The Hot Seat

As a bonus to the series I have written on classroom discipline, here is a fun class motivation technique that I have used to encourage appropriate behavior in the classroom. It’s called “The Hot Seat.”

The Hot Seat works in elementary classes and is great as a way of encouraging the kids to motivate each other to behave and participate in class.
Essentially, the teacher will choose one seat before class begins. That is now the hot seat. The teacher does not reveal the location of the hot seat until the end of class. The child sitting in the hot seat will get to choose a prize from the hot seat bag if they have participated, been respectful, and obeyed the class rules.

To prepare, the teacher needs to find a medium size gift bag and fill it with small prizes – pencils, erasers, candy, stickers, small notepads, etc. Print out and laminate the Hot Seat poster.

This technique works to encourage an entire class to participate and behave because they never know if they are sitting on the hot seat. In order to be fair, the hot seat needs to change every week and the teacher needs to resist the urge to give every student the opportunity to win.
This situation arose in one of my classrooms. The teacher was more focused on being fair and making sure every student had an opportunity to win a prize from the hot seat bag than on encouraging appropriate behavior from the kids in his class. He ended up keeping a list of who had won the hot seat prize in the past and choosing the hot seat based on where kids ended up sitting. The students in the class figured it out. The ones who had already won a hot seat prize realized that they no longer had any motivation to follow the rules since they wouldn’t be on the hot seat.
This technique works as a motivation because it is random – every week each student could be sitting on the hot seat. Kids like the thrill of waiting to see if they could be the hot seat winners.

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Creating Classroom Rules

Continuing the series on discipleship & classroom discipline, this post is about creating classroom rules.

With expectations and consequences defined, it is time for each teacher to create some rules specific to their own classroom. Rather than having one set of rules for the entire Sunday School, set specific rules for each classroom. This allows for age-appropriateness and the chance to revisit the rules each year with each new class.

For example, the rules for a preschool class will look very different from the rules for an older elementary class. My husband and I have taught Sunday School for many years. I teach in a preschool class and he teaches in a Gr. 4-6 class. Here are our classroom rules from last year:

Preschool Class Rules (Ages 4&5)
In our class we:

  • Listen to our teachers and obey them
  • Treat each other kindly
  • Raise our hands if we have a question
  • Do all activities together

Grades 4-6 Class Rules

  • Put up your hand to ask questions
  • Participate and have fun
  • No asking “When are we playing games?”
  • Use the bathroom during activities; no bathroom breaks allowed during lesson

Here are some guidelines for creating classroom rules:

For Preschool Classes (ages 2-5)

  • Teachers should decide on the classroom rules before the first class of the year.
  • For 2 &3 year olds use no more than 3 rules and for 4&5 year olds use no more than 4 rules
  • Rules should be stated in a positive manner. In other words, tell the kids what you want them to do. (ex. Treat each other kindly instead of No hitting.)
  • Create a classroom rules poster and use pictures to demonstrate the rules. Children this age can’t read but they can understand a picture. The picture is a memory aid for them to remember the rule.
  • Put the poster up in the classroom and go over the rules every week in class. After a few weeks, the children will be able to say the rules when the teacher points at the appropriate picture.
  • Here are some examples of how to show classroom rules in pictures:
    • Obey your teachers – use a picture of an adult or an adult with a group of preschool age children
    • Treat each other kindly – use a picture of 2 children holding hands or children playing together
  • As well as going over the rules every week, the teacher should also remind the children of the consequences of breaking the rules. Children this age feel safe when they know their boundaries and when they know the routine and what to expect. I talked more about consequences in the last post “Uh oh! Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior.”

For Elementary Classes (Grades 1-6

  • Teachers should allow time in the first Sunday School class of the year to decide on class rules. Tell your students that rules will be decided as a class. Together talk about how everyone should behave in this classroom. The teacher has ultimate veto. Sometimes suggested rules will be silly or unachievable.
  • Once the rules have been decided make a poster of your class rules. This poster should be put up in a highly visible spot in the classroom and referred to regularly.
  • As a class, consequences for disobeying the rules can be discusses as well. Consequences need to be in line with consequences already decided by the Sunday School teachers as a whole or the Sunday School Coordinator. I have found that kids can be much harsher in deciding consequences than teachers are. So guide this conversation carefully and remind the kids that the ultimate goal is growing as disciples of Jesus.

For all ages, children need to know and understand the rules. This is why it is important to post the rules in the classrooms and discuss them each week. Allow children to ask questions about the rules. It is important to make sure that your children understand the rules. Figure out ways of restating them to help the kids understand them.

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Uh oh! Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior

children's ministry classroom discipline

In this series I have been discussing classroom discipline. In the last post I discussed creating reasonable expectations for Sunday School behavior. In this post, I will discuss reasonable consequences to set for inappropriate behavior.

 

 

 

Once expectations are set, consequences need to be agreed upon for inappropriate behavior. It’s important that all teachers agree on the basic consequences to be used for disobedience. Although each classroom will have specific age-appropriate consequences, the general outcomes should be the same.

Here is an example of general consequences.

“TACK Staff will first speak to the child and issue a warning. If the child chooses to continue the unacceptable behavior, they may be denied a privilege or isolated from the group for a time. If necessary, TACK staff will take the child to his/her parents.”

It is important to note that behavioral expectations and the consequences that go with inappropriate behavior need to be clearly outlined for parents and the children in your Sunday School.

