Archive for the 'Classroom Management–Discipline' Category

Sep 17 2011

Dealing with a Difficult Student…10 Options to Limit Misbehavior in Your Class

This post is one that I’ve thought about for a while…we all have a student or two who is/are habitually in trouble or making trouble. This is for all the teachers who struggle to reach that kid who snarls when you look at him, recoils when you are near him, and refuses to do what he is asked…



Yep! That's the one...

10 Options for dealing with THAT student:

  • Stay in contact with parents- Make sure they know what is going on; how often he is in trouble, and what trouble it was. Create this bond and you won’t regret it
  • Use proximity to limit negative actions–when at all possible, place the student nearest you (hard when you are immersed in PBL) or stay within close proximity to him
  • Have defined expectations- Use the same steps to get the student on task and behaving EVERY TIME…i.e., ‘this behavior ALWAYS equals this consequence”
  • Do not get into a “pissing” match- Strong language, I know, but you can’t win when you try to call out a student in front of his friends…back off until you talk in private
  • Try to empathize- I know it’s hard, because the kid is RUDE, but what is really going on? Can you get someone to talk to him? Can he take a safe seat to re-group?
  • Use your relationship- Is there anyway you can relate to the student? Does he play sports? In the Band? Have a sibling? Build on that and see what happens.
  • Bring in his favorite teacher- Talk to your colleagues; has anyone been able to reach this student? Can you have a meeting with the student and the teacher?
  • Make classwork a non-issue- This is HARD, but take the classwork out of the equation for a short time and work on the relationship…work the “work” back in later
  • Try the tutor technique- Is the difficult student good in one subject? Can he tutor a fellow student? Can he help someone else succeed? It works BOTH ways
  • NEVER GIVE UP- No matter the behavior, don’t give up on trying to reach that student…the negativity may be a defense for something deeper. Keep up the good fight!

No responses yet

Aug 12 2011

Safe Seat Placement and Decor-Before and After Pictures

So, it is the beginning of the new school year, and I have my first few lessons ready to go, but you already know what comes before curriculum…discipline. (Here is my post on that subject.)

I have several posts on using safe seats in my classroom and the wonder it works on most kids, but I’ve never showed you what a safe seat looks like. Below is a before and after of what my safe seat–safe area–looks like.

The safe area before school

After decorating and warming up the space

Remember: a safe seat is a place away from the rest of the class...a place with no interaction with the class. My seat is in a corner with a partial brick wall to block the view of that side of the class and faces another brick wall. While in the safe seat, students fill out a think sheet and reflect about their decisions while in my class. This redirection usually takes care of about 90% of my discipline issues in class.

I think the space is warmer, nicer, and doesn’t feel like a “time out’ seat now. I know that students in my seat feel more comfortable and more able to move past their problem and back into class…they can get back to learning. My students can use this area to “restart” (thanks, Laura!) and don’t view the area as a punishment…it’s just a break.

I hope the images help you make some decisions about the safe area in your classroom. Ready or not, we have to be prepared for students who aren’t always okay in class and who need a place to go cool off. I’m just trying to make mine a little nicer=)

Happy Teaching!

No responses yet

Aug 02 2011

3 Steps to Effective Classroom Management…Protection-Based not Punishment-Based

It really is the beginning of August and that means it REALLY is time to start thinking about our upcoming school year. For me, that means preparing my room and my brain for the onslaught of 7th and 8th grade writers that are about to walk into my room. There is a huge difference in one year’s worth of maturation, but both grades still need my guidance when it comes to my classroom expectations, my classroom management, and ultimately, my classroom consequences.

What is the best advice I can give you for teaching well, and getting your students on track for a year of learning?

Your classroom management is more important than your curriculum…without the former, the latter is impossible.


Before the year ever starts, get your basics down and know what to do in even the most general situations…in my opinion, my students need to learn accountability for their actions first and foremost. The process of getting your kids to accept responsibility for their actions is a H-U-G-E step in the right direction for classroom management. The first step is ours. Our goal is to PROTECT the student, not PUNISH the student. We should never:

  • Use anger to get a student to comply
  • Punish a student for his behavior
  • Withhold our attention

Instead, we should be:

  • Helping our students look at the problem they create when they are off-task or not compliant
  • Providing clear and even consequences to protect them (not punish them)
  • Giving time for the student to work with us for compliance

3 Steps to Being Protection-Based: Working with students in trouble

Vocabulary: Teachers can also be really powerful with words…No! Not 4-letter ones=) Try to be more protection-based and less punishment-based with your vocabulary:

  • You seem to be having a problem. How can I help you?
  • You are off-task right now. What will help you get back on track?
  • I see you are upset. Can I let you calm down in the safe seat? Would you like to talk to someone other than me?

