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1. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 2 Power Teaching Challenging Teens (and the rest of your class, too!) Chris Biffle Chairperson, Philosophy and Religious Studies…
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  • 1. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 2 Power Teaching Challenging Teens (and the rest of your class, too!) Chris Biffle Chairperson, Philosophy and Religious Studies Crafton Hills College Yucaipa, CA 92399
  • 2. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 3 Many teachers contributed their ideas, insights and classroom practices to the techniques you’ll discover in the following pages. Thanks and deep gratitude go to the following instructors: Chris Rekstad, Jay Vanderfin, Heather Baltz, Andrea Schindler, Roxie Barrett, Angela Watkins, Zeke Stear, T.L. Brink, Julie Herman, Francene Fisher. This book was produced by the clever minds and busy hands of Power Teachers Press, a nonprofit, zero salary (!) company run by and for teachers. If you’d like more information, contact: Chris Biffle 909-389-3338 Note: All materials in this book are copyright protected. If this book was purchased from Power Teachers Press, the purchaser is granted the right to create one printed copy. No part of this text may be reproduced electronically or by any other means without the written permission of the author. Individual electronic and printed copies may be purchased by contacting Chris Biffle. School site licenses are available.
  • 3. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 4 a Contents Introduction 6 1 The First Minutes of the First Day 9 2 Getting Attention 18 3 Evaluating a Student’s Understanding 23 4 Educational Chatting 26 5 Voice of Command 29 6 Talking One on One 31 7 No Eye Contact Eye Contact 35 8 Strategic Withdrawal 36 9 Don’t Spit In Your Soup 38 10 The No Whining Vow 40 11 Teacher/Teacher Therapy 42 12 Self Evaluation 44 13 Class Evaluation 46 14 Class Rules 50 15 Class Rules Rehearsals 61 16 Rules Buy In 65 17 Classroom Procedures 67 18 Adapting the Scoreboard Game for Challenging Students 97 19 Making Disruptive Behavior Self Extinguishing 100 20 The Guff Counter 108
  • 4. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 5 21 Breaking Up Rowdy Cliques 112 22 Breaking Up Talkative Pairs 117 23 Keep the DeeJay Happy! 119 24 The Please/Okay Game 135 25 Student Leaders 140 26 You Bet Your Detention 149 27 Praise Therapy 153 28 The Birthday Game 154 29 Positive Tattling 159 30 The Magic Stopwatch Game 162 31 The Bull’s Eye Game 164 32 Short Form Complaints 171 33 Long Form Complaints 174 34 Separation Agreements 181 35 Item Contracts/Notes Home 185 36 The Top Secret Brown Bag 187 Afterword 189 Case Studies 1 First Year Teacher/ Power Teaching In Middle School 191 2 Power Teaching and the High School French Teacher 208 3 The Middle School Rebel: A Bull’s Eye Success Story 220
  • 5. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 6 a Introduction All across the country, in fact all around the world, many of our teaching colleagues go home, night after night, frustrated, tired, weary of struggling with challenging students. Let’s face it. We became teachers because we loved to teach. Who enters our profession eager to combat rebellious students? Perform this thought experiment. Tomorrow, something in the air makes all challenging students less challenging. Not only would teacher morale instantly improve, but also test scores would rise. Too many instructors are putting the majority of their energy into corralling the attention of a handful of students. Thousands of our gifted colleagues leave our profession not because they hate teaching, but because they love it and are beaten down by fighting a few kids in the back row. To paraphrase Tolstoy, every happy family is happy for the same reason; unhappy families are unhappy for unique reasons. There can’t be one cure for challenging students; there are too many different reasons why they
  • 6. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 7 are challenging. Every unhappy family is a unique, misery producing microcosm. John’s parents are junkies. Joan’s mother is dying of AIDS and her father is an intermittently recovering alcoholic. Jack is abused by his uncle. Jill has been handed by the court from one foster home to another. And so forth. There is no single teaching bandage that will cover all emotional wounds. Despite the claims of education consultants, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for student rebellion. We believe the best strategy is to offer multiple techniques that can be combined, permuted, into a unique pedagogical design that works best for you. Use the following strategies in any way and/or order you wish. Mix and match them; modify any to suit your style. But, don’t give up on a technique until you’ve tried it for a month, or longer. If you try one strategy and then quickly throw it out and try another and another, you may wind up with what you don’t want ... a challenging student who is even more challenging! After nine years of presenting Power Teaching seminars to over 3,000 educators, we have discovered a remarkable truth: techniques that help challenging
