Our ultimate goal in any classroom discipline plan is to have students take responsibility for their own actions and control their own behavior without constant adult oversight.
Let’s face facts, though – there’s a reason why every nation on earth has policemen and a court system.
Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that any class will ever be totally self-governing (I’d be out of a job!), but let’s also do everything we can to move our students in that direction as far as we can.
Here are some daily interactions that will enhance your classroom discipline plan and help students with their self-management.
Enforce accountable language
When a student says:
“My paper ripped”
…have her restate it properly:
“I ripped my paper.”
Make her say it out loud. Many kids really don’t like to do this, but it is the first step in keeping them from becoming disingenuous politicians in the future (“mistakes were made…”).
Ask for apologies to inanimate objects
Have kids apologize to classroom furniture and equipment that they “hurt,” as in:
“I’m sorry projector, I shouldn’t have yanked on your cord.”
Most kids find this a little funny so they are willing to do it. Meanwhile, they are practicing an apology, which makes it a little easier when they need to say:
“I’m sorry Janita, I shouldn’t have grabbed the markers for myself.”
Apologizing is a key part of respect, but it is very hard for many kids (and adults) to do.
Applaud honesty whenever you hear it
…especially if it is uttered in the face of consequences:
“I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, I was the one who took Jon’s eraser.”
“Thank you for your honesty, Cass. What are our expectations? How are you going to fix this?”
In addition your ongoing daily efforts, we can set up a small system that helps kids reflect on their behavior choices, and even carries a bit of a “reward.” I use a point system as part of my classroom classroom discipline plan, but it’s not me assigning points…it’s kids assigning themselves points based on their perception of their own behavior. Here’s how it works:
Twice a day I go down the list of kids and ask them how many points they earned for the last 3 hours (half of the day) with a maximum of ten points possible.
There…that’s it! That’s all there is to it. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? It needs to be simple for the kids to relate to it. Of course, there a few more guidelines for making it as effective as possible.
First of all, the whole point of points is simply to give the kids something concrete by which to gauge their behavior while they self-assess. They could just say:
“I wasn’t very good this morning”
…but it wouldn’t have the same impact. It just kills them to not get a perfect 10, so saying:
“I got 8 points because I kept blurting out answers”
…has much more impact.
Being the refereeOf course, you are managing this process as part of your classroom discipline plan. If someone is a bit forgetful of the kind of morning they had, it’s time for your “teacher look,” or a pointed reminder:
“Hmm, think about it and I’ll come back to you.”
Sometimes students honestly forget and you will have to say:
“I’m not sure you were on task for white board math.”
You may also find situations where a student takes too many points, too few, or more than you think they should based on what you observed. Be sure to ask them to tell you why. In general, you will usually know the behavior behind the points.
As the arbiter of the process, you can exercise your discretion to keep the process motivational:
- Offer a half point back for honesty
- Offer to give someone 11 points for outstanding behavior
Just don’t overdo it – make this a rare occurrence. Discipline in the classroom is not about the kids vying to earn points from you. It’s about earning points for themselves and to feel good about it.
Whatever process you do, make the rules fit your room. And avoid a process where you assign points for bad behavior; that is the wrong kind of motivation.
Keep it simple
So…what to do with all of these points being assessed? Your inclination might be to track them every day and add them all up for monthly totals and do something with them, such as give a prize for anyone over ‘x’ points.
Resist the temptation. It is a lot of work and it adds too many stakes to the process. Suddenly it becomes all about getting something, which leads to playing the game however they can to get the highest points they can, rather than a simple process of self-reflection and a fresh start after every session.
Separate from the point system outlined above, I do hand out “bonus tickets” for great work or attitudes or kindness as well. That’s all they are: a piece of colored paper. No redemption value of any sort. No tracking. No collecting yellow tickets to exchange for a blue one or any other scheme. The kids love getting them though.
You can get an easy-to-print set (color and black-and-white)
in my store.
Avoid extrinsic rewards …the kids don’t need them to be happy, engaged learners. And you don’t need them for an effective classroom discipline plan.