Talking to, and building relationships with our children is most important.
A small study undertaken in New Zealand by McDonald and Parsonson (2011) illustrates how important it is for teachers to take time out each day before school to greet their students and have a sustained conversation with them, particularly those students who are described as “hard to settle.”
In an urban school, three teachers of eight –to- ten year old students were asked to identify two children in their class who were hard to settle at the beginning of the school day. Observations indicated these six selected students were on average 42% on-task at the start of the day.
The teachers were then asked to take time each morning for upwards of 10-15 consecutive school days to meet and greet the target students, and have a conversation with them prior to school. The outcome of this intervention showed students then engaging in greater on- task behaviour (up from 42% to 70% on-task) during the first twenty minutes of the class day.
Minutes prior to the start of class, as well as the first minutes of the formal class day are crucial, and pivotally set the scene for expected behaviours, as does classroom organisation, and managed transition at the start of the school day.
Although not quantified, observations made during the intervention phase also noted an increase in the teachers use of targeted specific praise in the class setting toward “hard to settle” students.
Furthermore this project also demonstrates how teacher greetings can have an effect on a student’s on-task behaviour, and represents an antecedent manipulation, which can be adapted to a variety of classroom settings.
It is suggested a classroom educator consider:
· Always being in the classroom well before the start of class
· Making time before the start of class, when teacher and students can informally meet, greet, and talk to each other
· Having a sustained conversation with “hard–to- settle” students before class start time.
Footnote: This small New Zealand project was found to mirror the results of a study undertaken in South Carolina, USA, by Aliday and Pakurar in 2007 which involved three older-age students.
Shona McDonald M Ed (Hons), PG Dip Ed Psych, Dip SNRT.
Shona has worked in both education and health settings. She currently works as a Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour within a cluster of New Zealand Schools.Shona is a Registered Teacher, Educational Psychologist, and Speech-language Therapist.
Barry Parsonson PhD
Barry is a New Zealand Registered Psychologist with extensive national and international experience. He has worked in academic, clinical, forensic, and educational settings and currently practices as an International Consultant. He is particularly well known for his research publications, mentoring, and professional expertise in Applied Behavior Analysis.