  • 7. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 8 students to learn, improve the learning of the entire class. The environment you create to help your most difficult students will nourish all your students. The strategies you’re about to explore probably won’t transform your difficult students into wondrous, attentive learners. However, the multiplicity of teaching techniques does address, perhaps even solve, one of our profession’s most common, and painful complaints, “I’ve tried everything! I don’t know what to do next!” Here are 36 things to do next. (Note: In the following, we’ll call our challenging students John, and Joan. Each represents a different facet of the challenging student personality. The teacher is referred to as Mrs. Maestra. The grade is Any Grade In Middle School or High School ... any grade with Teenagers. )
  • 8. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 9 1 The First Minutes Of The First Day Mrs. Maestra taught teenagers. She knew, right from the first minute of her first class, she couldn’t dink around. She had to immediately get her students’ attention, establish herself as the Leader and create orderly classroom routines. Thus, on the first day of class, Mrs. Maestra had the following diagram on the board. THE SCOREBOARD GAME More Homework Less Homework Today’s Homework = 10 pages RULE 1: KEEP THE SCOREKEEPER HAPPY
  • 9. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 10 With a firm Voice of Command (see chapter 5) Mrs. Maestra said, “Welcome to my class. You’ll find it is a bit unique. All semester we’ll be playing The Scoreboard Game. It begins fairly easy, and then it gets harder. Your goal is to reduce your homework, which today stands at 10 pages. You reduce your homework by keeping the Scorekeeper happy. Tell your neighbors who you think the Scorekeeper is .... Oh goodness, that was much too slow. I’m the Scorekeeper and I’m unhappy already!” Mrs. Maestra then made a quick mark under More Homework and said, “now you have 11 pages of homework! Pay very close attention, and I certainly hope no one is talking.” Mrs. Maestra then, dramatically, wrote the following under Rule 1. Rule 2: Follow directions quickly! She said, “Now, if you’ll follow Rule 2, and I mean quickly!, you can reduce the homework. CLAPYOURHANDS! ... Oh, that was better ... but a few of you were a little slow. Unfortunately, that now means you have 12 pages of homework!” Mrs. Maestra then put another mark under More
  • 10. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 11 Homework. She then said, “I can tell that many of you are trying, but not quite hard enough. One more time ... wait for it .... CLAPYOURHANDS! Much better!” Mrs. Maestra’s students were laughing now. Mrs. Maestra then made a mark under Less Homework. “Now, your homework is back to 11 pages.” She didn’t care that they hadn’t clapped their hands perfectly ... the point was that the second time her students clapped, they were much more in unison than the first time. Next, Mrs. Maestra said, “Now, listen to me very carefully. When you get a negative mark on the Scoreboard, I will quickly point at you. Everyone needs to utter a mighty groan, and lift your shoulders.” Mrs. Maestra then demonstrated, lifting her shoulders and groaning, “Awwwwww.” Her students laughed. Then she said, “All right, Mighty Groan!” No matter how quickly her students groaned, Mrs. Maestra put a mark on the negative side and exclaimed, “Some people didn’t groan! Some people didn’t even lift
  • 11. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 12 their shoulders! I said, ‘Mighty Groan!’” “Awwwww!” her students cried laughing and lifting their shoulders. “Much better!” Mrs. Maestra continued. “Now, when I make a mark on the positive side, you can have a one second party! Clap your hands and shout ‘Oh, yeah!” Mrs. Maestra demonstrated and soon, whenever she made a negative or positive mark, her students where groaning, or giving the Mighty Oh Yeah ... and laughing. Mrs. Maestra loved both the Mighty Groan and the Mighty Oh Yeah, but she knew the Groan was far more important than the Oh Yeah. Whenever she had to make a negative mark, her students might be upset; by telling them to give her a Mighty Groan, they not only vented their unhappiness, but they also laughed ... and thus were back on Mrs. Maestra’s side. If she didn’t make a mark under “more homework” too often, she could penalize her students without alienating them. At this point, Mrs. Maestra had the attention, and allegiance, of many students. Many in her class were indeed working hard to keep her, the Scorekeeper, happy. Mrs. Maestra had begun to move toward her first goal, to
  • 12. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 13 unite as many students as possible behind her leadership. In addition, she had presented her self as a strict, but entertaining teacher. Within a few minutes, Mrs. Maestra had accomplished a great deal. Mrs. Maestra continued with her normal classroom introduction. Occasionally, she would make a mark under More Homework or Less Homework depending upon how her students were responding. She had too much to do on the first day to mark every infraction or example of good behavior ... also, it was important to keep her class guessing about what and when their homework would go up or down. However, the first time anyone made a smart remark, or complained, (she was waiting for this), Mrs. Maestra whirled to the board, exclaiming, “Oh, goodness. That kind of comment makes the Scorekeeper unhappy!” She put a mark under More Homework. “Everybody Groan! And please tell your neighbors how unhappy you are when someone makes your Scorekeeper unhappy and causes you to get More Homework.” This always had the effect of uniting many members of the class against the person who made the smart remark. One thing Mrs.
