Friday, March 27, 2015

How Big is Your Problem??

In Pre-K and K Peace Classes we've been talking about different problems and how big or small they really are. We identified a 1-5 scale for talking about our problems:

5=huge problem
4=big problem 
3=medium problem
2=small problem 
1= no problem/very small problem

To figure out the size of the problem we can ask ourselves three questions:

1. Is it dangerous?
2. How many people are having the problem?
3. How long will it take to fix the problem?

We watched the puppets act out various problems and looked at pictures of problems, then voted on the problem size. Nearly all kids were able to tell that most of the problems were a 1 or 2. These included:
  • Not getting the toy they want at the store
  • Not having their preferred food to eat
  • Falling down and scraping a knee
  • Getting a shot at the doctor's office
  • Losing a game
  • Getting in an argument with a friend
  • Not getting their first choice at choice time
  • Having a fire drill at school
The only big, #5 sized problem we looked at was a volcano.
We all agreed that if we were hiking up a mountain that turned out to be a volcano, that would be a really big problem. When we have a #5 problem, a big reaction like screaming and crying is okay. Anything else is relatively minor, and we can tell ourselves "it's not really a big problem!"

Each classroom got a poster of their own Problem Size thermometer with the three questions to keep. Students and teachers are encouraged to refer to the poster the next time someone in the class has a problem. Most of the time, it's going to be a small problem so we can match our reaction accordingly and remain calm, thank goodness!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Positive Behavioral Supports in School

Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS): Tips for Parents and Educators

Greetings parents, staff and friends.  An important part of school is a healthy school climate.  Here at Lafayette, we strive to offer support to help children and staff reach their maximum potential. We encourage all to: Be kind, Be safe, Be responsible and Work hard. By promoting positive interactions and encouraging preventive strategies solves behavioral issues before they start and helps to keep our school a pleasant place to be.  Enjoy the beginning of Spring.    Harriet Kuhn, Psychologist

The goal of Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS), also called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), is to help parents and school staff create and maintain a safe, supportive, learning environment, promote positive life skills, and reduce negative behaviors so that all children can succeed in school. PBS focuses on both individual behavior and environmental factors and has proven more effective than punitive discipline strategies, such as suspension and expulsion. PBS programs can address issues such as bullying prevention, social skills development, resiliency building, and discipline strategies.

What Is PBS?

  • Applies behaviorally-based systems approaches to enhance the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments in which teaching and learning occur.
  • Focuses on creating and sustaining school-wide (primary), classroom (secondary), and individual (tertiary) supports that improve lifestyle results for all students by making problem behavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.
  • Establishes a leadership team that guides the implementation of PBS strategies.
  • Develops a set of core behavioral expectations for all students in the school.
  • Engages all school staff, parents, and students in maintaining expectations and employing PBS strategies.
  • Teaches those expectations across all areas of the school.
  • Provides positive reinforcement for compliance with the expectations.
  • Establishes a hierarchy of consequences as corrective procedures.
  • Collects data on the use of established procedures and the impact of those procedures on behavior.
  • Builds a set of procedures for maintaining PBS strategies school-wide.

What Are the Levels of PBS?

  • School-wide (Primary) Intervention. Intervention at this level is designed to be a more proactive approach to preventing problem behaviors from occurring in the first place. These proactive approaches typically involve the creation of a school climate and culture that supports and promotes positive student behavior. Behavior is addressed under a school-wide approach, meaning that all components of a school system, including physical locations (e.g., classroom, cafeteria, gym, playground) and personnel (e.g., teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, support staff) are involved in the prevention efforts.
  • Classroom (Secondary) Intervention. Recognizing that not all students will respond to school-wide intervention efforts, targeted group interventions must be put into place for the small number of students who need more support. These students may be called “at risk” because they have a higher incidence of problem behaviors than expected. These students may need small group reteaching of the expectations in various school settings, or they may need small group instruction in social skills or social problem solving.
  • Individual (Tertiary) Intervention. There always are a few students in schools whose behavior is so severe or disruptive that they require intensive, individualized interventions. These students may have individualized education programs (IEPs) and/or individualized behavior support plans that are developed based on a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) Because these interventions are student-specific, there is not a specific intervention strategy for tertiary prevention efforts.

