|Notes On Classrom Discipline
| One of the
saddest human's on earth is a trained and dedicated teacher who is unable to
teach effectively because he/she is unable to maintain control in the
classroom. Fortunately, this malady can be corrected.
During her in-service work at a grade school in
Mexico, Penny introduced a set of classroom discipline techniques in the
English department. As these techniques were used, teachers in other classrooms
(who were initially suspicious and reluctant) took notice and started trying
the ideas. The result was a large increase in teacher morale throughout the
school. This was a big surprise because it was initially thought that more
effective classroom discipline would serve the education of the students. But,
a synergy took place because the resulting higher faculty morale also became an
important factor in the improved education process.
The following notes come from the material that
Penny presented to her teachers. In addition to presenting the material, Penny
actively worked with each teacher in the classroom. In addition, each teacher
prepared a lesson set that was presented only to other teachers who role
modelled the students. The sessions were videotaped and the resulting DVD was
handed only to the teacher who made the presentation. This technique of self
assessment proved to be a powerful tool for teachers to improve their classroom
These notes come directly from the "Discipline By Design" web site where there
were a lot of effective ideas on this subject. Unfortunately this web site no longer exists. The underlined and emphasized
areas in the notes were placed there by Penny.
Here are eleven techniques that you can use in
your classroom that will help you achieve effective group management and
control. They have been adapted from an article called A Primer on Classroom
Discipline: Principles Old and New by Thomas R. McDaniel, Phi Delta Kappan,
Be sure you have the attention of everyone in
your classroom before you start your lesson. Don't attempt to teach over the
chatter of students who are not paying attention.
Inexperienced teachers sometimes think that by
beginning their lesson, the class will settle down. The children will see that
things are underway now and it is time to go to work. Sometimes this works, but
the children are also going to think that you are willing to compete with them,
that you don't mind talking while they talk, or that you are willing to speak
louder so that they can finish their conversation even after you have started
the lesson. They get the idea that you accept their inattention and that it is
permissible to talk while you are presenting a lesson.
The focusing technique means that you will
demand their attention before you begin. It means that you will wait and not
start until everyone has settled down. Experienced teachers know that
silence on their part is very effective. They will punctuate their waiting by
extending it 3 to 5 seconds after the classroom is completely quiet. Then they
begin their lesson using a quieter voice than normal.
A soft spoken teacher often has a calmer,
quieter classroom than one with a stronger voice. Her students sit still in
order to hear what she says.
2. Direct Instruction
Uncertainty increases the level of excitement
in the classroom. The technique of direct instruction is to begin each class by
telling the students exactly what will be happening. The teacher outlines what
he and the students will be doing this period. He may set time limits for some
An effective way to marry this technique with
the first one is to include time at the end of the period for students to do
activities of their choosing. The teacher may finish the description of the
hour's activities with: "And I think we will have some time at the end of the
period for you to chat with your friends, go to the library, or catch up on
work for other classes."
The teacher is more willing to wait for class
attention when he knows there is extra time to meet his goals and objectives.
The students soon realize that the more time the teacher waits for their
attention, the less free time they have at the end of the hour.
The key to this principle is to
circulate. Get up and get around the room. While your students are working,
make the rounds. Check on their progress.
An effective teacher will make a pass through
the whole room about two minutes after the students have started a written
assignment. She checks that each student has started, that the children are on
the correct page, and that everyone has put their names on their papers. The
delay is important. She wants her students to have a problem or two finished so
she can check that answers are correctly labeled or in complete sentences. She
provides individualized instruction as needed.
Students who are not yet quite on task will be
quick to get going as they see her approach. Those that were distracted or slow
to get started can be nudged along. The teacher does not interrupt the class or
try to make general announcements unless she notices that several students have
difficulty with the same thing. The teacher uses a quiet voice and her students
appreciate her personal and positive attention.
McDaniel tells us of a saying that goes
"Values are caught, not taught." Teachers who are courteous, prompt,
enthusiastic, in control, patient and organized provide examples for their
students through their own behavior. The "do as I say, not as I do" teachers send
mixed messages that confuse students and invite misbehavior.
If you want students to use quiet voices in your
classroom while they work, you too will use a quiet voice as you move through
the room helping youngsters.
5. Non-Verbal Cuing
A standard item in the classroom of the 1950's
was the clerk's bell. A shiny nickel bell sat on the teacher's desk. With one
tap of the button on top he had everyone's attention. Teachers have shown a lot
of ingenuity over the years in making use of non-verbal cues in the classroom.
Some flip light switches. Others keep clickers in their pockets. Non-verbal
cues can also be facial expressions, body posture and hand signals. Care should
be given in choosing the types of cues you use in your classroom. Take time to
explain what you want the students to do when you use your cues.
