Supportive Approach to Classroom Management Strategies

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How can teachers head off misbehavior early on? In this lesson, we'll take a look at supportive discipline and how it allows teachers to stop misbehavior in its earliest stages through helping students get back on task.

Classroom Management

Clarissa is a 5th grade teacher. She loves her job, but her students sometimes misbehave. When that happens, she's not always sure what to do. How can she reduce bad behavior in her classroom?

Clarissa is thinking about classroom management, or the ways to manage the behavior of students in the classroom, including getting rid of misbehavior. Classroom management in general deals with all sorts of things, including helping students focus and promoting behaviors that encourage learning.

One subsection of classroom management focuses on eliminating bad behavior. This is called discipline. So, when Clarissa wants to reduce the misbehavior in her classroom, she's thinking about the discipline part of classroom management. There are several ways to do that. For example, Clarissa can try to prevent bad behavior from occurring, or she can punish it when it does. In reality, she'll probably use many different approaches.

Educator and writer C.M. Charles divides discipline into three categories: preventive, corrective, and supportive. Each one approaches discipline in a slightly different way. Preventive discipline is about preventing misbehavior from happening, while corrective is about punishing bad behavior that's already occurred, like giving detention.

While Clarissa thinks that both of those approaches can be valuable, she wonders if there's something in-between the two. If she isn't able to prevent all misbehavior, is there something she can do before it gets so out of hand that she needs to give a detention or call home?

To help Clarissa out, let's examine the third category of discipline and how she can use it in her classroom.

Supportive Discipline

The third category of discipline is supportive discipline - stopping misbehavior in its earliest stages by engaging students' self-control to get them back on task. So, for example, if Clarissa notices that one of her students is getting off task, she can gently remind him or her to refocus before they begin to misbehave.

Usually, supportive discipline is done quietly, so only the misbehaving student realizes what's going on. For example, Clarissa might catch the off-task student's eye and shake her head. No other students might notice, but the student gets the reminder that it's time to get back on task.

Supportive discipline sounds good to Clarissa. After all, it's about supporting the students in exercising their self-discipline. Still, she's not sure how to use supportive discipline in the classroom. What should she do?


As we've already seen, supportive discipline often involves using subtle physical cues. Clarissa, as we said before, can shake her head at a student, or even just frown. If that doesn't work, she could use physical proximity, by walking over to the student. Sometimes, just standing near him or her is enough to get a student back on track.

But it doesn't stop there. Clarissa can remove distractions, such as toys, phones, or comics from a student's desk (and return them at the end of class). She can also offer support for difficult or frustrating work. Both of these things will help keep students on task.

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