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Children with Behavioral Issues Need Help, Not Labels

I feel strongly that, in the classroom of the young child, there is no such thing as a behavior problem. I do agree that there may be such a thing as a child who demonstrates negative behaviors.

Children at this age are experimenting with all kinds of behavior, some of the behaviors will be positive and some of them will be negative. Our job as educators is to teach children which behaviors are productive and which are not. I worry that as we smother our students with behavior charts, stickers, and contracts, we are taking away their chance to internally process what these behaviors mean. Worse yet, when children see their behavior chart constantly on "red", notice that they never receive stickers, or realize they never get a prize from the prize box, they will begin to feel that the behaviors that they have been demonstrating are a part of them, rather than an external activity that is fluid and can be changed. The child (and the teacher) will begin to believe that he/she is a "behavior problem" rather than a child who has a problem with behavior.

I feel the way we talk to young children about bullies is especially damaging. Instead of teaching children about bully behavior, we teach them that some children are bullies. Children will experiment with behaviors that exert some kind of power over other children. Unfortunately, if we have taught that children who act this way are bullies, instead of empowering them with the knowledge that the behavior is a bully behavior, we have taken away their chance to modify their actions. We have taken away their ability to change behavior and have attached a damaging label to the child himself.

This year I stumbled upon Wonder Grove Kids, a company that offers some great character building videos and supplementary materials. The Wonder Grove Learn Education Initiative covers eight critical areas of early learning that impact a child’s ability to succeed inside and outside of the classroom. The following is one of their videos:

Notice that the child in the video who is not keeping her hands to herself does not realize that the behavior is negatively impacting her friendship. This is something she has to learn. As educators, we need to spend less time dictating the consequences of behaviors to our students, and more time helping them internalize the negative impact that poor behavior has on their relationships. And we need to be especially careful never to label them, or allow them to label themselves as a "behavior problem". If we do, we have written their future for them.

Addition and Subtraction Fluency Worksheets

If you are like  me, and looking for more ways for your students to add and subtract fluently within 5, you might check out these worksheets. For only $3.00 you will have 10 addition and 10 subtraction worksheets ready to give important practice to your young learners.

Poverty and Student Academic Success

Throughout my teaching career I have made many home visits, but one, in particular, stands out. A student of mine had been in an accident and I visited his home armed with some books, a class photo of his friends, and a hug. The home I entered was a tiny, cramped space occupied by not one, but many families. As teachers we know that despite our best efforts in the classroom, much of a child's future success has been predetermined by his socioeconomic status. It is a wall that we as teachers are continually chipping away at, but it is a monumental task. As teachers, we also know how devastating living in poverty is to a child. Poverty causes negative changes in the brain . Poverty causes stress. It is a source of depression and anger, illness and crime. With such devastating effects, why don't teachers have more allies in the fight against it? Especially when it has been shown to be the cause of any so called "education crises" in America. As reported by USA Today, "When you measure the test scores of American schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20%... they outperform every nation in the world." 

So why have we become mired in nowhere "solutions" like "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top"? Why has the answer to perceived school failure become Charter Schools and Vouchers? Why are we splitting our resources and allowing ourselves to continually fail our children because we are avoiding the issue. Teacher Tom thinks it's because, you can't make money off of solving poverty, and perhaps the reason really is that simple. Big box curriculum companies certainly stand to lose millions if we shift our focus from testing to improving lives. Politicians certainly make more progress when they introduce legislations that is labeled "education reform" than when a bill is meant to improve the lives of those in poverty. In my own state of Utah, a bill called the "Healthy Utah Plan" that would improve the health of children in the state may not even be given a hearing in the state house. We know the root of our education problem in this country, and yet we are hesitant to create solutions.

As teachers, we need to remember that we are a source of stability for these children, and that their educational success depends more on the life skills they learn from us, than from the test score they receive at the end of the year. These children are dealing with unbearable levels of stress in their lives, and, therefore, they desperately need a classroom free from anxiety. A classroom where they feel safe. We need to teach them the proper social skills through play based interactions. If we do not, they may never learn these skills at all. We need to love these children. They need love. Their parents need to know that their child is loved. It may sound trite, but love is the bridge that can create opportunities for these children and their families, and until we can rally the kind of social reform that can put an end to appalling percentage of children who live this way, love is going to be these children's lifeline. We must extend it to them. They are drowning.

Keep Kids Reading This Summer

Read, read, and read some more....that sounds like a wonderful summer! Our students may not agree, but they might be tempted to read a little every day with the right resources. 

First on the list should be the little paper books that you have used for guided reading. These books are often “old favorites” that students will return to again and again. With these books, students can review sight words and practice fluent reading. 

To keep students interested in reading, however, they need access to new or different stories. These can take the form of books checked out from a public library or purchased at a bookstore. Technology can also provide access to new titles.

Farfaria is an app that allows members to read one free book per day. (For unlimited access, parents can pay a monthly, yearly, or lifetime fee.) The books are divided by subject, theme or genre; each division includes books representing a wide variety of reading levels. Students can choose to read the book or listen to it while individual words are highlighted. Simply put, children love to read using this app. It has over 1,000 books that are aligned to Common Core reading levels. And, new titles are added weekly! Additionally all books are professionally narrated to aide students in listening comprehension.

Reading is critical to success in school. Encourage your students to keep reading this summer to maintain reading skills...and to have some fun doing so!   

End of the Year Song: I Like School

This is one of my favorite songs to use with my kindergartners. In fact, I like it so much, I use it to both begin and end my school year. 

Here is a group of school kids singing the song. 

End of The Year Celebration Songs

Several years ago I ran across a treasure! Her name is Nancy Stewart. If you are an early childhood educator and have not yet been introduced to her fabulous, age-appropriate music, I am happy that I can introduce her to you! 

We are using this song in our Kindergarten Graduation. It is adapted slightly from Nancy's original to make it easier for our kiddos. You can download the sheet music and mp3 of the version with words or instrumental selection for free. Yep for free. She offers loads of free, appropriate songs. You will love this site! Please, enjoy this free song poster.

Summer Homework Calendar & Free Song Poster

This is one of my favorite, most useful products. As a parent, I wanted summer homework that was scheduled, quick, and meaningful. From that desire, I created this Summer Homework Calendar. You can pick it up at the TPT Store for only $2.00.

And, as promised, here is a third song poster from our Kindergarten Graduation. Enjoy