Monday, October 30, 2017

Providing Controlled Choices in the Classroom

I always knew that I'd be a strict teacher. That I'd make sure that my students followed directions, did their work, and were respectful to everyone around them. It was something I was taught by my parents and it was something that was ingrained in me as I went through my classes as an undergraduate student observing in classrooms until I got to my student teaching. It was then that I truly learned that if you did not have the command of the classroom those students were going to show you who was in charge. 

So in the time that I have taught (over 10 years now) I have learned a lot about behavior in the classroom. I am in no way an expert and I do not have my BCBA (I thought about it and went for my principal certificate instead) but I have friends that are BCBAs and worked with some in my classroom and learned a lot about things that can and won't work in the classroom settings. 

There are a lot of things I have seen and the plan is not to go over all those things but to more or less give you a tip that has helped not only myself but the staff in my classroom when you get into a scenario with a student that is just straight up non-compliant. It is called giving "Controlled Choices"  and it is something that took me some time to understand but, once I understood it has really helped me in my classroom realize that there are times where students just want to feel like they are in control, especially when they are anxious about something and if we can provide them with choices that they feel in control of the situation can get a lot better. 

The definition of a controlled choice is this:

"Choices can be offered in countless settings, including meals, chores, centers, routines, and play. Types of choices may include choosing materials during an activity, choosing what activity will come next, and choosing a friend to sit with at lunch. The intervention consists of offering choices among two or more types of materials or activities."

 "Although several explanations for the effectiveness of this strategy have been suggested, evidence suggests that choice making is effective because it allows the child to feel that he or she has some control or power over the environment. This control, in turn, motivates the child to participate and remain engaged longer."

So for example if you have a student, Jesse that is just refusing to do work and you have tried talking to them about completing the work but they are just still telling you no. A way to use this strategy is by asking the student if they would rather complete the work in pencil or pen (if you know that they like to write in something different). This way the work is going to get done just with a different type of utensil. 

I have found that this strategy does work well for students that want that ability to feel that they have a voice and that they can do things they want from time to time and it's not only about what you want them to do. This strategy is also an easy one to teach the paraprofessionals in your classroom because you can provide them with examples of things that might work best for the student. Then they can avoid being in those power struggle situations with students and avoid those unwanted high stress meltdown type scenarios. 

In some situations in my classroom I find that using visuals to give those choices in the high stress scenarios is the best. Here is an example of the break choices I provide in my classroom for students so that when they want to take a break in the classroom they have a choice. 
If you'd like to grab the freebie of this in my TPT store go here!

I know that even though I don't want to empty my dishwasher if I was given the choice to either have someone help me or listen to music while I did it I'd be a lot more willing to empty it. Sometimes providing our students the opportunity to be responsible and make their own choices it makes them feel empowered and more willing to work. 


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