NOTE: Penny taught her teachers to rearrange the
classroom desks into a horseshoe arrangement that permitted the teacher to
easily circulate in front and being the class.
Penny emphasized the intervention technique of
silently moving into the personal space of a misbehaving student -- while still
carrying on the lesson. The degree to which the teacher moves into the
student's personal space is dependent upon the degree of misbehavior. Standing
very close to a student from behind (while still teaching) was particularly
effective. Moving into a student's space sometimes involved the teacher putting
her arms around the student without touching.
6. Environmental Control
A classroom can be a warm cheery place. Students
enjoy an environment that changes periodically. Study centers with pictures and
color invite enthusiasm for your subject.
Young people like to know about you and your
interests. Include personal items in your classroom. A family picture or a few
items from a hobby or collection on your desk will trigger personal
conversations with your students. As they get to know you better, you will see
fewer problems with discipline.
Just as you may want to enrich your classroom,
there are times when you may want to impoverish it as well. You may need a
quiet corner with few distractions. Some students will get caught up in visual
exploration. For them, the splash and the color is a siren that pulls them off
task. They may need more "vanilla" and less "rocky-road." Have a quiet place
where you can steer these youngsters. Let them get their work done first and
then come back to explore and enjoy the rest of the room.
7. Low-Profile Intervention
Most students are sent to the principal's office
as a result of confrontational escalation. The teacher has called them on a
lesser offense, but in the moments that follow, the student and the teacher are
swept up in a verbal maelstrom. Much of this can be avoided when the teacher's
intervention is quiet and calm.
An effective teacher will take care that the
student is not rewarded for misbehavior by becoming the focus of attention. She
monitors the activity in her classroom, moving around the room. She
anticipates problems before they occur. Her approach to a misbehaving student
is inconspicuous. Others in the class are not distracted.
While lecturing to her class this teacher makes
effective use of name-dropping. If she sees a student talking or off task, she
simply drops the youngster's name into her dialogue in a natural way. "And you
see, David, we carry the one to the tens column." David hears his name and is
drawn back on task. The rest of the class doesn't seem to notice.
8. Assertive Discipline
This is traditional limit setting
authoritarianism. When executed as presented by Lee Canter (who has made this
form a discipline one of the most widely known and practiced) it will include a
good mix of praise. This is high profile discipline. The teacher is the boss
and no child has the right to interfere with the learning of any student. Clear
rules are laid out and consistently enforced.
NOTE: For the grade schools, Penny trained her
teachers to spend the entire first week of a school year instructing the
students what was expected of them, setting limits, and practicing those
For an extreme behavior problem, Penny would
involve the parent immediately. In Mexico, a cell phone call from the teacher
(while in the classroom )to the parent is particularly effective. The student
is withdrawn for the day by the parent.
9 Assertive I-Messages
A component of Assertive Discipline, these
I-Messages are statements that the teacher uses when confronting a student who
is misbehaving. They are intended to be clear descriptions of what the student
is suppose to do. The teacher who makes good use of this technique will focus
the child's attention first and foremost on the behavior he wants, not on the
misbehavior. "I want you to..." or "I need you to..." or "I expect you to...".
The inexperienced teacher may incorrectly try "I
want you to stop..." only to discover that this usually triggers confrontation
and denial. The focus is on the misbehavior and the student is quick to retort:
"I wasn't doing anything!" or "It wasn't my fault..." or "Since when is there a
rule against..." and escalation has begun.
10. Humanistic I-Messages
These I-messages are expressions of our
feelings. Thomas Gordon, creator of Teacher Effectiveness Training (TET), tells
us to structure these messages in three parts. First, include a description of
the child's behavior. "When you talk while I talk..." Second, relate the effect
this behavior has on the teacher. "...I have to stop my teaching..." And third,
let the student know the feeling that it generates in the teacher. "...which
A teacher, distracted by a student who was
constantly talking while he tried to teach, once made this powerful expression
of feelings: "I cannot imagine what I have done to you that I do not deserve
the respect from you that I get from the others in this class. If I have been
rude to you or inconsiderate in any way, please let me know. I feel as though I
have somehow offended you and now you are unwilling to show me respect." The
student did not talk during his lectures again for many weeks.
11. Positive Discipline
Use classroom rules that describe the behaviors
you want instead of listing things the students cannot do. Instead of
"no-running in the room," use "move through the building in an orderly manner."
Instead of "no fighting," use "settle conflicts appropriately." Instead of "no
gum chewing," use "leave gum at home." Refer to your rules as expectations. Let
your students know this is how you expect them to behave in your classroom.
Make ample use of praise. When you see good
behavior, acknowledge it. This can be done verbally, of course, but it doesn't
have to be. A nod, a smile or a "thumbs up" will reinforce the behavior.