Classroom Discipline: Definition & Strategies

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  • 0:02 Classroom Discipline
  • 0:53 Systems and Preemptive Tools
  • 1:17 Expectations
  • 2:36 In-the-Moment Tools &…
  • 4:38 Things to Remember
  • 5:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Expert Contributor
Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

What makes a great classroom? Is it the teacher, the students, or the resources? While these components are important, tying them into great classroom management skills is key. Learn more about classroom discipline, preemptive strategies, and in-the-moment tools.

Classroom Discipline

Discipline is defined as the practice of teaching others to obey rules or norms by using punishment to correct unwanted behaviors. In a classroom, a teacher uses discipline to ensure routine is maintained, school rules are enforced, and the students are in a safe learning environment. While the word discipline seems negative, the goal of using discipline is to teach students boundaries and limits to help students achieve personal and academic life goals.

Without discipline, learning cannot be accomplished. If students constantly disrupt the teacher, the others in class are affected. If a student does not follow the rules and does not complete classwork or homework, that student is missing out on valuable learning opportunities. The goal of discipline is to ensure each student receives the most from their education. Let's take a look at some strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

Systems and Preemptive Tools

When thinking about classroom discipline, we usually think about punishment. Instead, let's try and stop the negative behaviors before they start. To do this, we need to think about classroom management. What tools are you putting in place before the school year begins to manage your classroom? What types of routines or systems will you use to ensure a consistent and safe classroom environment? Let's start with expectations.


Before you can enforce rules and norms, you have to clearly establish your expectations. Our students need to know what is expected of them and how to behave.

Teachers should have class rules. It is important to have a list of expectations, such as class rules, either posted on a wall or in a syllabus to ensure students understand what is expected of them. It's also imperative that the teacher explains these rules so students have the ability to ask questions.

Daily routines are also important. Having a routine students commit to every day is a great way to help reinforce good behavior, responsibility, and best practice. Depending on age level, this could look a few different ways. For younger students, hanging up coats and bags, getting materials to tables, and putting lunches away are a few great ways to help kids get settled and reinforce routine and responsibility. For the older students, having a worksheet or assignment on the board for kids to start right away is an excellent way to refocus students and get them settled while the teacher takes attendance and/or checks homework. This puts the student in charge of starting the learning process.

Expectation and routine are necessary for proper classroom management, but these strategies alone will not equal success. You must enforce these rules and routines at all times. The more consistent you are, the more consistent your students will be.

In-the-Moment Tools and Strategies

While putting systems in place is a great way to prevent discipline problems, those systems don't ensure a perfect classroom setting. Students are going to act out and push boundaries because they are still learning their way in the world. Therefore, in-the-moment strategies assist teachers in working through push back. Here are some strategies that can be used in any classroom setting.

Signaling is one technique. When a disruption occurs, use methods such as eye contact, snapping fingers, tapping on desks, or hand signals to show students that they should cease the negative behavior. If the teacher's body language changes, the students should learn to be aware of the change and correct their behavior.

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Additional Activities

Creating Discipline Norms

After reviewing the lesson on classroom discipline, have pre-service teachers complete this two-part lesson extension activity.

Part I: Setting Expectations

For the first part of the activity, students will create a list of five expectations to use in their future classroom. This should include things focused on the daily routine and geared towards managing expectations. As with all classroom rules, it is best to keep things concise and use positively worded statements (Ex. ''Remain in seats until dismissed'' instead of ''Do not stand up when the bell rings.'').

After students have created their expectations, allow them to share with the group.

Part II: Practicing In-the-Moment Tools

For the second part of the activity, students will practice discipline techniques to correct misbehavior. Students will work in small groups of about five. Taking turns, one student will act as the teacher and the other students will act as students. The ''students'' should decide who will misbehave and how. Then, as the scenario plays out, the ''teacher'' will correct the students using strategies like eye contact, proximity, one-on-one intervention, etc.

Some misbehavior that would work well in these scenarios include: talking over the teacher, students moving when inappropriate, yelling, throwing items, etc.

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