A Role for Parents

Parent involvement in all aspects of their child’s educational planning is often the key to the success of the child. When parents are actively involved in the educational activities of their children, the children are more successful in school. This is particularly true when there are behavioral concerns. Parent communication with the school and participation in school activities can provide academic and behavioral support as well as help develop a healthy school climate.
How can parents help?
  • Work to develop a positive school climate.
  • Participate on the leadership team.
  • Help teach your children the importance of school-wide expectations at home, at school, and in the community.
  • Volunteer in school activities.
  • Support with teaching of and reinforcement of expectation in home and community settings.
  • Help with school efforts to advertise the program to the community.
  • Work to gather community resources (earn funds, canvas local merchants for participation) for creating and maintaining the program.
  • Take part in the instruction and reinforcement systems if our child is part of a classroom or individual intervention program.
  • Celebrate your child’s successes.

NASP Resources Available Online

NASP has a number of resources available to assist families and educators in helping to create school environments that promote positive behavior and develop life skills. These can be accessed at

Resources for Schools

Bear, G. G., Cavalier, A. R., & Manning, M. A. (2002). Best practices in school discipline. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology-IV, (pp. 977-991). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Doll, B., Zucker, S., & Brehm, K. (2004). Resilient classrooms: Creating healthy environments for learning. New York: Guilford Press.
Lehr, C. A. & Christenson, S. L. (2002). Best practices in promoting a positive school climate. In A. Thomas& J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology-IV, (pp. 977-991). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
McLoughlin, C. S., Kubick, Jr., R. J., & Lewis, A. (2002). Best practices in promoting safe schools. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology-IV, (pp. 977-991). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Sugai, G., Horner, R.H., & Gresham, F.M. (2002). Behaviorally effective school environments. In M.R. Shinn, H. M. Walker, & G. Stoner (Eds.), Interventions for academic and behavior problems II: Preventive and remedial approaches, (pp. 315-350). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Thomas, A. & Grimes, J. (Eds.). (2002). Best practices in school psychology IV. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Resources for Families

Cohn, A. & Canter, A. (2003). Bullying: Facts for schools and parents (On-line). Available: www.nasponline. org/resources/factsheets/index.aspx
NASP (2002). Social skills: Promoting positive behavior, academic success, and school safety. Available: www.nasponline. org/resources/factsheets/index.aspx.
OSEP Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, family page: http://
Teaching Young Children Self-Control Skills (On-line). Available:

Article above By Candace Cartwright Dee, PhD, NCSP, & John Boyle, EdS, NCSP

NASP Communiqué, Vol. 35, #2
October 2006

Candace Cartwright Dee, PhD, NCSP, is a school psychologist in the Jordan School District, Sandy, UT. John Boyle, EdS, NCSP, is a school psychologist with the Heartland Area Education Agency in Johnston, IA. © 2006, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Hwy. #402; Bethesda, MD 20814,, phone (301) 657-0270, fax (301) 657-0275, TTY (301) 657-4155

Motivation in Children


The last of the snow is almost gone...Spring is surely on its way.  Along with spring, is the season of testing and the final push to the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  Teachers and staff at Lafayette continue to work to keep your children happy and engaged in the learning process up until summer break.  The long run of days from the snow day vacation or "snowcation" until spring break always makes both students and staff long to go outside and enjoy the weather but also remember how lucky we are to be at Lafayette learning.  This article is about how to help children stay engaged in school at this time of the year...Enjoy.  Harriet Kuhn, psychologist

Motivating Learning in Young Children

Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives. Children who do not receive this sort of support and interaction are likely to have a much different attitude about learning later in life.

