The Ottumwa Courier

Education

October 26, 2012

Bringing positive reinforcement into the classroom

Program teaches preschool children respect, responsibility, safety

OTTUMWA — You won’t see pushing and shoving in Pickwick Elementary’s preschool classes, only “please” and “thank you.”

Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is a framework for teachers to incorporate positive reinforcement into their daily interactions with students in order to promote respectful, responsible and safe behaviors.

Angie Van Polen, PBIS trainer and coach for Great Prairie Area Education Agency, observed preschool teacher Jan Wetrich’s class Thursday. The agency observes the classes once each spring and once each fall to gather data to report to the Iowa Department of Education.

“It’s a positive way to interact with children instead of saying, ‘No. Stop,’” Van Polen said.

Instead of scolding children for what they’ve done wrong, it teaches children what they should do the next time they’re in the same situation.

“It’s research-based, it’s not curriculum,” Van Polen said. “It’s a framework, a philosophy of how to work with reinforcement of good behavior guided by behavioral expectations.”

The program focuses on two qualities: respect and safety.

When you walk into classrooms, you should hear teachers using positive reinforcement to guide students’ actions and reactions, Van Polen said.

After snack time in preschool teacher Maria O’Dell’s classroom Thursday, her students carefully folded their napkins, poured the rest of their milk down the drain and made sure everything was thrown away before grabbing a book.

“Are we using nice hands with the books?” O’Dell called out as the kids started swarming the bookshelves.

When some students hesitated before sitting next to their peers, O’Dell reminded them that they were all friends and needed to fill in all of the spots for story time.

The teachers also use emotional literacy, using books to teach children positive and negative words to describe their feelings.

“These are skills we know kids need to be ready for kindergarten,” Van Polen said.

And these skills are not just necessary in the moment, they’re skills needed for the rest of their lives, she said.

The hope is that PBIS will spread through the entire school district in all grades, she said.

After returning from a seminar, Van Polen said Seton Catholic School teachers were asking administration if they could start using Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports (SWPBS) with their students.

The Ottumwa School District has participated in the program since 2006, and teachers say they’re seeing changes.

And Ottumwa is unique in that it has access to training and coaching from Great Prairie AEA, whereas other communities may say they’re incorporating PBIS, but can’t be held accountable through training and observation, Van Polen said.

Four family workshop nights will also be held soon to teach parents about PBIS and give them the same tools teachers use in school to continue teaching it at home.

“It will teach them why it’s so important to play with their children,” Van Polen said. “They shouldn’t tell them, ‘Don’t. Stop.’ instead of telling them what they can do.”

A lot of times, parents get caught up in a child’s challenging behaviors instead of addressing what can be done to change those behaviors into something positive, she said.

“It’s a mind shift we have to take on,” Van Polen said. “Just because you’re trained doesn’t mean it happens right away.”

Wetrich said she becomes more and more comfortable with the program every year and has seen changes in her students.

“In September, we went to the library and showed them what they can do in the library, using their inside voices, don’t run because it’s not safe,” she said. “And we teach them the reasoning behind these things.”

Teachers and parents can’t make assumptions that kids know how to act when they walk in a room, Van Polen said.

The program also uses verbal and visual cues to teach children in order to adapt to each child’s learning style. Not only do they tell the kids what they need to do, they reinforce it with cards, projects and activities.

1
Text Only
Education
  • 15-minutes.png A change at Evans

    OTTUMWA — You can get kids to memorize facts. But teaching them to think can take more time. Educational leaders told the Ottumwa school board that the school year that begins 2014 will shift Evans Middle School students from 45-minute periods to 60-

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Agriculture Day color photo 2 -T -L -M Cardinal students celebrate Ag Day ELDON — Sometimes the best way to learn is to get out of the classroom and come face-to-face with things that you might not see every day. Students at Cardinal Elementary School got that chance Thursday during Ag Day. Every year, the Cardinal FFA and

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT Joe Tafta color photo -L -T -M Pursuing opportunities

    OTTUMWA — Joe Tafta follows the rules. The Simpson College junior hopes to be a U.S. marshal one day, so he’s careful about what he says and does. But not always. On the afternoon of April 1, Tafta says, he nearly got booted out of Dunn Library for m

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • Carrying bookbags a balancing act OTTUMWA — Permission slips. Notes from teachers. School activity announcements, birthday invitations, report cards and homework to sign. Kids bring home a lot of stuff. But is it done fairly? The school board this week was asked by ranking members of

    April 16, 2014

  • Van Buren to share FFA with Harmony KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren Community School Board approved a recommendation from its administration to share the ag program with Harmony for the 2014-15 school year. The decision means that Van Buren students would travel to Harmony to receive ag instruct

    April 16, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416 OTT Ron Oswalt mug -T School board member resigns

    OTTUMWA — As this week's school board meeting came to a close, the president read a letter from one of the members. Board President Carol Mitchell read that fellow board member Ron Oswalt was announcing his resignation from the Ottumwa Board of Educa

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0410 OTT picture Bracelets -M -T Caring Kids

    OTTUMWA — Five fourth-graders didn't need grownups to show them it feels good to help others. They found out firsthand. "I wanted to do a project with the bracelets I make. And it's better to help people than to just do a random project," Kennedy Hug

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0410 OTT Fairfield business students photo color Fairfield students proving to be future leaders

    FAIRFIELD — At Fairfield High School, students interested in making a career in a business-related field have the chance to join the Fairfield chapter of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), a nonprofit organization that helps prepare them for

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National