Examples of Classroom Use of "Nice Ways"
Author: Megan Weitz

Implementation 1:  Describe the Problem

This procedure was implemented first because my students (12:1:1 self-contained 6-7 years olds in private school setting with learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, and emotional disturbances) were having difficulty being aware of problems in the classroom, especially thinking that they were done cleaning up when there were materials left all over the classroom, including the floor and the rug.  My assistant and I met before we implemented the technique so that it would be twice as effective if we were consistent in our messaging to the students.  The next day we began to try to “describe the problem” when it was time to cleanup at the end of free choice.  We set the minute timer and when the bell rang, we waited to see which students would remember to start cleaning up their games and materials.

I noticed that there were little Playdoh crumbs all over one of the tables in our classroom.  I said, “Wow!  It’s going to be hard to find our lunches if we have all that Playdoh left on the table.”  Immediately, Ben looked up and saw all the crumbs and began to sweep them together and put them back into the containers.  My assistant saw that there were BINGO chips left all over the rug, but the box was already put away in the cubby.  She said, “It would be great if we were able to find all those BINGO chips that were left on the rug the next time we want to play BINGO together.”  Penny and Jim were talking on the rug, but heard my assistant mention that and put the chips away.

We have continued to use statements to “describe the problem” because we get tired of saying, “Jim!  Put those BINGO chips away!” and realize that it is ineffective to always say the same statement to get students’ attention.  We have found that these “describe the problem” statements are also effective when students are having difficulty remembering to unpack their homework folders and communication notebooks in the morning.

Implementation 2:  Short statements

This technique was used because my students have such a difficult time remembering to unpack their backpacks in the morning, organizing their materials before they leave for their reading and math groups, and packing up at the end of each day.  I found that long worded explanations were completely ineffective and after asking once or twice, short statements were the most effective.  Penny needed to remember to unpack her lunch, communication notebook, folder, and eyeglasses each morning and pack them up at the end of the day.  She often forgot at least one of these components, and constantly needed teacher support to get it all together.  I created a checklist with pictures and taped it to the inside of her locker, and then could say, “Penny, your checklist!”  She would check her list, and make sure she had everything.  If there was still a piece missing I would say, “Penny, your glasses.”  I also have another student who always tries to come into the room before going to his locker to unpack in the morning.  If he gets in the room wearing his coat and backpack, and my assistant and I do not catch him before he gets started playing on the rug, it takes a lot of persistence to get him back into the hall to unpack.  We have started a routine where one of us stands in the doorway and as Eli approaches the classroom door we say, “Eli, let’s unpack!” or “Eli, your locker!”  This has decreased his efforts to come into the room first and it helps him start his day in a much more organized manner.  Once he gets to his locker, he usually knows what to do (and if not, another short statement works!).

Implementation 3:  Ripple effect

The “ripple effect” has proven to be a very effective self-awareness technique during my morning circle time in my classroom.  We started off the year by having the students sit on the rug, but quickly found that their lack of personal space awareness made it much too difficult for everyone involved.  Now the students bring their own chairs over to the rug and sit in a semi-circle around our meeting center.  However, we still have another set of issues with the class, especially keeping their hands and feet to themselves, having a quiet voice, raising their hand to speak, and keeping their chairs flat on the ground (not tipping back in them).  In order to have this be an effective technique, I made sure that my first few statements were firm and clear.  When going through our schedule, I asked the students to raise their hand and tell me “what comes next” in our day.  Unfortunately, I had several students blurt out the answer, so I said, “I love the way that Maggie is raising her hand with a quiet voice.  Maggie, what comes next after reading?”  After doing this twice more, my “interrupters” were desperate to be called on and raised their hands while jumping around in their seats.  Next I said, “Marty, your calm body is showing me you are ready to share.”  Then, two of my “interrupters” tried as hard as they could to calm their bodies and raise their hand.  I immediately called on them to reward and reinforce their appropriate behaviors.  My assistant and I have found ourselves not only using this often during morning circle time, but throughout the school day when trying to get students to show appropriate behaviors.

Thanks Megan!