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The Classroom Disciplinary Strategies That Worked for Me

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Keeping order in your classroom can seem like a losing battle, but it doesn't have to be. Using a few easy tips, you can give control back to your students and bring back the serenity you've been missing.

3 Easy Techniques for Effective Classroom Discipline

If you have an active classroom full of excited, enthusiastic students, then good for you. You're clearly doing something right, and they are responding as only children can. Unfortunately, it can also provide a reason for disruptive behavior that makes it hard for students to learn. With the help of some wise colleagues, and through my own trial and error, I've come up with a few useful techniques to help keep my classroom in order without turning into a dictator. Look them over and, if you see something you like, try implementing it to see if you have better success keeping your energetic learners in line.

Help Them Help Themselves

Discipline in the classroom isn't about punishing students for unruly behavior. It's about giving them the skills they need to manage their own behavior, both now and later in life. To help my students to see the possible cost of poor behavior, we take the time to discuss it. We have a brainstorming session at the beginning of the term, and then shorter sessions throughout the year as needed. Asking what if questions to help students see the cost of their misbehavior is one of the most effective techniques I have found to curtail issues.

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A favorite tool of mine is Love and Logic. This system encourages empathy and open-ended questions to help students think about the consequences of continuing as they are. If a student is refusing to return required homework, for example, I ask them to think about the consequences of continuing.

  • What could happen?
  • What do they want to happen?
  • Is there a reason for the refusal?
  • What can we do to get beyond the issue?

By giving the power - and the consequences - to my student, they own the results. If they do poorly, it is up to them to correct it. If they do well, then that satisfaction is also theirs.

Make Yourself Clear

Life is full of rules and not all of them make sense at first glance. All my classroom rules - and by necessity, there are quite a few - have clear reasons behind them. Reasons that I make sure my students understand. I've found that, when students can apply a clear, solid reason to what may seem to be an arbitrary rule, it's easier to remember and they are more likely to follow it.

Some examples in my classroom look like this:

  • Walking, not running in the classroom. We are in a tight space and, when you run, you put other students in danger of injury.
  • Quiet voices in inside spaces. Our classes are open and excessive noise makes it harder for other students to hear the lesson and can disrupt other classes.
  • Supplies belong in the cabinet when not in use. Scattered supplies must be put away where they belong, or we won't have them when we need them. Plus, if I spend my afternoon cleaning up for you, I may not have time to plan that fun activity for later.

Providing students with these clear examples lets them know what I expect, why, and gives them an opportunity to help when needed. This has the added benefit of providing them with ownership of their classroom environment as well. Such ownership teaches them responsibility and respect as well as gives them pride in a job well done.

Approach with Love

Unless they have serious issues, students want to do well and be happy. They don't act out because they want to make you miserable. Accepting this and approaching misbehavior with patience and love, rather than frustration and anger, can make a huge difference in the way they respond when you must correct them.

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To that end, I use some of the following methods to get student attention and encourage cooperation:

  • Use 'I' statements. Telling my students what I see rather than what they are doing helps them to think about what is happening in the classroom, rather than putting them on the defensive.
  • Simple reminders. When class gets out of hand, restating my expectations in a quiet, calm voice is often enough to pull students back into line and remind them that we have work to do.
  • Non-verbal signals. At the beginning of the year, I teach my students to look for a non-verbal cue from me - a raised hand with two fingers up - as a sign that we need calm. I raise my hand and, as students notice, they do the same. It doesn't take long before each member of the class is in line, and we can continue with the lesson.
  • Redirect. Some days just stink, and we cannot keep it together. Either the lesson is dull, our enthusiasm has waned, or we've been inside too long, and we need a change of pace. I try to account for these days when planning my lesson. That way, when it happens - and it will happen - we can move our bodies and do something that will help to defuse the issue.

Whichever method I use, I always try to approach my students with love and care. Remember; teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. Not every mile will go without a hitch.

Give Yourself Credit

No one can be a perfect teacher every day of the week. Cut yourself some slack if some days don't go as planned. A disciplined classroom, and well-adjusted students takes time, patience, and a good sense of humor. Sometimes that will be easy, other days it will feel like walking barefoot on Legos in the dark. Take the good with the bad, accept that you - like the rest of us - aren't perfect, and try to do better next time. You'll be a happier teacher and set an excellent example for your students who are learning to do the same.

By Patricia Willis
January 2017
opinion discipline

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