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Nuts & Bolts: Behavior

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Helping Children with

School Behavior

It has been said that multiage classrooms have fewer behavior problems than more traditionally structured single-grade classrooms. I tend to agree with this. I believe that several factors come into play.

First, students are placed with the same teacher and in the same program for multiple years. This means that both student and teacher relationships can grow over time, a greater degree of trust can build, and a stronger bond develops between student and teacher. This also holds true for the relationship between the students' parents and the teacher.

Second, since the teacher knows that each student will most likely stay with him or her for multiple years, there is a greater likelihood that the teacher will put more effort into each child's growth. After all, if "Johnny" or "Jane" have frequent behavior difficulties, there is no passing them on to the next teacher at the end of the year.

Third, there is a natural diversity that is recognized by the students in a multiage classroom. It becomes the norm within the children's social setting that differences in ability are expected and that everyone works as a sort of family or team, helping each other master various learning activities. This manifests itself in the natural creation of a more nurturing atmosphere. Where a single age span is a part of the class structure, students tend to be more competitive, putting a great deal of peer pressure on one another to fit a perceived age-level norm. This in turn tends to foster behavior that is labeled as "bickering" and can greatly affect classroom climate.

Fourth, returning students have expectations about how the class operates and what the class structure holds for them, they have little of the anxiety that is felt by others who transition between teachers each year. With little anxiety and with at least one year's experience, these children continue to grow, building on their classroom experiences rather than starting over each school year.

Fifth, since the older children have experienced the classroom before and have settled into the classroom environment for a relatively long period of time, they provide a "settling" influence on the younger students. The older students are expected to behave as positive role models to the younger students and to a great degree they assume this responsibility with enthusiasm. The younger students follow the lead of these role models, behaving more maturely.

This is not to say that children in multiage classrooms won't ever misbehave, they will, testing limits is part of growing up and learning socially appropriate behavior. What I have observed however, is that, all things being equal, the number of times students misbehave and the degree to which they do so is much less in a multiage classroom when compared to a single grade one.

A couple of tools I use in my classroom are the Problem Solving Form and the Complaint form. Descriptions and examples of both are linked below.

In addition, I support students in their efforts to develop or maintain independent learning behaviors. A description of my Classroom Leadership program is linked below.

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copyright © 2004 by Russell Yates