Characteristics of Motivation in Young Children

Children do many things simply because they want to do them. Selecting a toy or a shirt to wear is the result of "intrinsic motivation." The child makes her own choice and achieves satisfaction from both the act of choosing and from the opportunity to play with the toy or wear the shirt. Since the activity is generating the motivation, it is mostly self-sustaining for as long as the child wants to continue the activity.

Children also engage in some activities because adults tell them to, or in an effort to please another party. These activities are "extrinsically motivated." When a child is extrinsically motivated, the reward comes from outside the child-it has to be provided by someone else, and has to be continually given for the child to remain motivated enough to continue the activity.  It is more difficult for a child to sustain extrinsically motivated activity because of this reliance upon some outside force.
Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated - when he believes he is pleasing himself. Parents can build on this sense of confidence by guiding their child's play and activities while still giving the child a range of options. This unstructured play is an essential element of the child's motivation, learning, and development.

 A number of behavioral characteristics are indicators of high motivation. Here are some of the important factors and some ways to help your child develop these characteristics.
Persistence is the ability to stay with a task for a reasonably long period of time. While very young children cannot concentrate on one activity for an hour, there are still measurable differences in the length of time that young children will engage in an activity.  A highly motivated child will stay involved for a long period of time, whereas an unmotivated child will give up very easily when not instantly successful. Children learn persistence when they are successful at a challenging task. The art in building persistence is in offering a task that is just challenging enough, but not overwhelming.
Choice of challenge is another characteristic of motivation. Children who experience success in meeting one challenge will become motivated, welcoming another. These motivated learners will choose an activity that is slightly difficult for them, but provides an appropriate challenge. When they successfully complete such a task, children gain a high level of satisfaction. Unmotivated children (those who have not experienced early success) will pick something that is very easy and ensures an instant success. With such easy success, children feel only a very low level of satisfaction, because they know that the task offered little challenge. The challenge for parents is helping their child find an appropriate challenge while still allowing the choice to be the child's.
The amount of dependency on adults is another indicator of motivation. Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities.  Children who have a lower level of motivation or are extrinsically motivated need constant attention from adults and cannot function independently. Since independence is an important aspect of quality learning, this dependence on adults will greatly limit children's ability to succeed in school. Parents can increase the likelihood of their child's building independent motivation by providing toys and activities that play to the child's natural creativity and curiosity. Often, these are the simplest, most basic playthings: blocks, little plastic "people," a toy car or two, and crayons and paper. These things encourage children to invent their own worlds rather than depending on an adult to entertain them.
The last indicator of motivational level is emotion.  Children who are clearly motivated will have a positive display of emotion. They are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.  Children without appropriate motivation will appear quiet, sullen and bored. They will not take any apparent pleasure in their activity and will often complain. As a parent, you are probably the best judge of your child's moods. That cranky, whiny voice is usually a good indicator that a child doesn't feel very good about herself and needs a new adventure of some sort.

Developing Motivation

Newborn infants are born with a tremendous amount of intrinsic motivation. This motivation is aimed toward having some visible effect on the environment. When infants can actually see the results of their actions as a reward, they are motivated to continue those actions. These attempts toward control are limited within the young child, and  include crying, vocalizations, facial expressions and small body movements. Toys that change or make sound as the child moves them are therefore strong motivators.

As infants grow and continue to mature (9-24 months), more voluntary, purposeful movements are possible. This gives them more control of their environment. This wider range of control allows children to feel that they are successful. Success leads to higher self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, which leads to strengthened motivation. As children continue to develop during this time period, they are better able to make decisions and plan what to do to gain control of things around them. They are beginning to set their own goals for activities. This success is not based upon adult standards, but totally upon the child's ability to accomplish the goals that he has set out for himself.
By two years of age, children are developing the ability to execute a sequence of events in order to achieve a goal. They also have an appreciation for standards and begin to evaluate their efforts. By three years of age, children become interested in doing things well, as opposed to just doing them. They have an idea of various levels of competency in performance and judge their success by their own internal standards. Therefore they have much less need for adult feedback about the quality of their efforts.

