Monday, October 13, 2008

Stress Balls for ADHD Kids

One of the things I enjoy about this job is how much the kids teach you about teaching. I don't mean learning from experience; I mean when they come right out and tell you solutions that other teachers have used. One bouncy kid actually asked me to make him a behavior contract to sign, saying "It helps me behave."

At the beginning of the year many of my ADHD and/or extrabouncy kids told me that stress balls really help, so I went around looking for them (lately I haven't been thinking far enough ahead to order things online as I should). First I bought some squashy balls from Walgreens, but I'm on my second set now. If you want to do this in your classroom here are some things to consider.

1) Stress balls are something you'll see in stores occasionally, but its really hard to go looking for them. Order online, or look at Party City, where I found these balls (note to self: PC by JoAnn's, 5th aisle, halfway down on LHS):

2) Get unpopular styles. My Walgreen balls were Disney themed - Cars, Toy Story, and Winnie-the-Pooh. They disappeared very quickly, with Cars going first, then Toy Story, and Winnie-the-Pooh balls getting stolen when I had a substitute. Party City had squashy sports balls but I've learned my lesson now.

3) Make sure they don't do any of the following things: bounce, make noise when squashed, make noise when rubbed against a smooth surface like a desk, come apart easily, or seem interesting in any way. I nearly bought some squashy balls before I realized they were the "inside-out" balls that can be turned inside out and stretched over the head, with gel spikes sticking out everywhere. Huge catastrophe averted!

4) Don't let them take them home. It seems obvious, but when a kid says "If this is only for me can I keep it in my backpack?" and you're in a hurry, don't say yes!

5) Either clean them every day or buy one per student. I will be labeling mine A-L and listing which kid can use each one.

6) Keep them in the front of the room. Even though its more disruptive, make the kids come up to the front to get them and put them away. Anything not tied down is fun to steal for those 1-2 immature kids per class.

Overall the kids are very grateful that you went out of the way to get stress balls for them, though at the beginning everyone will ask for one. I suggest making them come after school to ask for one, which is what I am going to do. That cuts down on kids that just want to waste class time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seating Chart Template

I've been having problems deciding what information to keep on my clipboard and what to keep elsewhere. I've already gone through several permutations:

1) Keep attendance only

2) Keep attendance and write everything else down randomly near their names

3) Keep attendance and behavior

4) Keep attendance on clipboard, behavior on board (This worked very well once I listened to the other teachers and did this. During my student teaching I was at a school with such bad discipline problems that the students would walk up to the board and wipe their names off, so I was reluctant to try it here. But, as I am continuously reminded, this is NOT Student Teaching High School. Putting their names up has freed up my clipboard space, held them accountable, and helped me not lose detentions!

5) Keep attendance and write HW and Class Participation points randomly near their names

And now I am on Seating Chart Method 6.0. I needed the following things:

1) Desks with enough space to write their names
2) Desks with spaces for attendance, tardies, MP (hw) points, and Classwork points
3) Desks that would be identifiably rectangular and not square so they looked like my class (OCD)
4) Desks big enough to write on
5) Desks small enough to fit 34 on my 8.5"x11" paper in the right configuration

After spending way too much time playing with Microsoft Paint (yes, the free app that comes next to the calculator) I came up with the following possibilities for desks:

I chose one of the diagonal ones as the best for my purposes, and wasted more time (hey, its my fall break; if this is the most fun I have...) making a diagonal version. My problem is that I like the simple and clean bitmap format for things like this, but Paint has so few tools - for instance, it can only rotate 90 degrees. After spending a lot of time measuring with my fingers on the screen I hit myself on the forehead and remembered what I had realized last semester - I'm a math teacher!


In other words, if you want to make a diagonal of a certain length, you can make a circle with that radius and use any line from the center to the circumference. Again, I could have done it faster by relearning Fireworks or buying Paint Shop Pro, but I'm a geek like that. Math in action!

I then created my seating chart - 8 groups, 4 students per group, with two additional individual seats for students that want/need to be by themselves until a group activity begins (at that time they will have to pull their chairs to the nearest group if they want participation points for the day).

Finally, to make transportation and sharing easier, I inserted the above pic into a Word document and added my turtle crawling onto the page from the bottom left corner.

The top boxes are for attendance every day of the week. If they are absent I mark a slash from the top right to bottom left corners of the rectangle. If they show up late you modify it by adding a line from the middle of the rectangle to the bottom right corner (so it looks like a sideways skewed "T" for tardy).

The two diagonal areas are for classwork and homework points. During bellwork I go around and check More Practice (my term for hw) and give them 1, 2, or 3 points and write that numeral in the first triangular section. During classwork I use the second triangle to deduct 1, 2, or 3 points if they are off-task. At the end of the day I can (theoretically - let's see how this works out!) quickly input these grades into Easy Grade Pro.

2 examples (1 absent student, 1 tardy student):

All these pics, and the Word document, can be found at the Sines of Learning Document Page. They are licensed under a Creative Commons non-Commercial license.


Starting Over

Well, my first nine weeks were - okay, I guess. I spent the first 6 beating myself over the head and the last 3 shrugging it off - maybe a little too much. I've learned a lot over these 9 weeks, and I have decided to view this next quarter as a way for me to start over. Even if its too late to train some of the kids to behave, I can start over. For myself.

Its fall break now, and I was planning to spend it in the following way:

Friday-Sunday: enjoy myself in Tucson
Monday-Friday: work at school without a school day looming over my head

Instead, an hour after the kids left I started feeling a tickle in my throat, and my week started like this:

Friday-Saturday: trail after friends in Tucson, hacking and coughing, with a roll of toilet paper for tissue
Sunday-Monday: Sleep 18 hours a day at home. Also drink South Asian remedy which is so disgusting that I usually choose to be sick instead

Its Tuesday now, and I'm back in my classroom listening to the radio and making a To Do list on the board. So far, it looks like this: