Shoulds and Should Nots

Last school year I had one of my writing groups fold a piece of paper in half hot-dog style.  (Hot-dog style is a teacher-term with which you should all familiarize yourselves.  It’s very technical.)  On the top of the paper I had them write “Should” and “Shouldn’t.”  Then we took a few minutes to brainstorm things we should be doing during writing time and things we should not be doing during writing time.   Here is a sample that exemplifies what I was looking for:

Clearly, this one was written by a very well-behaved student.

Here are a couple more, written by students I lovingly refer to as “tweakers.” 

Should: follow directions and listen. Should not: try to be spider pig, do a youtube video, explode.
This is clearly my handwriting, but I really just wrote down what the kid said. He had a very appropriate list of things he should be doing. While his list of "shouldn'ts" are all very accurate, there are a couple that cause some alarm. Mechanical fist?


We compiled the ideas from this brainstorming session into a poster-appropriate list and I hung them up for the rest of the year.  Clearly we did not include any references to spider pig or mechanical fists.  We did, however, include fart noises.   When things got goofy, I’d say something like, “I’m gonna need you guys to scan the list…where are we falling right now?”  Or I’d praise them by pointing out all the things on the “Should” list they were exhibiting right then.  Or I’d say something like, “Oh, man…which side of the list are fart noises on?  Yeah, so should you be doing that now?”  They’d all discussed and come to an agreement that fart noises were not something they wanted to deal with during their writing time, so it wasn’t me they were answering to, it was themselves. 

Is this a research-based intervention? I dunno.  Is it something I found in a behavior management book written by an expert? Nopers.  Is it something I made them do one day instead of subjecting them to my eyes getting really wide and rolling around in my skull as I told them for the 32,475th time that fart noises were unacceptable? Yep.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear 'em!

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