planning for transitions, giving hyperactive and inattentive students opportunities to move in appropriate ways and giving effective commands and instructions are all ways that teachers can be proactive in their classrooms. Teachers can try using nonverbal signals, select a challenging student to set up a behaviour plan using proactive strategies, practice using proactive strategies such as when-then commands and transition strategies, and make special connections with a student who is "invisible" or a student who is challenging among other techniques to become more proactive.
The Importance of Teacher Attention, Coaching and Praise
The quality of a teacher's attention is one of the most important in determining whether children become motivated and successful learners. Additionally, teachers who deliver high amounts of praise typically experience lower rates of off-task or disruptive behaviours, leaving more time for academic teaching. Research has shown that teachers give three to fifteen times more attention to student misbehaviour than positive behaviour in their classrooms. Consistent and meaningful encouragement and praise from a teacher can build a child's self-confidence and can contribute to building trusting and supportive relationships. This, in turn, increases students' academic commitment and performance and reduces disruptive behaviour. A host of research indicates that the simple use of contingent behaviour-specific praise and attention to positive student behaviour reinforces and nurtures children's growing emotional, social, and academic competence.
Motivating Children Through Incentives
When students have difficulty with a particular behaviour or area of learning, teacher attention, coaching, and praise may not be strong enough reinforcers to motivate them. One way of assisting the learning process is to give students concrete evidence of their progress through tangible rewards such as stickers, hand stamps, points, special rewards, or celebrations. Research has indicated a multitude of positive results from using incentive programmes, such as increased classroom participation, on-task work and attention, cooperative behaviours, improving spelling and math accuracy, decreasing transition time, reducing talking out and out of seat behaviour, and decreasing more serious behaviour problems. It is of course important to continue providing social approval, coaching methods and encouragement as well while using incentive programmes to motivate students as the impact is greater when both types of social and tangible rewards are combined.
Decreasing Inappropriate Behaviour
Some strategies that are commonly used by teachers in an attempt to manage inappropriate behaviour, such as lecturing or yelling, putting a student's name on the board, or sending the child to the principal's office have actually been shown to be ineffective. In fact, criticising, scolding, and shouting only results in students learning to shout, criticise, and argue with both teachers and peers. Some techniques may provide teacher attention that actually reinforces the particular misbehaviour or adds to the students' negative self image. Learning to provide an ethical and respectful approach to discipline is a key part of learning how to decrease inappropriate behaviour in the classroom and to effectively teach children more appropriate behaviours. A discipline hierarchy is taught which emphasises using the least intrusive discipline methods as a first priority, working up to the more intensive strategies for more aggressive and destructive behaviour.
Emotional Regulation, Social Skills & Problem Solving
In order to create a solid foundation for children's learning interactions that will support their school readiness growth, academic success, and social emotional development, teachers must learn techniques to increase children's abilities to express themselves and self-regulate their emotions. Descriptive commenting, a form of commentary where the teacher enters a student's internal and imaginary world, narrates their ideas, thoughts and feelings and interests, helps them feel confident by being an 'appreciative audience' and providing focused attention on their learning process, is a key skill that underpins all of the coaching techniques taught in this workshop. These expanded descriptions of a student's activity promote a student's cognitive awareness of what they are seeing, doing, thinking or feeling, building their self-confidence, and supporting their creativity, independence, and struggle to discover and learn something new. Teachers who use these descriptive coaching methods consistently find that their students come to love this kind of attention, feel more strongly attached to their teachers, persist at the activity despite feeling frustrated and show gains in academic, social, and emotional competency.