This behavioral guidelines & principles document is one way of outlining expectations and consequences. Teachers need to make sure their students understand what is expected of them and what the consequences will be for breaking the rules. In an upcoming post I will talk about creating specific classroom rules.

So, all teachers need to agree on expectations and the consequences for breaking those expectations. These consequences need to be clearly outlined and followed consistently.

It is important the teachers are consistent in following the agreed upon expectations and consequences. Children feel safe when given boundaries and when they know what to expect.

Once general consequences are agreed upon, teachers can make specific consequences for their classrooms. Consequences in a preschool room are going to look a little different than consequences in an older elementary classroom.

For toddler classes, inappropriate behavior can usually be redirected. It’s important for teachers to explain to children how we behave and treat others. Consequences usually consist of removing a child from a situation or taking an object away from a child. For example, if toddlers are playing and one steals a toy from another, the teacher should get down to the child’s level and say, “In this room we treat others kindly. Taking a toy away from Jonny is not being kind.” Then give the toy back to Jonny and encourage the toddler to say sorry.

For preschool classes, the consequence for inappropriate behavior could be a time-out. The time-out should only be for a couple of minutes. The point is to separate the child and give them a chance to calm down, if necessary. Always talk with the child afterwards and make sure they understood why they were given a time out. Encourage the child to rejoin the group.

For elementary classes, consequences could be denying a privilege or separation from the group for a short time. Children this age enjoy being with their friends, so knowing they could be separated from them even for a short time is usually affective!

Whatever consequences you choose, let the kids know what they are and be consistent in your use of them.

A quick note about natural consequences: I believe consequences need to make sense. So for children misbehaving in class by talking with their neighbor and disturbing the rest of the class, the consequence that makes sense is to separate those children. Have one child move to another seat.  If a child hits another child or says something mean to another child, they should be encouraged to make it right.
Sometimes things happen that aren’t really inappropriate behavior, but need to be dealt with all the same. For example, if a child spills their apple juice they should be encouraged to clean it up.

Consequences are an important part of the discipline process. Remember, it’s about making disciples. Disciples love Jesus, follow Jesus, and obey Jesus. We need to be encouraging our kids to grow by expecting appropriate behavior & giving loving and consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior.

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It’s All About Respect! Creating Reasonable Expectations for Sunday School Behavior

Childen's Ministry Sunday School BehaviorIn the first post I talked about classroom discipline. This is a topic that many teachers dread and I encouraged teachers to see discipline in a new light. It’s about making disciples!

In this post, it’s all about respect! With the understanding that the goal of discipline is discipleship, the next step is to create reasonable expectations for children’s behavior in Sunday School.

It is important to be realistic about your expectations. Each child that arrives Sunday morning has come from a different situation and circumstances. Remember to consider each child and their limits and try to ensure that their needs are met as much as possible.

With that in mind, it is okay to have high standards for behavior. Build specific classroom rules based on the following 4 goals for your children.

1. Respect for God’s Word

Expect children to show respect to God’s Word as the final authority. This includes respecting God and treating Him as worthy of the highest praise. Using God’s name without respect will not be tolerated.

2. Respect for Adults

Expect children to honor their teachers and all adults with respectful speech and behavior. Sassing or defying instruction are examples of disrespectful behavior.

3. Respect for Others

Jesus told us to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Mt. 7:12). Children should be encouraged to treat each other with kindness and humility. Children should be encouraged to think before they speak and to find encouraging words to speak to each other. Mean, crude, or hurtful speech or actions are therefore not acceptable.

4. Respect for Themselves

Encourage children not to act in ways that will put their bodies or their faith at risk.

 

Children will not follow these expectations all the time. That is because they are children and they are growing. They are learning the behaviors expected of them. It is part of our job as teachers to remind them of these expectations, give them specific examples of what this expected behavior looks like and to discipline them when they disobey.

Here is an example of a behavioral guidelines & principles brochure I created for a church where I was serving as Director of Children’s Ministry. It clearly outlines our expectations for children’s behavior.

In the next post I will talk about consequences. Having clear expectations is important. Having clear consequences for disobeying is also important.

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Discipleship & Classroom Discipline

behavior managementIf you asked a group of Sunday School teachers the one thing they would like help with, the answer will more than likely be classroom discipline. It’s a difficult subject and a lot of teachers don’t feel confident in this area.

This series of posts will give you tools for building a philosophy of classroom discipline and creating classroom rules that encourage discipleship! As an extra bonus, I will share a classroom motivating technique that I have used in elementary aged classes.

First, it is helpful for teachers to understand that we don’t discipline for discipline’s sake.

We discipline for the sake of making disciples. If the goal of Sunday School is discipleship (and I believe that it should be), then loving discipline has to be a part of the process.

Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”(John 14:15)

A chapter later He said again, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)

A disciple of Jesus is one who obeys what He says. If our goal in Sunday School is discipleship then we need to teach and encourage obedience.
“Discipline” comes from the root word “disciple,” which means “training that molds character, behavior and values.” (Sorry, I can’t remember where I got this definition from!)

Discipline then is about shaping disciples of Jesus by molding children’s behavior. It should be seen in a positive light.

It is encouraging for teachers to see that discipline is more than just making kids obey the rules. There is a larger goal and one that teachers can truly get behind.

Let’s make disciples!

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