  • 13. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 14 Maestra knew about teaching teenagers was that they were always eager to cap on each other. Now, here is a very important point. Mrs. Maestra would only mark the first few occurrences of deliberately disruptive behavior on the first day. If she made too many marks, she would unify her opposition. Mrs. Maestra knew from experience that the teacher had the upper hand when challenging students didn’t know what to expect. Mrs. Maestra always followed the plus/minus three rule when using the Scoreboard. She never let the negative marks exceed the positive marks by 3 points, and vice versa. If there were too many more negative marks than positive, her students lost hope. If there were too many more positive marks than negative, her students became lackadaisical. Thus, if Mrs. Maestra had to make several negative marks in a row for disruptive behavior, she would then add one or more positive marks by noting a few students who were on task. At the end of the period on the first day the score always was two points higher on the More Homework side than the Less Homework. This showed Mrs.
  • 14. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 15 Maestra’s students that she was serious about increasing their workload. (Mrs. Maestra knew that some of her students wouldn’t do the homework. But she also knew that they hated the idea of having extra homework ... whether or not they were going to complete it.) As you can see, the Scoreboard Game was fixed. The score always came out to be what Mrs. Maestra wanted. When she had slightly increased homework for a few days in a row, she could then slightly decrease it ... and still be exactly on her lesson plan. Mrs. Maestra knew one of the great rules of Power Teaching: Students will work extremely hard to avoid a small amount of work. Now, let’s think about the advantages of the Power Teaching system that Mrs. Maestra used. With the Scoreboard, she immediately established herself as the person in charge. She believed nothing motivated her teenagers more than avoiding homework, and so, she used this as motivation. Later in the semester she might decide to change the reward on the Scoreboard to more or
  • 15. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 16 less free time, more or less video time, more or less music (see Chapter 23) ... but beginning with homework as the motivator always captured the immediate attention of her classes. In addition, by using the Mighty Groan and the Mighty Oh Yeah, Mrs. Maestra generated large amounts of on-task laughter. She knew her students loved to have fun and their reactions to the Scoreboard reinforced her classroom management system. Mrs. Maestra understood that the more fun students had following her rules, the more energetically her rules would be followed. What if you want to be just like Mrs. Maestra but you’ve already started teaching? How can you make the switch to the Scoreboard? Here’s what you don’t say, “Class, we’re going to try a new system today. I’ll be very interested to see if you like it.” DON’T SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT. You’re inviting your students to criticize the new system. Instead, say something like this, “Class, usually at this point of the year I move to a more advanced system. Initially, it will be fairly easy, but then it will become more challenging.” In other words, you can begin the Scoreboard at any
  • 16. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 17 point in the term, even the last month. Simply pretend as if the particular day you introduce the game, was part of your plan since the beginning of the year.
