Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Get Children to Take Care of Materials


          I just got finished designing the costumes for a school play and I was so impressed with how well the children took care of their things during those five days of busy chaos. This got me thinking about how we teach children to be respectful of their property – and classroom materials. Especially when working with young children, this can be a challenge since they have little impulse control, newly developing motor control, and only a rudimentary understanding of social rules.
             Like so many behaviors we hope children will do, taking care of classroom materials needs to be taught. Here are some tips:
  1. Be organized. Have a specific place to put things away – markers, books, papers, blocks, etc. Label the area, adding pictures to make it really clear for young children. The more organized you are, the more organized the children will be. This is the critical first step in teaching children to care for classroom materials.  
  2. Introduce Materials. Don’t let children use materials until you’ve introduced the procedures to use them appropriately. The Responsive Classroom calls this Guided Discovery. Be sure to model how you want children to care for the materials, whether it is how to make sure the tops of the markers click when you put them on correctly, or how to turn the pages of the class books so they don’t rip. There is almost nothing too simple to model – in fact, teachers typically don’t get specific enough. Next have the children practice what you’ve modeled. Then give them opportunities to try using the materials independently.
  3. Offer Reminders. Children will need many reminders to learn the proper care of materials. Be supportive by repeating the modeling as needed, or just reiterating things to remember, for example, “As you work on your drawings, remember to put the caps back on the markers and push until they click.” or “When you are reading silently, remember how we learned to turn the pages in the books gently.” 
  4. Give Positive Feedback. It is critically important that you acknowledge when children do take care of their things. “Bryan, I noticed you remembered how to turn the pages carefully when you were reading.” This way they will begin to pay attention to their own success and know when they are on track. Do this every day!
  5. Use Logical Consequences. If you’ve followed these steps, and children repeatedly fail to follow your guidelines, it is important to set boundaries by using logical consequences. If a child does not put the caps back on the markers, then she can’t use them. If a child doesn’t turn the pages of the books gently, he won't be allowed to use them independently. When using logical consequences, your tone of voice must be calm, and the child should always get another chance to use more appropriate behavior soon. If many children are not following the guidelines, then you should go back and have another group lesson on caring for the materials.
           Remember that children will make mistakes and will need time to learn to control their impulses and take control of their bodies. With plenty of modeling, practice, and positive feedback, you should be able to develop a learning environment in which children care for the materials and use them properly. Please share with us other suggestions you have for what has worked in your classroom!

9 comments:

  1. The part on Organization I feel is so important to have in the classroom and to also go over this with the students. I use to have everything labeled with pictures and categorizes so the student would know where to put things away. Then after going over each pieces and explaining where things go and how to put them away, I would then one day grab a couple of pieces from each area and have the students in groups put things away the right way and try to explain why they put it there. Such a basic thing but so important to go over. Thanks, for the wonderful read and the reminder to teach everything to younger students.

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    1. Wendy - I love the way you have the students put things away and explain why they put them there. This would be very effective not only for helping them remember why something goes back in that spot, but it's also a great classification activity. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I loved this blog! I feel is very important to teach our student to take care of our materials. In the classroom that I used to work at, we labeled and put up pictures for almost EVERYTHING! Labeling really helps them recognized words for those early readers. In the classroom that I am currently doing my internship, this is not the case :( The classroom set up is different then your typical desk and chairs, the children sit at "U table" and they have all their books piled up at the edge of it. This is so frustrating for me.

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    1. Maria - sorry to hear you are frustrated. The organization of the leaning materials can be such an important part of teaching. You bring up an important point that labeling the environment can also be a great early literacy activity - thanks for reminding us of this!!

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  3. I recently made white lap boards for the students and I went through the steps for using these materials thoroughly. But YES they need reminding and it is hard for them to control their impulsive lil' hands when working with the dry erase markers. My solution ... I'm switching to dry erase crayons and working our way back to using dry erase markers. Wish me luck =)

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    1. Jessika - Great idea for home made response boards! They look terrific and can be seen here: http://pinterest.com/pin/266486502920766853/

      Check them out!
      Thanks for sharing :-)

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  4. These ideas are great! I don't work in a classroom, but I do have a three year old daughter and frequently volunteer at her preschool.It's soimportant to remind children often. They get so excited to use new material that thier impulses take over. I also remind my daughter to respect and no to "hurt" materials, and if she does she has to fix it. For instance, if she rips a page in a book, she has to tape it back together. This works well and actually allows her to see if we "hurt" something it takes work to fix it.
    Dahlia Mohamed

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  5. Dahlia, Yes - many of these ideas work very well with children at home, too. Thanks for reminding us of that! Great example of "hurting" the book - makes me think of apology-in-action that I wrote about here: http://www.thepositiveclassroom.org/search/label/Apology

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  6. This is a great blog. Children have impulses and can be quite destructive. It is important that we teach the students how to take care of the classroom materials as well as their own. This will help preserve the materials as well as teach the children responsibility.

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