Improve Overall Behavior in Your Classroom: Detention Task Ideas & Tips


Detention is not only a means for punishing but also an opportunity to connect with your students. By providing students with an organized learning environment and reflective assignments, you can prevent future misbehavior.

Classroom Behavior and Detention

Though teachers in just about every school employ some form of detention, there is no universal agreement about how this time should be spent. Some teachers feel that detention should be spent productively, working on homework or other assignments, while other instructors prefer the classic ''seated silence'' tactic in which students are not allowed to do anything.

While detention is primarily used to punish students for past transgressions, it can also serve as a useful means for preventing future misbehavior. By turning detention into a learning experience, you can connect with your students, understand the roots of their actions, and use this information to maintain better control of your class in the future.

With the following tricks and tips, you can use detention to work with your students and improve overall behavior in your classroom. They include adjusting your detention schedule and using reflection sheets, dialogue journals, and structured study halls.


Adjust the Schedule

Traditionally, detention is served after school. However, research suggests that lunchtime detentions are particularly effective as deterrents when trying to discourage inappropriate behaviors.

Lunch (and recess, depending on the age of your students) is a valuable time for children, as it provides them with a break from their studies and the chance to socialize. While the thought of staying after school is certainly not a pleasant one, the idea of spending their ''recharge time'' doing even more work is a daunting prospect for many students.

By simply moving the time of your detentions, you may be able to prevent future misbehaviors, a proactive measure that can help promote classroom control and order.

Use Reflection Sheets

One common detention task is the reflection sheet, a form that encourages a student to discuss his or her behavior and why it is unacceptable. Reflective tasks can come in a number of forms, including essays, artwork, and group discussions.

This form of activity is extremely beneficial for students. For those students who do not understand why their behaviors are unacceptable, reflection sheets can help to inform them of the negative outcomes of their actions. For those who have knowingly caused disruptions, reflection sheets offer opportunities for them to provide their side of the story and explain the motivations behind their misdeeds.


One caveat, however, when devising these tasks: be very careful with the tone of your assignments. Asking a student to write an essay about what he or she did wrong can come off as overly condescending or punitive, which may hinder behavior improvement. For maximum effectiveness, make sure that your reflection sheets stress the importance of good behavior without excessively lowering your students' self-esteem.

Use Dialogue Journals

One such form of active reflection comes in the form of dialogue journals, a common classroom activity that can easily be modified for use in detention. A dialogue journal consists of a series of written responses between a student and teacher. These notebooks can be critical to forming better relationships with your students, which can lead to improved classroom behavior.

journal writing

Dialogue journals make it easy to engage your students in a discussion about practically anything. You can keep the conversation focused on school and detention, or you can branch out into more entertaining topics, such as recent movies or favorite sports teams. Not only do these journals help students understand the consequences of their behavior, but also break down the student-teacher barrier and allow you to establish yourself as someone to be trusted and respected.

In addition to the more prominent behavior-based outcomes, dialogue journals teach creative writing and critical thinking skills, making them a productive task for your detention periods.

Structure it as a Study Hall

In addition to punishing students, detention is an excellent opportunity to spend time working with them in a more productive setting. As detention typically allows for a much better student-teacher ratio, you can use these numbers to your advantage. Whereas a standard study hall period gives students the freedom to work on their own, you can take control of the situation and lead organized note-taking and class discussions that are certain to improve student engagement. Other possible activities include special interest tasks (such as writing an article for the school newspaper) and instruction in study strategies.


By using these detention tasks, you can transform this period from a dull punishment to a structured and productive learning environment and valuable teaching opportunity. Connecting with students and helping them to understand their own actions goes a long way in improving classroom behavior in the future - even if you're making these connections during a detention.

By Bill Sands
May 2017
teachers classroom management

Never miss an update