When the Wheels Start to Wobble

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.Ever drive down the road and realize the car is wobbly and perhaps in need of alignment?

Sometimes I just know my class is going to feel the same way. Right before a vacation, the arrival of spring, or a much anticipated field trip are all challenging times that can disrupt our routines and make us feel out of sorts, as if the wheels on our learning bus are beginning to wobble. With spring break just around the corner, my class is predictably starting to veer off course, and it’s time to take action.

As a Responsive Classroom teacher, it’s comforting to know that I don’t have to stand helplessly by, watching all our hard work of the first six months of school crumble into an unrecognizable pile of misbehaviors and hurt feelings. Here are the strategies that I rely on during these challenging times to keep the wheels on the bus, and hopefully rolling along, too!

  1. Morning Meeting. No matter how crazy the schedule, I always make time to do at least some components of Morning Meeting during these bumpy days. Even if we lack time for a full meeting, I begin the day by having students greet each other in a friendly way and then share a brief piece of news with either the whole group or a partner, as time allows. Sticking to the routine of Morning Meeting during unusual times can make all the difference for students who thrive on structure. I tried going without it one morning, and by ten o’clock we were falling apart. Five minutes of sharing about our weekends and a quick energizer-style activity and you could hear and see the tension and side-chatter dissipating. What a difference a positive community makes!
  2. Interactive Modeling. Interactive Modeling is great for reminding students how to do those procedures that have started getting raggedy. Going on a field trip or having guest speakers coming in? Model speaking to new people in a friendly way, being patient waiting in line, or asking relevant questions. Planning a special holiday snack creation? Model the procedures for hand-washing and clean-up. Using a rotation format for special crafts and games? Before you begin, model moving from station to station in a calm and orderly way. Using Interactive Modeling as a reminder when routines or procedures become sloppy gives students the opportunity to self-correct and reinforces the importance of following routines even during unusual times.
  3. Revisit the Rules. The rules in our classroom help us treat each other with respect and care, and they are especially needed when our usual routines are disrupted. I prepare students with a quick review of the rules and discussion of how those rules might be especially helpful during the tricky time ahead. In this way, I hold myself and my students to the same positive behavior expectations, regardless of the time of year or what we’re doing.

I hope the wheels are NOT starting to wobble in your classroom as spring approaches . . . but if they are, consider how these tips can help you and your students get them rolling again. And feel free to share other tips so that we can cruise together over the next bumpy road with a smile!

Suzanne Wright is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher in Sarasota, Florida.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Misbehavior, Revisiting Rules

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