The school year is well underway, and students are growing more comfortable with their environment. Although children may have started the year with exceptional behavior, many start to push the boundaries with their conduct. Whether it’s an inability to follow procedures or an unwillingness to stay on task, teachers want to protect the orderly classroom they worked so hard to create at the beginning of the year.
Although there are times when suspensions or even expulsions are necessary, behaviors such as bringing a weapon to school or threatening violence make major consequences nonnegotiable. However, trying other techniques before writing up a student for minor conduct concerns may get to the root of the problem, instead of temporarily fixing the issue by removing the student from the class.
Instead of students missing out on lessons due to punitive discipline, there are logical consequences that can help you understand and fix the behavior. If you have noticed an uptick in undesirable behavior, try these simple ideas. They will help you facilitate appropriate consequences without students losing valuable instructional time or damaging relationships.
Reflective writing can help students think about the problematic behaviors and come up with solutions.
First, the students answer questions regarding the incident. What happened? Why did I do it? How did my actions affect others? What can I do to correct the situation? The students then use their answers to create a well-written essay. I find it helpful to keep graphic organizers handy for students who need help with structuring their responses.
Students also follow a rubric that holds them accountable for including a topic sentence, supporting sentences, a conclusion, and a paper free of grammatical errors. Our teachers use these essays to teach concepts such as word choice and sentence structure.
These reflective essays are not about punishment: They help students sort through their emotions and provide valuable insight into the true cause of their actions. I find that many of my students identify appropriate consequences for themselves after they write their essay, as well as a plan to repair any damage they may have caused due to their conduct.
An added bonus of this strategy is that it can provide effective documentation for parent-teacher conferences and for Student Assistance Teams, and can help identify patterns in behavior. Using reflective writing not only strengthens writing skills but also affords students the opportunity to grow from their mistakes.
A Classroom Management Technique that Works
It’s easy to become frustrated during the school day. Have you ever been interrupted by a student shouting across the room while you were giving instructions? Do you get bombarded with requests to use the restroom or water fountain? These examples happen all too often and can wear you down.
So, what can you do? First, identify the area of classroom management that is giving you difficulties. Then, examine why you are struggling with this area. Finally, plan a positive elevator speech that will head off the improper behavior.
Classroom management issue: You are experiencing trouble with students who can’t seem to stay seated when they enter the room.
- Why is this happening: Are they out of their seats because they are sharpening their pencil? Are they looking for paper to complete the bell ringer? It’s easy to imagine that students are out of their seats because they’re disruptive. But closely looking at their behavior would show you that perhaps students are looking for materials or sharpening their pencils.
- Positive elevator speech: Take the time to calmly address the class with a prepared explanation for why you are implementing a new procedure. Preparing an “elevator speech” ahead of time will allow you to take the emotion out of your voice and speak directly to the issue.
The solution may include greeting students at the door with the assignment and providing sharpened pencils that will be collected by the teacher when they are dismissed. Try telling your students, “Remember, you should monitor your behavior, so it will not disrupt the learning of other students.”
Classroom management issue: You have a student who always likes to roughhouse on their way out the door, which can be a major safety issue.
- Why is this happening: They have extra energy or are seeking attention.
- Positive elevator speech: Conference with the student after class. Would asking the student to help you monitor the class at dismissal eliminate the idea of his touching or pushing other students? Asking for help shows the student that you value and respect him. This solution not only builds a strong relationship but also helps you avoid the endless cycle of telling this student to keep his hands to himself.
Try telling your students, “Please remember to be respectful, responsible, safe, and kind. We have discussed these concepts, and I know you are aware of how important they are to our classroom.” Remind students with examples that show positive conduct.
Students will push the boundaries with their conduct. Responding to undesirable behavior logically and speaking with kindness will keep students in the classroom and protect the teacher-student relationships that are so important to a successful learning environment.