Professional Learning

The Schoolroom Peace Plan, Part Four: Consequences

For your system to work, students have to understand the consequences of bad behavior.

October 30, 2008

This is the fourth part of a six-part entry. Start with the introduction.

If your reward system is strong, clear, and active, you won't have to put quite as much time and energy into your consequence system.

A consequence system has two critical parts: Students need to know the consequences, and they need to see you enforce them.

If you often hear your kids say, "That's not fair!" then there's something going on that you need to examine. Perhaps you haven't made the rules explicit enough or broken them down well enough. Perhaps you haven't delineated the consequences. Maybe you haven't been enforcing the consequences consistently. Most of the time, there's some truth to the cry, "That's not fair!"

Dozens of examples of classroom-management systems exist. In California, many schools are using the I Understand program, developed by Noah Salzman. (Check out the Web site's free download page.) This basic approach works well, although, like any system, it takes a while to master.

The key elements of any good system are the following:

  • Students know and understand the rules.
  • The consequences are progressive, and students receive a number of opportunities to get back on track (from a warning to a time-out to a call home to being removed from the room).
  • There are consequences for severe misbehavior.

A system such as this implies that you have administrative support. Eventually, you should be able to get to a place where you rarely need to send a student out of the room, but you do need to have that option. If that structure doesn't exist in your school, it can be challenging.

Find a system to use. What do other teachers in your school do? Is there a plan you're expected to follow? Start using it. Modify it if you need to, but use it consistently.

Sometimes teachers feel like all these behavioral systems will swallow them up and distract them from doing real instruction. There's so much to keep track of, write down, chart, and organize, and you do need to keep records of what happens. But these structures and systems are your friends. If you use them effectively and consistently in the beginning of the year, they'll slowly move into the background and become like a foundation for your room. You will use them when you need to, but it will feel more fluid and comfortable.

Please share your thoughts, and check back for the next part of this entry.

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