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Dr. Ken Shore's
Classroom Problem Solver

Gum Chewing in Class


Educators have differing views about whether students should be allowed to chew gum in school. Some believe that gum chewing should be prohibited because it can impede the learning process. They contend that gum chewing can be noisy and distracting to other students and that students who stick their stale gum on classroom furniture cause an unsightly mess. Others say that monitoring gum chewing and disciplining students who violate policies against it is a waste of teachers' valuable time. Whatever your views on gum chewing might be, be sure your efforts to deal with the issue interfere as little as possible with classroom lessons.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Learn your school policy. Some school districts prohibit gum chewing altogether; others leave it up to the discretion of individual teachers. Talk with your school principal or check your district's code of conduct to learn the policy at your school. If gum chewing is forbidden, make that clear to your students at the beginning of the year when you are discussing other school and classroom rules. If your school does not have a policy against gum chewing, make your own rules and "stick" by them.

If you plan to allow gum chewing, set limits. You might decide to allow gum chewing as long as it doesn't interfere with your ability to teach or your students' ability to concentrate. Tell students that they may chew gum as long as they do it silently and dispose of it appropriately. Explain to students that if you hear gum chewing, the offending student will be asked to spit out the gum. If students do not follow your "no noise" and "no mess" policy, you'll probably want to prohibit gum chewing altogether.

Deal with a gum-chewing student quickly. If gum chewing is prohibited, either by you or by the school, respond to gum chewers in a way that is minimally disruptive to the class. You might, for example, respond in one of the following ways:

  • Look at the student and say, "Gum, please."
  • Say the student's name, point to your mouth or to the posted rule, and then point to the wastebasket.
  • Bring the wastebasket to the student and point to it.

Whatever approach you use, keep an eye on the student to make sure he follows your instruction.

 

If the problem continues, give the student a consequence. Don't make a big deal of a student who is caught chewing gum once or twice; if it happens more often, however, you might require that he stay in for recess or serve after-school detention. Don't contact parents unless it becomes a constant problem.

Response actively to inappropriate gum deposits. If a student sticks gum under his desk, make him remove it. If he does it a second time, you might have him stay after school and remove gum from under all the desks.

Don't confront a student who denies chewing gum. When reprimanded for chewing gum, a student might claim that he is not chewing gum. Don't make an issue of it. Nothing will be gained by escalating the gum chewing into a confrontation or a power struggle. In fact, if you are aware that a student is chewing gum, a better strategy might be to avoid dealing with him directly at all. Simply announce to the class, "I would like anyone chewing gum to get rid of it now."

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.
 

 

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