Preschoolers (age 3-5 years) are beginning to be more involved with verbal problem solving skills. They direct their own learning through speech and use vocal communication to direct their own behavior to solve problems. Young children are often heard talking themselves through a series of actions that lead to the solution of a problem. As children get older, this "talking out loud" will become an internal monologue. This newly developing ability to problem solve is the basis for motivation at this stage. Having the self confidence to know that one can solve a problem motivates the learner to accept other new and challenging situations, which in turn lead to greater learning.

Enhancing Motivation

For parents of young children, the goal should be to appropriately support the development of motivation so that there is a proper foundation for optimal educational growth.  Parents should be very cautions about the use of many extrinsic rewards, as this can severely interfere with the child's motivational development. Praise for an accomplishment is appropriate, but be sure that your child is doing a task because she is interested, not because she thinks it will bring praise from you.
Difficulties arise when adults or others within the child's environment enforce external standards and replace the internal reward system with one that depends upon outside forces to supply all of the rewards (candy, money, excessive praise). Children then begin to feel successful only if someone else rewards them for accomplishments. They lose their intrinsic motivation and may only feel success when someone else judges them as successful. In such situations, children may not develop feelings of self-worth, and will judge their own value by someone else's standards. Your child should never need to ask, "Did I do well?" She should know and be confident in her own successes.
There are several strategies parents can use to help children remain more fully intrinsically motivated.
  • Provide an environment (through age appropriate toys, activities, etc.) that allows children to freely explore and to see the effect of their actions (i.e., toys that have visible or tangible changes when moved).
  • Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence. When children are deeply involved with an activity, make sure that they can finish without interruption. Resist the natural urge to "help," and let the child know if, for example, we have to go to the grocery store in a few minutes.
  • Respond to children's needs in a consistent, predictable manner, but allow them to be as independent as possible. This does NOT mean ceding all control to your child. All children need clearly defined limits. Playtime, however, need not be structured and organized. Let your kid be a kid!
  • Provide many opportunities for children and adults to explore together and interact directly. It is important for both children and adults to be working together on an activity. This lets you observe, model, and encourage your child.
  • Provide situations that give children an acceptable challenge.  Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished. This may take some trial and error at first.
  • Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. You'll never go wrong by asking the question, "What do YOU think?"
  • Do not use excessive rewards. They tend to undermine children's ability to value themselves. Praise and rewards should be based upon children's effort and persistence, rather than on the actual accomplishment.
The world through a child's eyes is an awesome place. Allow children to explore and discover their world. Around every corner is an experience just waiting to surprise and excite young growing minds; all they need is a small amount of direction and a large amount of freedom. It is not necessary to praise and reward children for their own actions as they attempt to control their environment. The feelings of accomplishment they gain from results of those actions will be reward enough. Providing excessive praise and rewards is unnecessary and can actually be harmful to children's motivation and desire to learn. Remember, the habits and attitudes toward learning that are formed in these early years set the mood for all future learning.


Brophy, Jere (1997). Motivating students to learn. Guilford. CT: McGraw-Hill. (ISBN: 0070081980).
Einon, D. (1999). Learning early. Checkmark Books. ISBN: 0816040141
Lew, A. &  Bettner, B. (1996) A parent's guide to understanding and motivating children. Sheffield, UK: Connexions Press. (ISBN: 0962484180).
Kohn, Alfie. (2001). Five reasons to stop saying "Good job." Young Children, 56, (5), 24-28.
Provided by the National Association of School Psychologists. Adapted from "Early Childhood Motivation"(forthcoming in the second edition of Helping Children at Home and School, NASP) by Martha Carlton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Southern Illinois University--Edwardsville. © NITV, 2003.