  • 17. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 18 2 Getting Attention Mrs. Maestra knew that teaching began with getting her students’ attention. If her class wasn’t focused on her, she was just talking, going through the motions of instruction. Mrs. Maestra taught her students that when she said “Class!”, they should quickly respond with “Yes!” She found this much more effective than saying “Okay, everybody, I need you all to pay attention to me. John look over her. Joan stop that. Back row you need to look at me ...” and so forth. Mrs. Maestra said “Class!” countless times a day. At the beginning of the year, even Joan and John usually responded with “Yes!” When her students responded quickly several times in a row, she gave them all a positive mark on the Scoreboard. If they needed prodding with a penalty, she gave them a negative mark. Mrs. Maestra understood that the way the Scoreboard should be used, was part of the art of teaching ... and there are no exact formulas for any art. She did her best to read her
  • 18. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 19 students’ faces and body language, rewarding and penalizing them as she thought appropriate. One thing she always noted, however, was that as the year progressed she used the Scoreboard less and less because her students gradually learned to stay on task for longer and longer periods. One of Mrs. Maestra’s great talents as a teacher was that she always had a plan B; in fact, as a Power Teacher she also had plans C through Z. She knew her challenging students, like all her students, needed two apparently contradictory things ... consistency and variety. Part of Mrs. Maestra’s genius was to structure her class the same way but differently! When Mrs. Maestra noted that “Class!” wasn’t working quite as well with Joan, John and a few others she introduced a variation: “Class! Class!” Her students responded “Yes! Yes!” Later in the year, Mrs. Maestra would say “Classity, class, class, class!” (This variation was developed by Andrea Schindler, a Power Teaching Veteran.) Her students responded “Yesity, yes, yes, yes!” Then, for more variety Mrs. Maestra introduced funny tones of voice, a high voice, a low voice, a s--l--o--w voice, a fast voice, a robot voice, a
  • 19. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 20 pretend angry voice, a spooky voice. Then, one day Mrs. Maestra brought in a duck call. She said, “When I toot my duck call, you say ‘yes’ however many times I toot.” Mrs. Maestra discovered she could make the duck call “talk” using different tones. Mrs. Maestra had countless ways of getting her students attention ... lots of various techniques to do the same thing ... consistent variety and various consistency! Mrs. Maestra noticed that often John would respond with a “Yes!” and then, almost immediately, drift off into Johnland. Mrs. Maestra introduced a new way for students to respond. She told her class, “Occasionally, after I say ‘Class!’ and you respond ‘Yes!’, I will say ‘Hands and Eyes’. You should say ‘Hands and Eyes’ and look at me and fold your hands on your desks.” Mrs. Maestra found that using “Hands and Eyes” helped her rebel students in two ways: first, it reminded them that it was time to pay attention and second, it gave Mrs. Maestra a visual clue, hands folded on the desk, to tell if they were focused on her. Whenever Mrs. Maestra introduced a Power Teaching technique that she thought her teenagers might object to
  • 20. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 21 as too babyish, she used a stern Voice of Command (chapter 5) and actually looked forward to her students objection. When John said something like, “that’s too much like kindergarten” Mrs. Maestra whirled to the blackboard and made a quick mark on the negative side. She exclaimed, “Mighty, Mighty Groan! Tell your neighbors how unhappy you are when ANYONE says something that makes your dear teacher unhappy!” Invariably, her students, especially her rowdies, groaned loudly and made several unpleasant remarks to John. In other words, Mrs. Maestra, expecting her challenging students to be rebellious, used these occasions, and the Mighty Groans to unite her students behind her leadership ... and squash the rebellion! Isn’t that wonderful!! John’s individual rebellious behavior prompted rebellion squashing class behavior! You’ve already learned a great deal about our approach to teaching challenging students. Mrs. Maestra
  • 21. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 22 had a multiplicity of fall back plans, plans A-Z; she understood that each plan might only be a temporary fix; Mrs. Maestra recognized that techniques that helped her challenging students also benefited the rest of her class; finally, she knew that by varying her consistent technique she could achieve a surprising amount of engaging variety.
  • 22. copyright 2007, Christopher Biffle 23 3 Evaluating A Student’s Understanding Mrs. Maestra often needed to gauge the degree to which Joan, John and others understood her teaching points. Mrs. Maestra never used two common techniques for evaluating student understanding. Mrs. Maestra never asked, “Who knows the answer to this question?” She didn’t ask this because Joan, John and many others never raised their hands. Mrs. Maestra also didn’t like this technique because it wasted precious seconds of learning time. Her students would raise their hands and then she would have to pick one ... that might take 5 seconds! All day long ... week after week ... month after month. Mrs. Maestra needed every second she could get. Finally, Mrs. Maestra did not like asking for raised hands because when she pi
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