"Do I get to come with you today?" he asked. Where did he learn to bat his eyelashes like that? I wondered.
"Keshon, you need to stop asking, Buddy. You know I don't get to choose. I'd take you if I could, but we're out of luck."
I love that needing a tutor in kindergarden is viewed as a treat.
The Echos and I have come a long way since the first week of November. They've learned over half the alphabet phonetically; I've learned that pee breaks need to come before the lesson. Actually, I would wager I've learned a lot more than they have. For what it's worth, here are a few pearls of wisdom for anyone out there who work with small groups made up of primarily 5-year old testosterone factories:
- Time is precious, especially if you get only 30 minutes twice per week. This requires structure in both the lesson plan and the behaviour management plan. Thanks to Fundations, the lesson plan is done for me.
- In our group, we work hard. Hard work earns praise, both verbal and, in a more 'visible' sense, stamps on a incentive card. (There are 25 squares on each card to be filled with stickers or stamps. Hot air balloons and high-five handprints are a real hit.) Our session usually requires them to complete four tasks. They earn a stamp for each.
- Hard work means we have to control our voices and bodies. If you control your body and voice for the session, you get an extra stamp. If an Echo can't keep their bottom in the seat, I break out my pencil and draw their attention to it. That is their warning.
- If, after a warning, they don't settle down, I place a check mark on their incentive card where their next stamp would go. This means they cannot earn another stamp until they model appropriate behaviour. Usually this step is enough to get the offender back in line. I erase the check mark once they are back to work.
- Occasionally an Echo drifts back to the problem behaviour. In this instance, there is no longer a warning and the check mark returns.
- If this still has no effect, a second check mark is added. This means that they must 'flip a card' in the main classroom which has consequences determined by the classroom teacher. This is devastating as it not only means less play time, but also a note home. I've done this once. Poor Tyrone. He's behaved better ever since.
- When an Echo's incentive card is full (this takes 25 stickers or stamps and two to four weeks, depending on the kid) they get to bring it home with a 'secret' note from me. I'm proud to say that they are beginning to read them themselves, so the secret is out. They also get to choose a new incentive card. The current favourite has an owl on it that bears a striking resemblance to Baby Echo, the finger puppet that serves as a teaching aid in Fundations.
I am amazed how effective this structure is, though I find I'm tweaking it regularly. They're learning and I'm learning. Keeping up is half the battle. My Echos earned all their stamps today. Way to go, boys!