As you have seen in my other pages on classroom discipline, particularly in the case studies found on the individual approaches page, seating is a critical component. Humans are social animals who are constantly influenced by those around them.
This is particularly true of elementary children who are much more likely to lack the reserve and judgment of older kids and adults.
Removal from the social groups of your classroom, no matter what that grouping looks like, is an effective consequence for a few reasons:
"Fine...but I get to name my island."
That last one is sort of like "cafeteria syndrome"...you know, you enter the company cafeteria by yourself and feel distinctly uncomfortable when you can't find a table of friends with an open seat.
Humans like to run in packs and don't like to be separated from their peers. This can be a very strong inducement for a student to alter his classroom discipline behavior in order to rejoin the pack.
And that is the goal: for the student to be a part of a social group. But moving a student desk to accomplish this must be done correctly to be effective.
First, while a moving a desk is a direct consequence of misbehavior, it is not presented in a punitive way; it is explained to the student as a positive that will help them:
"Stephan, I noticed that you are not getting your work done because you are so busy with Erica and Jeff. So I'm going to put your desk over here where you can get your work done without distractions."
"Julie, you keep talking when I'm teaching and that is keeping other kids from hearing my instructions, and I know you are not hearing them either. Sitting away from the group will help everyone understand the lessons better."
And they need to know just what they have to do to get back to their group:
"When you show me you can meet expectations independently, we can move your desk back."
Finally, add some encouragement:
"You can figure this out...you are a big second-grader now."
Of course, they are well aware of the expectations because you have been clearly stating them, as outlined on this page.
Now, where do we put the student? The one place you absolutely do not put them is isolated in the back of the room. Our goal is to change their behavior, and that can't be done if they are out of your sphere of influence, abandoned at the back of the room.
Pet peeve: I don't like to walk into another teacher's room and see the difficult-to-manage kids isolated at the back...or as far from the teacher's desk as possible. This is not what effective classroom discipline looks like...it's what giving up looks like.
All too often, these same teachers will group all the special-ed kids together as well, "so they can come and go easier."
Teachers are in the classroom to teach and influence children...ALL the children...ALL the time.
Don't place them too far away from the group; if your room is large enough to really separate them, you might find that distance causes an outspoken student to magnify her behavior so she is still heard and seen.
While I have moved student desks right up next to my own, this is not critical for classroom discipline; they just need to be easily accessible so that you can quickly intervene to correct continuing misbehavior.
The next step, if they need even more assistance in concentrating, is to turn them to face away from the group, again with an appropriate explanation about how this will help them focus.
If you can arrange it, give the island some positive aspects, even if they are unstated. For example:
The child is only separated from the others when all are in their seats; they still need to be included in group work (such as working on spelling words with a partner) as much as possible. Of course, you carefully choose the partner and praise them for the ability to meet expectations as often as you can.
When you have seen improvement in classroom discipline and classroom behavior management, ask the student if she is ready to try it again. If not, respect that choice. If so, reinforce:
"OK, Maria, you've shown me you can meet expectations so let's see how you do at a table group...but be ready to move back if you need more time to practice."
Sometimes a classroom discipline plan demands a few sessions of island status. And sometimes, as in cases where a child (often one with a diagnosis) simply cannot leave others alone, the status may last for months or all year.
NOTE: If you do find that a child must be separated long-term for the learning or safety of others, your obligation to work with them more attentively increases.
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