Assignment 2: Management / Transition Techniques
Describe the classroom discipline/management/transition techniques.
When we had an intellectual discussion on this issue in the Child Development III class, I contributed the idea that some transition techniques are not done by actively asking for a transition, but by stating instructions on how to transition clearly and slowly enough so the students can understand them. By using instructions that the students can understand, the students transition effectively. You don’t ever actually see Mrs. Nelson use the word “transition” in her classroom, though she still effectively makes transitions.
This is similar to what happens in the kindergarten room. Mrs. Shapiro never actually uses the word “transition” in her vocabulary, but she is able to provide instructions that the students can understand to tell them where they need to go. When it is time for the students to sit in rows, she tells them, “Come and sit in your seats.” Those “seats” are pieces of masking tape, taped on the carpet with scotch tape (so the students cannot take them off the carpet), with their names written on them with a permanent marker, and a name with an afternoon student as well.
When it is time for the students to sit at their tables, Mrs. Shapiro tells them, “Go to your tables.” On those tables are assignments that she has given them that she has often just described during “row time.”
When it is time to line up for a class (or “special” as the teachers call them), like art, music, or the library, she says to the students, “Line up for ___ class,” and then tells the line-leaders to come to the front of the line. The line-leaders, like the bell ringer, change weekly.
But not all transitioning involves verbal instruction. One transition in particular is partially nonverbal—the transition between free time and clean-up time. In Mrs. Nelson’s room and Mrs. Shapiro’s room, a bell is rung to signal the end of free time. In Mrs. Nelson’s room, Mrs. Nelson will ring the bell, but in Mrs. Shapiro’s room, a student whose job is the bell ringer always rings the bell, and this job changes every week. Then, Mrs. Shapiro tells each student that it is clean-up time, and helps students who are having problems cleaning up.
So, like the idea I proposed in CD III, transitions are made by straightforward requests and commands that the students can understand. However, Mrs. Shapiro sometimes has to go further than state the command. Sometimes she will need to motion certain students to follow her instructions who have not followed them, and explain to those students what to do with hand motions. Because the attention spans of the kindergarteners are extremely low, sometimes she will have to spend so much time telling a few students to follow an instruction that this will be enough time to get other students sidetracked from her initial command. Then Mrs. Shapiro will have to go and restate the command for them. Mrs. Shapiro often talks about the need for assistants in her class, and relies on the observing occupational therapists to help her when she needs it during transitions, and I often will repeat commands that Mrs. Shapiro has. Interestingly, the attention span seems to be much less for the kindergartners than for the preschool students that I work with in Mrs. Nelson’s class.
Of course, there is one requirement to most transition techniques that would result in the failure of the technique in question if not met: obedient students. Most of the students are willing to obey Mrs. Shapiro. One student, Julia, is extremely obedient. But periodically, there are a few students who do not obey Mrs. Shapiro. When I was in her class, I would refuse to obey her on a few issues—especially being quiet in the hallways in line. I never was quiet, and never obeyed her, to the point where she truly gave up. Ironically, I often have to enforce rules that I myself was unwilling to follow when I was in their shoes—such as being quiet when in the hallways!
And that is where discipline comes in. I vividly remember some of Mrs. Shapiro’s discipline strategies, as a student who was disciplined myself. She basically kept telling me it was important to have a “quiet cotton” line in the hallway, and would just be more and more stern and forceful about it. But no matter how many times she was forceful about it, I still did not comply until it was time for the Letter Parade. Only then did I deliberately dressed up as Mr. Quiet in order to be quiet that day, and finally comply with the request she had given to me for the past year. I have heard an oft-repeated theory that kindergartners are naturally obedient, and it is abnormal for kindergartners to be disobedient. This applies to me—as a little boy with autism, I refused to obey this rule because I just didn’t understand why it was so important.
However, Mrs. Shapiro will sometimes use basic punishments as a way of motivating students to follow the rules in the future. On Day 7, Ken and Peter did not stop playing a game they had started playing during free time. Because they were unwilling to clean up when asked, and continued playing, Mrs. Shapiro told them that they would have to stop free time earlier the next day as punishment. However, Mrs. Shapiro later informed me that in retrospect, that was a poor discipline solution because that relied on her remembering to enforce the punishment, which she might not do. Should she not do it, those students will not learn that lesson.
Later, I was informed that Mrs. Shapiro had remembered to enforce the punishment, and wrote a special note to her in order to make sure that she did.