Body Language: You may have the vocabulary down, but if your body language says, “I’m P.O.’d and I want to punch someone!”, your students will know. Try these suggestions to be protection-based:

  • Place your unclenched hands at your side; don’t cross them in front of your chest
  • Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth (you can’t clench your teeth)
  • Breathe naturally
  • Walk away for a minute if you feel angry…the misbehavior won’t stop until you address it, but your student will know you can control yourself

Intention: This is the most important…if you are just putting on a show, your kids will know. Your intentions should always be to PROTECT your student. You’ll prove this by:

  • Working through your students problem with them (not for them)
  • Helping determine when they are ready and okay to move on (never moving them just because we are tired of dealing with the misbehavior)
  • Teaching them life skills and how to deal with difficult situations and doing things they may not want to do (classwork or homework)

I hope this helps you as August gets under way and a new year approaches…just remember: discipline before curriculum–it won’t work any other way.

Happy Teaching!



4 responses so far

Jul 14 2011

Thinking of the First Week of School…Discipline Basics are Priority

I am walking into my 7th year as a full-time middle school teacher this year, and I still feel a little overwhelmed when I think of my first few days with my new students. It’s not because I don’t know what I’m doing (I could quite possibly fall asleep and still give you the definitions of simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia**and I can spell them WITHOUT spell check!), but I do fuss over my first experiences with my students. I don’t want a rule poster at the front of the classroom with the magic 10 rules (or is it5? 3? Crap…who can remember the magic number?)

Ummm...Just say "I can't" okay?

Ummm...Just say "I can't" okay?

I want positive reactions to me, my teaching style, my subject, and my classroom. But, I know that to get to that place where we can all have a “Kumbaya” experience, we need to get a few things out on the table…this is classroom management or discipline.

I teach procedures for the first few days (I’m sure most of you do), but I never could do the rote “I will raise my hand this way to indicate that I have a certain need that you can attend to” procedures that I see many teachers fall into. Yeah, I don’t want kids running in my 8th grade classroom, but we HAVE to be out of our seats often for projects, so what’s a girl to do? Try a few of my handy-dandy (is Blue’s Clues still running???) BASIC tips for first week success:

  • Have a procedure for moving about your room- you might as well embrace the culture of project learning…it’s here and it works!
  • Make sure your kiddos know what they can do to get your attention- i.e., don’t yell “Mrs. Piper” until I recognize you
  • Have a plan for a kid without supplies- you know many will forget their books, paper, and pencils…what are you going to do?
  • Have your safe seat/place ready-you have to have a place for a kiddo who needs a minute to understand that he has to control himself in class
  • Have a plan for a buddy room ready- you have to have another room for a kiddo who can’t be okay in the safe seat

These are for sure the most basic of all procedures, but you don’t want to overwhelm yourself (or your students) with dozens of procedures the first week. You may have a few weeks until school starts so use it wisely teach! I have a few more days of pool and sun, and then back to the grind…with an awesome tan=)

Here is a link to my discipline category with several in depth articles on classroom management.

Happy Teaching!

2 responses so far

Apr 26 2011

Beyond the Basics…Step-by-Step Classroom Management Procedures for Difficult Students

We all know the basics of classroom management when dealing with general misbehavior in our students:

  • Use proximity
  • Do not get angry
  • Do not raise your voice
  • Be firm in your requests for compliant behavior

But, what if your student is belligerent? What if your student can’t comply with your requests? What if your student is difficult? Sometimes we need a more stringent approach to getting a student back on track and onto success in our classrooms. My overall goal for classroom management is that every student own his behavior…that they always take responsibility for their actions.

This is my step-by-step method–with definitions–for a student who is acting out in class, and for the most part…it works very, very well:

  • Give the student one warning about his behavior
  • If the student doesn’t comply, send the student to your safe seat and have them fill out a Think Sheet about their misbehavior
  • If they can’t be okay (they don’t stop the misbehavior) in the safe seat, send them to a buddy room
  • If they can’t be okay in a buddy room, the buddy room teacher sends them to the recovery room or to the office

Safe Seat- A safe seat in the secondary building is a desk placed strategically in the room to allow for limited distractions. I place mine near my desk turned toward the wall. A student in the safe seat has no interaction with the class. They fill out the above think sheet, and when they are able to process with me (when they have filled out the sheet properly and are not displaying the behavior that got them there), I let them return to their normal seat. Most students will stop all misbehavior at this junction–most are not willing to go further in the process, but if they are, the next step is the buddy room.

