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Thursday, 17 November 2011

How to help children develop problem-solving skills

For children to learn how to resolve conflict, they must first learn problem-solving skills. Children should be encouraged to think of solutions and alternatives to problems, which will help them be more confident when they’re faced with difficult situations. Children who learn problem-solving skills will develop and use them throughout their life.

Here are some general steps to teach children problem-solving skills:
  • Get the facts and identify feelings. When children are fighting, angry, frustrated or upset, identify the problem. When asking children to tell you their problems, you need to be calm and nonjudgmental. Children see things from their own perspectives and may be completely unaware of how their actions affect other children. Helping children identify their own feelings and recognize the feelings of others is an important step.
  • Help children set the conflict-resolution goal and define what they want to happen in the situation. When children have clear goals, it’s easier to think of solutions.
  • Generate alternatives. Help children stay focused on their problems and ask what they can do to reach their goals. When children offer alternatives, repeat their ideas and ask them what else could be done. Don’t criticize their ideas. Instead, prompt more solutions by asking the children questions. If they cannot think of alternatives, ask them to imagine how someone else might handle the situation.
  • After children have generated their ideas and alternatives, help them evaluate the consequences. For instance, “What might happen if . . .? Would it be safe? Would it be fair? How would everyone feel?” Adults should encourage children to evaluate their ideas and see why they are acceptable or unacceptable.
  • Ask for a decision. After children evaluate their ideas, adults should restate the problem, summarize their ideas and let children decide which actions they would like to try. If children choose an idea that you think will not work, make sure they know what their alternatives are and what they should try next.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Helping children recognise pattern

Patterns are all around. They help children see how things work together and help in predicting what happens next. Patterns help children become our future problem solvers. When children learn to recognize, copy and extend patterns they are taking a giant step into the world of math. However, repetition is needed for children to become proficient at this. A five or six year old may be able to recognize and recreate patterns but this will take time and practice. The use of a variety of manipulatives during the lesson is needed.

Divide the classroom into 3 stations. Place the strips of construction paper at the first station along with a drawing of an A-B pattern. Instruct the children to create a paper chain in the A-B pattern in front of them. Ask them how they could extend this pattern. This will test whether the child is able to reproduce and extend a given pattern.

2.Set up the second station with different color crayons. Instruct the children to sort the crayons in whatever way they desire. The children may think of grouping colors by darkness or lightness of the color, by different shades of the same color, etc. There is no wrong way to sort them. Ask the children to explain why the crayons are sorted in this way. This helps to reinforce reasoning skills.

3.Set up the third station with colored candies. This station can help the children recognize that there are patterns everywhere, even in the food we eat. Instruct the children to take a handful of the candies. Tell them to count how many are in their hand. Instruct the children to create groups from what they have. Then have them count how many are in each group. This introduces them to simple mathematics. Ask the children why they grouped the candies like this and how many are in each group. Then ask them how many they had all together.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

How to deal with challenging behaviour.

Hopefully, you will not encounter behaviour like this in your classroom. However, you can sometimes feel like you've done ten rounds in the ring when you get home at the end of a busy day.
There are going to be some classes where, as a group, or because of the behaviour of specific individuals, you are likely to encounter challenging behaviour. Challenging behaviour is a label which sounds politically correct but describes less than perfect behaviour.
As a classroom teacher, you will need to deal effectively with this behaviour to avoid losing the class. I have seen this happen to a couple of teachers and it is not a happy thing. The teachers ended up feeling like they had failed, lost credibility and face.
This can be a real knock to self-confidence and it takes courage to get back up in front of a class again. If this ever happens to you, try and put it in a good perspective and be philosophical. The whole thing could be a learning experience, even if you learn that you never want to lose control of a class again!
The following are a number of interventions and approaches to managing challenging behaviour:
1 Planning
Much of the success in behaviour management comes from prevention rather than cure. If you carefully research and plan your approach to each class and the individuals that present challenging behaviour, you are much more likely to reduce the probability of disruptive behavior in the first place. At the least, thorough planning should help you to reduce the impact of any behaviour if it occurs.
For example, before I actually teach a class I will carefully look at the Special Needs Register and make note of any issues that the children may have. Often the SEN Department will have an action plan in place for that child. The action plan or IEP (Individual Education Plan) should have details of strategies that work or don't work for the child. It will be tailored to help with the child's problems . If you are teaching lower ability classes, definitely check out their IEP's. Another example of planning might be to look at the Schemes of Work and talk to SEN classroom assistants who know the kids well. You can then provide resources that are at the right level for the pupils and so avoid unnecessary frustrations.
This type of planning will help you get routines in place to help your classroom run smoothly.
2 Have your own sets of rules and communicate your expectations of the class.
3 Follow the School's Behaviour Policy.
If all the teachers in a school stick together and follow the policy, it has a much better chance of working. If you are new to a school, make sure you are familiar with the Behaviour Policy so that you can enforce it if necessary.
4 Keep things light and sidestep minor disruption with humour.
A certain amount of minor behaviour can be dealt with by the teacher making light of the behaviour but addressing it if it continues. Humour can be a great way to disarm a provocateur in a non-confrontational manner. As an example, I taught this boy called Tom, who had developed this attention grabber - by letting go gigantic farts just when I got to an important point in my lesson, or when I had just settled the rest of the class. The first time he did his trick in my class, the fart immediately caused mayhem. Kids moved because of the stench and some started to gag. I made a humorous comment about him eating beans for dinner and "beans, beans good for your heart, the more you eat the more you fart". This got the class laughing and gave me enough time to open the windows and door to let the gas escape. I quickly moved back to the point I was about to make and the lesson went on without a major disruption. Fifteen minutes later, Tom had built up enough gas to trump again. At this point, I asked him to take his gas outside and stay there until he was sure he could come back in without farting. After a cool off period, Tom realised I wasn't going to take any more disrupting from his overactive bottom and rejoined the class - fart free - for the rest of the lesson. As a footnote to the story, I heard that Tom had soiled himself while trying to disrupt his English lesson. What goes around, comes around!
If kids do not respond to your actions start to use the School Behaviour Policy.
If effective, warn and use detentions, a threat of parking or removal to 'time out'.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Children in care 'under-perform academically'

