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In Democratic Discipline in Your Classroom, Rightmyer explains to us through a personal example of her own how children can be led to play and learn together in peace in a classroom. In her example, the classroom becomes a democracy, and children take an active role in solving their own problems within the classroom. The central idea of Rightmyer’s system of problem solving for children revolves around the class meeting, or a daily group meeting of all the children in the classroom. Rightmyer gives a list of materials needed for this democratic system of guidance, including an agenda and a book of solutions, and suggests that each be kept in certain spots within reach of the children. Each tool should be appealing to the children. For example, the book of solutions should be made of bright colored paper. Before the guidance strategy is implemented, the purpose of each of these tools should be clearly explained to the children. It is important to the process that each child understand what the tools are for.
Rightmyer goes on to tell us the step-by-step and day-by-day process of her democratic guidance strategy. It starts by explaining the process to the children during their first class meeting. The children should be given an example of a problem to go on the agenda, allowed to brainstorm solutions to the problem together, and the final agreed upon solution should be recorded in the solution book. The following day during the class meeting, new items that have been written on the agenda should be addressed, and the effectiveness of yesterday’s solution should be evaluated together. By the third day, the children should begin to describe the problems they are writing on the agenda and develop solutions to their own problem, working with the class to form and agree upon these solutions. This process should continue every day until it is a routine. Rightmyer tells us that while the amount of problems on the agenda might be lengthy at first, eventually they will die down as children begin to solve problems for themselves without the aid of group time. The practice should be consistently used on a daily basis for full effectiveness.
Personally, I would use Rightmyer’s strategy in my own classroom. Though I don’t plan on working with children that are old enough to use such a system during my career (that is a huge let down- as much as I love this idea, I will probably never get to use it because it can only be used with older children that have the ability to write), if I am ever given the opportunity, I will use this guidance practice. Children can benefit from the self-directing factor of it, and it is an easy way to get a group of children to work together without conflict. The whole process of pinpointing the problem (using the agenda), working together by giving each other input to solve the problem, and reaching a solution to the problem is a very important process for children to go through that can help them to solve problems in the future. It would be worth finding a way to adapt this democratic method of problem solving to work with younger children. Perhaps instead of provided a pen and paper, some kind of chart could be used to record problems on the agenda and the book of solutions could use pictures rather than words. As long as the class is working together to solve their problems, the goal of democratic discipline would be achieved.
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