It’s December and you just spent three months establishing routines and getting behaviors under control. Then WHAM! everything seems to start to unravel. Sound familiar? Students come back from the long Thanksgiving weekend, which often requires a “vacation reset” as they get back into the routine of school. Not so bad after Columbus Day or President’s Day, but after Thanksgiving you have the BIG holidays and all the excitement that goes along with them.
Few of us are immune to the constant reminders of the holidays and the stress that goes along with them. Kids talk non-stop about gifts and what they hope they’ll get. Many homes look different as the decorations go up, and for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, they are still exposed to the beautiful lights and all the wonders they see in stores. Regardless of religious faith, the December holiday season can create excitement and stress, which often translates into negative behaviors in students.
I would like to share a great behavior tool that is easy to make, easy to use and can be very effective. If you go to Behavior under Tools, you will find complete instructions for the use of “Working Together”. Click here for the link. (You will have to scroll down the page to get to it.) The idea behind this behavior tool is that you get the whole class working together for a common goal. The pointer slides up and down based on classroom behavior with the goal being that at a designated time the class earns a reward. It’s usually best to have the reward at the end of the day, but you can do it whenever you like.
I am suggesting Working Together as a great tool for the holiday season because you can incorporate a holiday theme that the students are already invested in. Introduce the students to the behavior tool by playing them the song from Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9ps42Frh6Y or the video segment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SDYM0tNcHc . Tell them that in order for them to play, the students will have to work together. Be specific about the behaviors you need to see in order for the pointer to move up, and the behaviors that would make the pointer move down. Positive behaviors that could be reinforced are; group participation, smooth transitions, working consistently, and responding to requests. Though the idea is to move the pointer up and down based on group behavior, you can move the pointer up when an individual displays a great behavior, but not move it down if you have one “loose cannon” who might continually wreck the whole thing. (For this student continue to use the consequences/rewards that you have in place.) Always state why you are moving the pointer up or down.
As you will see in the detailed directions, you can move the pointer in both small and large increments.
Okay, so what are these Reindeer Games exactly? It depends on the type of activities that you know your class enjoys doing as a group. Maybe your class loves to play Bingo. Have some holiday prizes ready for the winners (stickers, a chocolate kiss, etc.). My students loved doing interactive games on the SmartBoard. Here are a few links that you might want to explore: http://www.ismartboard.com/special/smartboard-holiday/christmas-games/
Perhaps your students love movement…put on some holiday music, push back the desks and let them rock! How about a game of Pin the Tail on the Reindeer? Draw a reindeer on a large piece of paper and make one tail (and red nose and antlers, if you want) for each student. Put their name on it so they can see where they landed.
Another game my students really enjoyed was throwing beanbags into a box. You could decorate the box with a Christmas stocking or wrap it up to look like a big gift. Then attach pictures of fun gifts onto the beanbags and let them try to toss it into the container. To help you out, I’ve pulled together some ideas for “gifts” that you can use if you decide to do a tossing game. Click here to download.
If it would be age-appropriate, you can make reindeer headbands for the students to wear when they play the games. Click here to get a template. You can either use the pattern as a fine motor activity for the students, or you can make them in advance.
Reindeer Games can be anything you want them to be, and can change from day to day. Once your students see how fun it is, they are sure to get on board and hopefully problems behaviors will be reduced. Good luck!
For Working Together/Reindeer Games instructions click on this link
*If you aren’t familiar with helpkizlearn.com it’s a great resource for free EASY interactive games perfect for students with significant cognitive disabilities