Health & Family

Who's boss? 3 girls versus teacher

Q. I've got a threesome of girls who are 6 coming up in my first-grade class, and I expect them to be trouble. Any ideas for dealing with friendships in class would be helpful. – A teacher in Mooresville

Take charge of the classroom. Don't give the trio of girls a chance to spell trouble.

“The teacher is No. 1 in the classroom. She can do all kinds of fun things,” says a reader from Rhode Island who has taught in elementary school for more than 15 years. “You are in charge.”

Start the year by rotating desks often, having the kids switch partners and playing games that mix them up. Also, have the students tell about themselves in different, smaller groups of kids each day.

“I would not even think about children who are 6 coming into my class being trouble,” the teacher says.

Research into the social nature of children shows that some girls start cliquish behavior even before their 4th birthday. To ward off behavior problems, establish guidelines with the students, keep the rules posted and enforce them from the start, such as:

Treat each other with respect.

Be kind to your classmates.

No whispering or passing notes.

No behavior that excludes other classmates.

Keep your hands to yourself.

The first-grade teacher who's expecting trouble needs to adjust her expectations, says Robin Lair of Gloversville, N.Y.

“You can't always believe what you hear,” she says. “Just because a previous teacher found the behavior of these students to be challenging doesn't mean a new teacher also will. Children behave differently in different environments. If the Mooresville teacher expects trouble, that's exactly what she'll get.”

But the girls can cause trouble, contends an elementary school counselor in Raleigh.

Observe the behavior and activities of the three girls, and the one who is the most interactive and talkative should be placed with another teacher, he suggests.

“This is best for the girls and for the entire classroom,” he says.