Buddy Room- A buddy room is a safe place for a student to go when they persist in the bad behavior in the safe seat. A buddy room is a prearranged place in another teacher’s room (it is that teacher’s safe seat). This second step allows the student more time to think about his behavior and realize the problem they caused. The student must have the think sheet filled out correctly and be ready to talk about his behavior when I come to process. This step is more severe in that I may not be able to get to them very quickly as I have limited time through the day. My buddy teacher knows that the student may not go on to any other classes or come back to my class until I can get to them, or I send an e-mail asking for the student to return. If a student can’t be okay in my room, they will not be okay in other classes. Remember…you have to process (talk about the behavior) with the student before they go on, and they have to work backward through the steps; the student has to go from the buddy room, back to the safe seat, and finally back to their regular seat. If a student can’t stop the misbehavior in the buddy room, the next step is the recovery room.

Recovery Room/Office- This is the last stop for a student who has shown that they can’t stop their misbehavior in my class or in a buddy room. It’s really unfortunate when a student’s behavior escalates to this level, but it does happen occasionally. In the recovery room, the student must still complete the think sheet and stop the misbehavior. They must stay in recovery until they show that they can be okay…they also have to stay until I can process with them. When the student is able to process, they still work backward through the process and make apologies on the way–from recovery to buddy room, from buddy room to my safe seat, from my safe seat to the regular seat. Whew! That’s a L-O-N-G procedure…and one most NEVER want to repeat=)

There is sooooo much more to the process than this explanation, but I hope this helps another teacher who is looking for concrete directions on how to handle a difficult student. (And, if you are thinking that this can only work if it is implemented building-wide, you’re wrong. My current building does not use this system, and while it would work better if we all used the same procedures, I do use these management procedures with my buddy teacher, and we’ve had great results. Most of the students that would normally go to the office for misbehavior straighten out in a safe seat.)

Happy Teaching!

One response so far

Mar 23 2011

Think Sheet/Reflection Sheet Form–Effective Classroom Management

Just a super-quick post…I’ve had several e-mail requests for the think sheet I use in my class as a result of this post…feel free to use it, change it, do whatever you want to make it work for you in your classroom=)

Here is my Think Sheet

Happy Teaching!

3 responses so far

Mar 03 2011

A Disciplined Classroom–Teaching Students to Take Responsibility by Writing a Formal Apology

It happened today…I had to hold 4 students after class because they were loud and disruptive during video presentations by other students. How and why does this happen? Haven’t I written posts about creating and keeping discipline in the classroom? Grrrr…why is it that I am still having issues?

Duh…8th graders are going to act like 8th graders even if I have made every effort to keep them productive and engaged.

So, today my kids were loud…very, very L-O-U-D! I kept the offenders after class and asked them to write a letter to me with the problem they caused in class, and what they could do differently next time. Great idea, right? Let me show you (verbatim) what I got back from one student:

I am really sorry for what happened in class today, however, I don’t understand why I’m getting into trouble when I wasn’t the only one. I will write your note, but I really need you to tell me what I did because I am unsure. Ok, I did tell someone to shut up but it was because I was trying to learn from the presentation. I WAS loud, and I’m sorry for that but, again, I wasn’t the only one. I guess what I will do in the future is never talk to you again or speak in class, ever. I guess I can try to follow all your rules and I’ll always be mute!

Wow…fantastic! I should be nominated for teacher of the year by the looks of that response! But, I was able to ask that the letter be redone with a few changes (accept responsibility, be remorseful, what changes will take place in your behavior?). She complied with a thoughtful letter after our talk. Here are a few suggestions for a student who gives you a half-hearted apology when they need to make things right:

  • There must a be true apology…now, I can’t tell if they really do mean it, but “fake it ’til you can make it” right?
  • There must be owning up to the misbehavior…no blaming on someone else, no skirting their responsibility
  • There must be a plan of action to prevent the misbehavior in the future…what will the student do differently?
  • There must be a replacement behavior for the old one…if the student talks out of turn, ask them if they can place their hand over their mouth when they feel like they are going to speak out until the teacher has time to call on them
  • There must be a change in the student or they need a plan created by the teacher/parent and or student…if a student can’t change misbehavior after being prompted, they will have to have a behavior plan created for them

I think the best outcome for misbehavior is that the child learns from his mistake. Today was a teachable moment for my students and me; a student learned how to apologize correctly for misbehavior and how to find a replacement for that behavior. I learned that no matter how much I know about discipline, students will always push boundaries and I have to be prepared to help them with a life skill; if you mess up, apologize and move on.

Happy Teaching!

