George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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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Trish Potts's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our school has a demerit system that we adopted several years ago. Students earn demerits for offenses such as talking at inappropriate times, not following instructions, being unprepared and being tardy. A few offenses earn three demerits such as profanity and disrespect. These demerits accumulate over a week and can result in detention time or inability to participate in after school activities. The system is school-wide so the students understand that they are held accountable in all classes.
However, as with any system, our demerit system has different levels of effectiveness depending on how it is used. I always give warning before giving a demerit (except for the big-daddy 3-demerit offenses)and I try to make the demerit visible without shaming the student. I keep the demerit chart on a clipboard. Usually when a behavior has continued after warning, I continue teaching while I place the clipboard on the student's desk. They know instinctively that they must sign their name and check the appropriate misbehavior box (I have never had a child ask what they did wrong). By doing this I have sent a message to the class that the rules will be enforced and to the individual student that the consequence is not a personal attack. Because of this, after the first three or four weeks of school, I rarely give out demerits. With my 85 students I usually average two demerits a week. However, for other teachers, the demerits are often ineffective or used as a tool for a high-profile power struggle. Many of them spend inordinate amounts of time entering their 40-50 weekly demerits into the computer system.
So as with any education or management tool, the effectiveness is less about the tool and more about its implementation. I adhere to the belief that positive reinforcements should be made clear and obvious to all and negatives only seen by those intended.

Amanda Holroyd's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I taught at a Title 1 school in Tacoma, WA. We regularly had discipline problems that ranged from students simply talking and being distracting during a lesson, to yelling obscenities and fighting other students. During some of the more intense classroom management issues, we worked out a buddy system with at least two other nearby teachers so that unruly, disruptive students could be sent next door for a time-out, or occasionally for the rest of the period. It worked well because we knew exactly where the student was, we did not need to worry that we were over-crowding the office, and we could easily send assignments next door so that student would still be able to work and get caught up.

Best Online Universities's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is very important part of the series which give important view about key elements of any good system.

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