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Detention Task Ideas to Improve Behavior

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Detention can be a great time for students to reflect on and improve their behaviors. This lesson gives you a series of ideas designed to help your students really learn something from the time they spend in detention.

Why Use Detention Tasks?

Does your school use detention as a consequence for negative behaviors? If so, do students spend their time there just sitting around, staring into space and waiting to be set free? This is common for detention, but that time can also be used for a better purpose! If used wisely, detention can really be a time for students to learn more about strong behaviors. And now you might be wondering what you can do to help students really learn something while they are in detention.

One way to make detention a more structured and productive experience is to provide students with specific tasks they are responsible for during their time in detention. These tasks can help students understand what they did wrong, how it impacted others, and how they should change their behavior in the future. The tasks in this lesson can be modified to meet the specific needs and circumstances of students in your school.

Reflective Tasks

This section offers tasks that are reflective in nature, oriented toward helping students think carefully about what landed them in detention and what they might work on next time.

  • Have students write an essay clearly defining what they did that earned them time in detention. The essay should be honest and should explain what motivated the negative behavior. Challenge students to reflect on why this behavior was a problem and what they might do differently the next time they feel tempted to behave this way.
  • Give students paper and oil pastels or watercolors to work with. Ask them to create an artwork that represents the feelings or emotions they were experiencing when they engaged in a negative behavior. Then, have them write a caption that suggests other ways they might handle the same feelings or emotions.
  • Ask students to create posters that you can hang in the detention room. Each poster should have five questions on it, designed to help other, future students in detention reflect on why they are there. As students work on creating their posters, let them talk to each other about the questions they are creating and how they would answer them.
  • Bring together the students that are in detention today. Ask them to talk as a group about why they are there. After each student has a chance to share, lead them in role plays recreating the scenarios that brought them to detention. Each time they act a situation out, ask them to think about different possible outcomes if the same scenario should arise again.

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