You can help keep your Read-Aloud running smoothly by breaking the kids into small groups, using your space creatively, and catching the kids being good (see TRC Game Plan, Part I and video below) but it will only work if you, the other teams at your site and the kids consistently know what to expect from each other. That's where predictability, consistency and reinforcement come in.
Here's a TRC Volunteer demonstrating excellent positive reinforcement skills!
Use these ideas at every Read-Aloud for best results.
Bring in reinforcements. Site staff members are there to help you. They work with these kids most days of the week and know what makes them tick and what really works to refocus or calm them down. They have told us that although they want you to handle disruptions as much as possible, if you need help managing a situation, need to remove a child from a Read-Aloud, or could use their calming influence or insights into the kids’ personalities and dynamic, don't hesitate to get the staff's help. Site staff want everyone to enjoy the Read-Aloud as much as you do.
Also, don't forget the power of one-on-one interaction. Use your team creatively and when a child is having an especially hard time, try pairing him or her with a volunteer who can explore books, do the activity or talk one-on-one. Sometimes some personal attention is what a child needs to get through a rough patch.
Be predictable. Not knowing what to expect is stressful. When people are stressed out, they tend to behave erratically. Stress floods the body with adrenaline that switches the brain from making choices based on reason to making choices based on fight or flight instincts.
Many of the children we serve find themselves in a constant state of stress, biochemically altering the way they cope with situations. When TRC Read-Alouds are predictable and consistent week to week, the kids' stress levels will drop and they'll be able to participate more constructively. They'll also know exactly what is and is not allowed and thus won't be as tempted to push the limits.
As a TRC volunteer, you decrease erratic behavior when
- your whole team shows up on time (that means 10 minutes before the start time of the Read-Aloud),
- you come prepared with an exciting, engaging Read-Aloud, and
- you always start your Read-Aloud by reviewing the TRC Promises and what they mean.
When kids know what expectations we have for them, when we remind them of those expectations and when we consistently enforce them, the kids can relax and engage more fully in the activities you have prepared for them.
Using the TRC Promises to promote positive behavior means that every team, every week consistently
- talks through the promises and their meaning with the kids,
- reminds a child, using calm and specific language, when he or she is not keeping her promise to listen, respect, cooperate or have fun, and
- explains that kids get two chances, and if they can’t keep their promises, they have to leave the Read-Aloud for that week.
To explain the three chances idea, you can use a stoplight analogy: green light, yellow light, red light. If a sports reference is easier for the kids to understand, you can use a baseball analogy: three strikes and you can try again at the next inning (Read-Aloud). Or, you can use a yellow card and red card soccer analogy.
If, after two reminders, a child is still too disruptive to participate with the group or work with a volunteer one-on-one, explain to the child that because he or she wasn’t able to keep his or her promises this time, he or she will have to leave the Read-Aloud. Get a staff member to remove the child and encourage the child to come back next week.
For the children to behave consistently, every team, every week, needs to be consistent in their use and enforcement of the TRC Promises.
The promises aren't only for the kids. Volunteers also promise to listen, respect, cooperate and have fun. Understand the kids' need to engage and move around. Don’t talk about the kids in a negative way in front of them. Listen to their ideas. Allow them to help. Bring a boatload of fun to your Read-Alouds.
Having positive expectations, working consistently to encourage good behavior and constructively containing disruptions will allow for more fun at your Read-Aloud for both you and the kids.
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