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Teacher displaying self-made visuals for self-regulation 

Yes, sometimes I get carried away with how I present my lessons. I dance, prance, sing, and use some really exaggerated words and movements. If I’m going to keep eleven sets of eyes focused on me and the lesson I am intent on teaching, then I really have no choice. As I’m sure you can relate to, there’s one kid looking out the window, another playing with something, two more fidgeting, one talking to himself, and well, you get the drift. Over the past several years, I have found that adding “animated teaching” to any lesson or concept that I want the kids to learn, improves not only their focus, but understanding of the lesson, too.

The amazing thing is, they are able to focus on the lesson longer, but being the young learners that they are (ages 6-9), you know that it’s bound to happen. Along with this type of teaching, students may get so involved that the giggles set in, maybe even a bit too loud. I used to wave my hand, but that became hysterical to them, also. So, then, I thought, what about if they became accountable for their own behavior during lessons presented in a large group setting?

Armed with crayons, pencils, scissors and glue, I told my class that they could draw their very own STOP signs. I explained that they could be any color or shape, but that it had to have the word “STOP” on it (of which I wrote on the board for them to copy) and their first name. They got busy drawing and cutting and were proud of what they had created. After they were all finished, I laminated each one and told the kids what I would be using them for. They said they understood and I applauded them for now being able to take control of their own behavior, which would also make my group lessons run smoothly.

As our lesson began the next morning, which included the Election activities that you see behind me, I heard just a little too much laughing and saw at least three students with off task behaviors. As I began to hold up a stop sign targeting the behavior of a specific student and say, “Carlos says...” and the class, all at once says, “Stop!” And, guess what? THEY STOPPED! It just seemed way too easy to solve a behavior problem this big, but it works! Try it! All eyes will be on you. It’s never a distraction to the lesson, because the initial distraction or behavior was already there. What it will do, is halt that behavior, even if for just a small amount of time.

Here are a few of the signs completed by my kids.

This truly simple, easy to implement behavior strategy, has helped both my students and myself tremendously. I always keep the visuals close at hand when presenting a group lesson. I would suggest that you do the same. If one student is having an especially challenging time focusing, I will grab his STOP sign. Hearing his name gets his attention, which is quite often used as a classroom accommodation anyway. Many of our students have IEP goals for behavior in large group settings. Here’s an IEP goal that may apply:

Given visuals and one verbal prompt during a teacher led lesson in a mid to large group setting of up to ___(# of) students, STUDENT will respond appropriately by looking at the visual in order to acknowledge that he/she must maintain focus on the lesson presented, as measured by documented teacher observation, over a consecutive six week period, by MONTH, YEAR. (IEP end date)

If you try this behavior visual system in your classroom, please share with us. We would love to hear how you have implemented this easy-to-use behavior system.