SIGH. How I sympathize with you. Last year I had a fifth grade (2 classes)
from hell. The classroom teacher was glad to be rid of them and the
principal didn't want them either. I confess it was not a successful year
for any of us. Although I liked them all as individuals, as a group they
gave me nightmares.
Once and a while this worked: tell them that those who successfully
complete the first task with appropriate behavior get free time working
with...(fill in a popular activity, for me it was clay) and FOLLOW THROUGH.
They really hate to see their buddies rewarded and they are not. Once I
intoduced this by handing out chocolate kisses to each kid I saw modelling
appropriate behavior. (This came right after Xmas break, so they really
needed to be reminded of the expectations, although not in need of candy)
There was one kid who kept hollering "How come I don't get candy?" until it
finally dawned on him...duh.
Can't recommend this all the time, but desparate measures. I also had a
candy project that they had to earn with six weeks of excellent behavior by
the WHOLE CLASS (we looked at yummy paintings of food by pop artist Wayne
Thiebaud then I handed out colorful wrapped candy that they painted
pictures of, and of course got to eat the candy at the end of class.) This
wouldn't work at the school I'm at now which totally forbids candy!
There is always the recourse of having them stay in for recess to wash
tables, help with younger kids, etc., a type of punishment that most take
seriously, and if they complain enough at home their parents do too. I have
also failed kids who DO NO WORK because they are too busy being disruptive,
and their parents really hate that, especially if they have to come in for
Parents need to know that there is no excuse for disruptive behavior,
whether they value the class or not. I try to keep parents out of it unless
I absolutely have to because often some of my parents just beat the kids
for bad reports. The kids then give you as much crap as possible because
you won't beat them and just hope you don't report to the parents so it is
a vicious cycle.
Good luck! Oddly enough in this terrible group they REALLY liked looking at
and talking about art - and writing about it too! It was the production
part they lost it on. I tried to play to their strong suit but all in all
it was a tough year. This year's better! Hopefully it will be for you,