This includes a number of behaviors–making funny noises, rude gestures, faces, talking, interrupting, whining–done primarily to attract people’s attention, gain peer approval, or mask learning problems. Also, some children adopt attention-seeking behaviors, because they do not know any other ways of getting people to look at them or listen to what they are saying. Occasional clowning around is part of being a child, but when it turns into a child’s main way of interacting, it becomes a problem.
o Pay attention to children when they are behaving the right way. This prevents children from resorting to silly behaviors to get your attention, and also promotes their self-confidence.
o Arrange opportunities for children to perform in front of an audience. Some suggestions are staging a magic show, puppet show, variety show, talk show, debate, or panel discussion.
o Teach children joke-telling etiquette: (a) how to tell a joke so people will laugh; (b) knowing the difference between jokes they can tell their grandmother and jokes they keep between their friends; (c) discriminating between a bad joke and a good joke–for instance, racial jokes are bad jokes; (d) choosing the right time to tell jokes–not when dad is fixing his car or the principal is making an announcement at school; (e) laughing at their own mistakes or when the joke is on them; and (f) distinguishing between situations which are funny and can be laughed at, and those which appear funny but should not be laughed at, like somebody tripping on a banana peel.
o Teach children the right ways of getting adult attention and making requests. For instance, if you are talking to another child, children must stand quietly and wait for you to recognize them, and then they can say, “Excuse me,” before starting in on what they have to say. When asking questions children should use a big voice and only ask their question once. Discourage children from whining (using a thin nasally tone of voice), and nagging (asking the same question over and over again).
o Ask children who interrupt all the time to limit themselves to two each period. Anything more you’ll be happy to read after class.
o Teach children how to ask for positive feedback from adults and other children. This gives them more control in getting recognition for their appropriate behaviors, so they are less likely to do negative behaviors instead. Suggest comments which do not make children look conceited or like they are fishing for a compliment, because these can rub people the wrong way. For example, “What do you think about my drawing?” will bring a friendlier response than, “Is my drawing the best you’ve ever seen?”
o Try to find out if children’s silliness is covering up other problems such as fear, stress, or learning disabilities.
o Ignore it. Attention-seeking behavior with no audience has little pay-off.
o Cue children with a symbol on the board, hand movement, stern look, or a walk over to their desk whenever their silliness is going too far. Follow up with a reward if they respond to your cue.
o If children are in a silly mood, give them an errand or chore to do outside the classroom. This helps them forget about acting goofy, and also gives your other students a chance to settle back into their work.
o Simply stop talking until the child stops acting silly. Another idea is to give the child the floor. Announce to the class that Jack obviously wants their attention, so you’re going to sit down and let him have the class’s attention. This will probably catch Jack off-guard, and make him re-think his silly behavior.
o Ask students to record their silly behaviors on a chart. This by itself may be enough to modify their behavior.
o For children who enjoy tipping their chair back, ask them if they would prefer to stand or sit. If they say stand, take away their chairs and let them stand for the rest of the lesson. At the start of your next class give them the same option. Chances are they won’t choose stand.
o For children who like tapping their pencils on top of their desks, try giving them black crayons. Crayons are not as grown-up as pencils, nor do they make the same sound when they hit the desktop.
o Allot complaining children one particular time of day when they are allowed to let it rip and complain all they want to. This helps them bring their complaining behavior under conscious control.
Another suggestion is to have a complaint box so children can put their thoughts in writing, and not interrupt your class.
o Tape-record whiny or nagging students, and have them listen to what they sound like. This may inspire a number of voice changes.
o Ask the child to hold his silly pose for five minutes. Although he and other children may find it funny at first, I guarantee that by the end of five minutes most children will be back at work, and the child will be happy to do the same. Another strategy is to ask the child to look at himself in a mirror as he’s practising his pose. This has the same effect as watching yourself sit on the toilet or some other embarrassing activity.
o Ask the class to mimic the child’s silly behavior, all together now. The child may not enjoy doing this as much as the other students.
o Schedule a one-minute period every day when students can let it all hang out, and act as silly as they want.
o Turn the tables on children who constantly interrupt your conversation by barging into theirs. When they get frustrated with you, agree with them that people who interrupt make you mad, but this is what they do to you and others all the time.