Consequences, Privileges, and Positive Discipline
Managing a classroom effectively keeps unwanted behavior at a minimum and encourages learning for all students. The following provides suggestions for doing so through the use of consequences, privileges, and positive discipline.
There is a difference between consequences and punishment. If a teacher requires a homework assignment to be completed on time, and the student fails to do so, the punishment could be to write 100 times, "I will complete my homework on time." On the other hand, a best practice would be a consequence in which the student would finish the assignment under supervision.
Travis Heights Elementary, in Austin, Texas provides a good example of a consequence situation. In a first-second grade class, the students had been misbehaving all morning long. When lunchtime came, only a few students were allowed to eat in the cafeteria. The others, as a consequence of behaving badly had to eat lunch inside.
Most importantly, the students must think through the consequences of their choices, so they can learn from their mistakes. It is helpful for the teacher to ask "how" and "what" questions of the student. For example, "How do you feel about what happened?" Ms. Cantu's class at Travis Heights uses a technique called natural consequences to help the students understand.
Rewards and privileges
A good alternative to discipline involves rewarding the students for behaving. The rewarding of tickets, for such behaviors is a good idea. Depending on the teacher, tickets may be handed out to students for raising their hand in class, helping out another student or a variety of good behaviors. The third-fourth grade teacher at Travis Heights relies on this method. On Fridays the students may cash in their tickets. In return, rewards include a piece of candy, a get-out-of-homework pass, or their pick of a toy in the treasure chest. By enforcing good behavior, the students learn that the teacher's attention does not always focus on the bad students.
A modification of the ticket method allows the students to save their "tokens" and put them in the "bank". Richard Elardo explores this idea in his book, "Behavior Modification in an Elementary School: Problems and Issues". With this system, the tokens do not have to be cashed in every week. However, during recess and lunchtime, tickets can be issued out for misbehavior. When this happens, the student talks with the principal concerning how many tokens must be given up for the misdeed.
At Dill Elementary, in Austin, Texas, a daily point sheet is used to evaluate the students' behaviors. This elementary school is reserved for students with discipline problems, and only holds about eighty kids. For the long-term students, who stay there a semester, they must periodically move through three levels. These point sheets allow for this transition. The students are rated with a good, fair, or poor day over fifteen behaviors. Every night the parent must sign the point sheet. After ten good days, the student moves up to the next level. Privileges are included at each stage. For example being able to drink out of the water fountain, or go to class without an adult. This method may seem a little stringent, but for these kids it works well.
In the book "Disruptive Behavior" by Ennio Cipani, various techniques for positive discipline are mentioned. All classrooms have at least one class clown. The kind of kid that thrives on attention from other students. The Good Behavior Game is recommended. Usually the teacher just reprimands the "clown" student for the behavior, which only furthers the problem. With this game, the students are put into teams, and together the class decides on a good behavior barometer. Points are taken away from the team if a member uses bad behavior. The team with the most points gets a prize. This idea does border along with the reward idea, except the class clown type of student is learning to behave good from peers within the team.
Cipani also recommends letting students know when they are being good. By doing so, the student realizes the teacher's attention is not always reserved for those kids being disruptive. For those kids that enjoy the attention they get when talking out of turn or being noisy, it soon becomes evident that good behavior will gain them more attention from the teacher. For those children that can never seem to sit still during story time, Cipani feels a behavior contract should be used. A contract is drawn between the teacher and the student. In exchange for the student following the contract, a reward is given. This contract should also have an expiration date. With the above scenario regarding story time, the teacher would ask the child to sit still and listen for five minutes. In exchange for doing so, the child could then play alone quietly while the teacher finishes the story. The contract would expire in two weeks, and if needed, a new contract could be written.
Positive discipline is further mentioned in the book "Positive Discipline: A Teacher's A-Z Guide". Five teachers contributed to this book, listing suggestions and inspirational stories on how to handle numerous discipline problems. One of their major ideas is to use positive time-outs. The focus on the time-out is not punishment, but that the student needs a break to calm down. In the time-out area, there could be a basket of stuffed animals for the student to hold. Another method is to allow the student to have a buddy (another classmate) join him or her in time-out. This works well with the reluctant participant for time-out. In one inspirational story, this helped one little boy to make friends, which earlier had contributed to his bad behavior.
The use of class meetings is also a favorite of the authors. In this setting the students and the teacher get together to discuss problems, future lessons, and anything else the class brings up. The most important aspect to this is the friendship the students build with the teacher. Mutual respect among students and their teacher are necessary for classroom management. One more suggestion the authors offer concerns quieting the classroom down. All too often the teacher thinks yelling at the children will stop the noise. But from experience, this method usually fails.
Instead one teacher relies on clapping to let the students know the noise level is too loud. The teacher claps once, and the students return the single clap. Sometimes a double clap is needed, and by then all the students have heard and return the clap twice. So in the end, the teacher does not strain his or her voice, and the students feel like they have a part in how loud the classroom is. Managing a classroom effectively, keeps the bad behavior to a minimum and encourages learning for all students.