Planning for Success: Classroom Celebrations

A reader recently asked about including children with challenging behaviors in year-end celebrations. Should children with persistent behavior issues be allowed to participate in this type of celebration? The short answer is “yes.”

Still, if you have a student with persistent behavior problems in your class, it may feel risky to hold a classroom or schoolwide learning celebration. Here are some suggestions to help you plan and structure successful end-of-year celebrations for groups that include students with challenging behaviors.

  1. Focus on each child naming something that he or she accomplished this year in school.
    The goal is to reflect on and celebrate growth—each child’s unique journey. Some children will need your help with this. Children with challenging behaviors may have a hard time identifying areas of strength on their own. Try generating ideas by starting with a class brainstorming session focused on what the whole class learned this year. Then, have students work individually on choosing a personal accomplishment. Help those who are stuck by asking open-ended questions and sharing positive observations that help the child see herself as a learner and a part of the community. Have some examples ready to share!
  2. Teach and practice expected behaviors before the celebration.
    As a first step, think about the skills children will need to participate successfully in the event. Then create opportunities to practice those skills in formal and informal ways. For instance, you might have the class do a “looks like/sounds like/feels like” activity to articulate and identify appropriate behaviors for the event.

    Use Interactive Modeling to teach and practice any skills that are new or that you think the whole class could use a refresher on. Then, follow up with more individualized practice for children who need it—but make sure this happens in a non-punitive and non-threatening environment.

  3. Be sure to reinforce positive behaviors.
    In The Power of Our Words, Paula Denton reminds us of the importance of noticing and naming positive behaviors for children. For children who are frequently noticed for misbehavior, this positive noticing is even more important.
  4. Ask other adults to come to your classroom during the learning celebration.
    Another teacher or an administrator can help with logistics, freeing you to focus on children who may need more individual support.
  5. Remember how much your example influences how children view their peers or themselves.
    You set the tone when you communicate with each of your students in a caring and respectful way.

Babs Freeman-Loftis is a Responsive Classroom consultant and coauthor of Responsive School Discipline. She was assistant head of the lower school at the University School of Nashville for nine years.

Tags: Celebrations and Holidays