Dear Kid Whisperer,
Think back to when you were a first grade teacher……what are your best Love and Logic tips when beginning the school year with this age group? Thanks! -Natalie
Hi Natalie. Thanks for the timely question. As you know, this is a crazy time of year for teachers, especially for those of us who are switching classrooms and grade levels! I will now have to think waaaaay back to when I was a first grade teacher- all of three months ago. 🙂
As I move from first grade to third grade, I am reminded of one of the many strengths of Love and Logic: it is in no way age or grade specific. The methods that I use to encourage first graders to be compliant and respectful are the same ones I will use to get third graders to solve their problems, and they are the same ones that my wife uses to get me to take out the garbage. In this way, we can be truly consistent in across grade levels and throughout entire schools. Because we use so few words in Love and Logic(R), we barely even have to change the phrasing of our verbal interventions. I can tell you that as a former principal, this is a lifesaver. There are no point or demerit systems or warning grids to keep track of(because there are no warnings) and there is almost no (insert angelic chorus here) paperwork. In short, Love and Logic involves adults barely thinking about discipline, while the kids are thinking about it a lot.
The second part of the beauty of Love and Logic(R) as we prepare for the school year is that it adds almost nothing to your already extensive “to do” list when preparing for school. Love and Logic teachers do not use tangible, complicated systems requiring fake money, cards, checkmarks, popsicle sticks, stoplights or other props, in what I call “Carrottop Discipline.” In other words, if it is possible to leave your classroom management skills in the trunk of your car, you’re doing something wrong.
So this sets the stage in a very real way for us: You have no system to learn and prepare for, and you have nothing extra to learn for your specific grade level! As all teachers know, this is a godsend, as we already have plenty of things to do! All that is essential in preparation is to carve out a spot in the room away from the other children where a child can go when he or she is having trouble following the rules of the room. More on that in a future blog. Please also see How to Remove Obnoxious Kids from Your Life and Get Back Nice Ones.
So, to actually answer your question, here’s what you do. Here’s the all-important “how“. I’ll start from the moment the kids enter, since by being a Love and Logic teacher, you have relieved yourself of summer behavioral system creation. In the interest of space and brevity, this is not the exhaustive rundown that I give when I consult with schools, but just the highlights to get you started.
1) A smile
2) Eye contact
3) A friendly touch
These are basic, physiological needs of human beings. They open the heart and mind to being able to trust, love, and learn. The complicating factor is that most kids who haven’t had these needs met throughout their lives will tend to push away. The reality is that they want and need these three things the most.
While numbers one and two are self explanatory, I need to be more specific with number three. A friendly touch can be a hug, high five, handshake, or a pat on the back. Consider what is appropriate based on age, gender, history of abuse, and wishes of your administrator. Every child I’ve ever enountered eventually liked to have some kid of friendly touch. Note: With children with a known history of sexual abuse, simply offer up a hand for a high five or a handshake.
This needs to happen every day with every child, without exception. When the flow of kids slows to a trickle, you can begin your daily classroom routine, but make sure you have every child come to you in order to give them “The Big Three.”
OK, you’ve got the kids in the room. Now what?
During the course of the first day, your students need to understand that they are sitting in their classroom, not your classroom. If your children are going to treat the things and people around them well, they need to feel that they own their surroundings, not that they are merely renting their classroom. Look at it this way: No person in the history of the world has ever washed a rental car. Don’t let your classroom be a rental car. In first grade, it may be the first thing that your students really feel that own.
OK, Kid Whisperer, how do we do this? I’m glad you asked! First, ask them whose classroom they are sitting in. When they say “yours,” explain how wrong they are! After that, spend the day allowing them to take ownership of the room. The following activities should happen on the first day.
1) Create your class name: Think about what effect it has on your students when you and the rest of the staff at your school refer to the kids in your care as “Mrs. Westcott’s class.” That tells them every day that they are owned by you. They are merely renting their classroom. On the very first day, give them an opportunity to create a name for their class. My first grade class voted to be the “Rock Stars” last year. So, instead of saying, “Mr. Ervin’s class, please line up!” when I picked them up from Physical Education, I would say “We will be leaving as soon as all Rock Stars are in line!” Notice the enforceable statement, by the way.
2) Create team names: In addition to naming your class, your students should be put onto teams that remain the same throughout the year. In my room each team has a color that is on their team possessions such as the bins, clip boards, and lockers. They sit on the part of the carpet that is their color.
A picture is worth a thousand words. So, behold my new classroom:
Each team should pick their own name on the first day. They can talk about it until the vote is unanimous. Last year my students picked “Astronauts,” “White Tigers,” “Polka Dots,” “Cats,” and, uh, the “Hot Cherries.” Don’t want to know how, where, or why they came up with that last one.
3) Make team labels: Allow your students the time to create small labels with their team name on them that you can laminate and stick on their tables, bins, and shelves. For first grade, I like to make a big bubble letter sign that I put up over their lockers after they decorate it. Here are my friends the Astronauts and our back wall of the classroom:
4) Make other labels: Allow the children on the first day and throughout the year to make labels for the room. In first grade, they would create the print-rich environment of putting tags on pretty much everything: “Television” would go on the TV, “locker” would go on the locker, etc. This year, my students will tag our library categories, such as “Fiction” and “Biography.”
5) Create rituals: These are too numerous to mention, but my students create special rituals that are specific for their classroom. For instance, I tell my kids that I just hate bossing kids around in order to get the to be quiet, so I ask them to come up with a silly phrase or word that I should use when I want them to be quiet and listen to me. Last year it was “Fun-a-lun,” and the year before it was “Mucky Muck.” Does it make sense? No. Is it exponentially more effective than saying “Be quiet!”? Yes. Note: Make sure your cue has three or four syllables so that kids have a second or two to stop talking.
6) Create your class rule: I saved the most important one for last and no, I did not leave out an “s”. Never, never, never have your rules posted when the kids walk though the door on the first day. Why? Because they are your rules. You can live by your rules, but it’s hard to make other people do the same. Instead, in the first hour in the classroom, have the students come up with rules they want to have for their room. Invariably, in first grade you will get “no kicking”, “no fighting,” “be nice,” etc. Write them all on the board. Once you are done, explain that you get confused by so many rules and start to combine them. Eventually, should distill it down to one single Love and Logic rule:
You may do anything you want as long as it does not cause a problem.
That’s it! This should be the only rule in every classroom because it is the simple distillation of all rules for all civilized human behavior. It is the crux of The Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence! This is the rule that you want and it is the rule that they will come up with! Pretty cool, huh?
Natalie, I hope this helps. As I said, I go into more detail when I work in schools, but this should get you started. Please forward this to as many teachers, principals, and school listservs as you can if you feel that this is helpful! Remember to like it on Facebook as well! Let’s spread the word so both teachers and kids can have a great year this year! Good luck and enjoy experimenting with these new strategies!
–The Kid Whisperer