Children in care are not likely to perform well academically, with less than 25% attaining five C to A* grade GCSEs, figures released today will show.
In 36 local authorities, fewer than 10% of children taken into care achieve the grades, the statistics are expected to show.
The Government will release the figures this morning as part of an initiative to tackle local authorities' under-performance for children in care and adoption.
The figures are also expected to show that the proportion of "care leavers" not in education, employment and training is up to 69% in the worst areas.
Later today, the Department for Education will publish a series of tables ranking local authorities on key issues relating to children in care and adoption.
A spokeswoman said the Government wants to overhaul the care and adoption system to improve chances for vulnerable children.
The number of babies adopted in England fell to 60 last year, with children waiting an average of two years and seven months to be found a new home, a spokeswoman said.
Since 2007 the numbers of adoptions have fallen 8%, she added.
In a recent speech, Education Secretary Michael Gove said local authorities should speed up the adoption process.
He also warned that children were spending too long in care or with dysfunctional families when they could be adopted or fostered.
Mr Gove said: "At fault is primarily a justice and a family justice system which does not prioritise the needs of the child and takes forever to make critical decisions which matter hugely in ensuring the child is found the right home.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Helping children through divorce

Thousands of kids experience the stress of divorce each year. How they'll react depends on their age, personality, and the particular circumstances of the separation and divorce process.
Every divorce will have an effect on the kids involved — and many times the initial reaction is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. But kids can also come out of it better able to cope with stress, and many become more flexible, tolerant young adults.
The most important things that both parents can do to help kids through this difficult time are:
  • Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from the kids.
  • Minimize the disruptions to kids' daily routines.
  • Confine negativity and blame about each other to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home.
  • Keep each parent involved in the kids' lives.
Most adults going through separation and divorce need support — from friends, professionals, clergy, and family. Don't seek support from your kids, even if they seem to want you to.

Breaking the News

As soon as you're certain of your plans, talk to your kids about your decision to live apart. Although there's no easy way to break the news, if possible have both parents present for this conversation. It's important to try to leave feelings of anger, guilt, or blame out of it. Practice how you're going to manage telling your kids so you don't become upset or angry during the talk.
Although the discussion about divorce should be tailored to a child's age, maturity, and temperament, be sure to convey one basic message: What happened is between mom and dad and is not the kids' fault. Most kids will feel they are to blame even after parents have said that they are not. So it's vital for parents to keep providing this reassurance.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Autism detected in voice of children

Toddlers with the developmental disorder pronouce words differently to their healthy peers which can be picked up by a new automated vocal analysis system created by scientists.
The device called LENA (Language Environment Analysis) could lead to the screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for which early intervention is important.
It works by recording a child's speech for a whole day and then feeding the data into a special computer program that compares the noises with those of other youngsters already known to have the condition.
The researchers said early speech of infants with autism - particularly the way they pronounce the syllables of words - are distinct from those of typically developing children.
The system which costs about £130 picked up those with the condition with 86 per cent accuracy, according to the findings published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It also differentiated normal children and those with autism from children with language delay based on the automated vocal analysis.
Early diagnosis and treatment of autism can have a dramatic effect on the development of children.
The problem is that it is hard to detect and by the time it is usually detected a lot of damage is already done.
Professor Steven Warren, of Kansas University, said: "This technology could help paediatricians screen children for ASD to determine if a referral to a specialist for a full diagnosis is required and get those children into earlier and more effective treatments."
The researchers analysed 1,486 recordings from 232 children aged between 10 months and four years – more than 3.1 million identified utterances.
They found the most important indicator proved to be the ones targeting the way children pronounce syllables – the ability of children to produce well-formed syllables with rapid movements of the jaw and tongue during vocalisation.
Infants exhibit control of the voice in the first months of life and refine this skill as they acquire language.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Parents' scrap prompts school patrols

Police are undertaking daily patrols outside a primary school in Cardiff after parents fought in the playground.
South Wales Police confirmed that its community support officers have attended the Welsh-language Ysgol Glan Morfa, Splott, all this week. It comes after two families came to blows and a subsequent playground ban resulted in staff being "threatened" and "physically manhandled".
Sian Wyn Thomas, a teacher, has since written to parents, saying poor behaviour would not be tolerated. In the letter, dated 17 October, Ms Thomas wrote: "We have had some unpleasant incidents involving foul language and aggression by a small minority of parents.
"Last Friday was the worst so far, with two families fighting on the schoolyard."
South Wales Police confirmed its officers were continuing to patrol the school twice a day. Cardiff Council said parents bringing their children to school – which has about 400 pupils – should remain at the gates, before being escorted into the building by staff.