5 responses so far

Feb 23 2011

Creating a Disciplined Classroom, Part II–Life Skills For Every Student and Teacher

This is the second post in a series…read THIS post if you’d like to start at the beginning=)

The first post was about student behavior in a classroom; this post is arguably more important…the teacher’s behavior in a classroom.

My first year of teaching was pretty rough because the only form of discipline my building implemented was sending a misbehaving student to the office. What’s worse is that this school also practiced corporal punishment so I was often hesitant to send a student to the office for fear of a paddling; we had no voice once the student went to the office. That left me with an unsettling feeling; things could, and did go badly…quickly!

My first year taught me much, and I’m ashamed to say that I may have been the culprit in my undisciplined classroom more than once; I was the adult who propelled a misbehaving student on a few occasions. A few of my actions are listed below:

  1. I engaged students in an argument when I should have placed them in a safe area until they were able to talk to me about their problem
  2. I nit-picked and nagged about everything from a missing pencil to an assignment–this incited students to talk back
  3. I got angry when a student got angry
  4. I dolled out punishments that may have not fit the “crime”
  5. I didn’t always act like the adult–I let my irritation show through and that incited bad student behavior

It took an entire year, but I learned that I wasn’t being fair to my kiddos..Even though I didn’t make them misbehave, I didn’t have have the tools I needed to teach them how to behave. I now teach BIST’s example for life skills and try to remain slightly passive,completely neutral, and always in control. I do not intimidate my students (note my 5’4 stature to the right=-), and I do not threaten; I do not raise my voice, and I do not pick. The biggest lesson I have taken away from teaching the following life skills is that I too must follow them. Here they are:

  1. I can manage an overwhelming feeling–One can feel some discomfort, even annoyance, but can still act appropriately
  2. I can be okay when others around me are not–One can act appropriately even if those surrounding him are not
  3. I can do something even when I don’t want to–One has to follow certain rules in certain situations

***P.S. The three life-skills are on a poster in front of my safe seat, and on a poster in front of my room***

Hopefully this second post will add a little more depth to the first. Classroom management is the most important part of teaching in my eyes–no learning can happen in an undisciplined or chaotic classroom.

Happy Teaching!

No responses yet

Feb 07 2011

Simple StepsTo Get Your Students To Work…(Even When They Don’t Want To)

Reluctant Learners

One of the most frustrating times for a teacher is trying to cajole a student into an assignment…especially if this student is habitual about not completing assignments. We have all had that student who would not work, would not attempt to work, or would not even give you the satisfaction of looking at the work you have given him.

Some kids, whether it is stubbornness, or a mental or physical disability, cannot process assignments and therefore will refuse to work in class. We like to call them, “Reluctant Learners”.  These students can pass through school via social promotion, or they may have been held back more than once because a lack of grades. No matter the situation, there are ways to make a non-worker into a busier (maybe not quite busy=) bee.

Here are a few pointers that I picked up from BIST (Behavior Intervention Support Team, located in Kansas City, MO) on getting kids to work:

  • Chunk the assignment-this is especially important in secondary grades. I have to block writing assignments, give calendars, and cut-up large assignments as to not overwhelm a reluctant learner. You can physically cut-up your handouts.
  • Modify the assignment- not all students are the same; they can’t all learn the same way or complete the same amount of work…maybe your little reluctant learner needs a shorter assignment until he gets the hang of things. You can also modify the way in which you deliver the assignment—can you let the student take an oral quiz/assignment? Can they create something? Build something?
  • Empathize with the student- tell them you know you are asking them to do something difficult. Ask them if they can try it anyway? Reassure them that you will help them with any rough patches they have with the assignment. Ask them how many times they would like for you to check on them? (and, remember to go and check on them!)
  • Define the learning goal- what must your student know? Get to the absolute, and shave down the assignment to that goal. If you have one goal and lots of filler on an assignment, pull out the absolute and roll with that.

There are many other variations on these 5 steps, but I’ve found these invaluable through the years. Good luck with your reluctant learners. Happy teaching!

One response so far

Jan 05 2011

The Top 3 Ways to Create a Disciplined Classroom–Part I

There are dozens of ways to create order in chaos (and if you’ve taught middle school, you know that chaos can abound if not properly squashed), but there are a few time-honored and newer ways to get a class on topic, and on it’s way to learning and mastering concepts. A class cannot function without discipline; learning ceases, therefore, it is essential to have discipline before teaching.

But, if you’ll indulge me for a minute…let me take you back to my first year of teaching and the major discipline issues I dealt with….ouch! This is going to hurt.

My first year was so exciting, but so stressful at the same time–I nearly left the profession after the first 6 months (I was hired in December, thrown into a class of struggling sophomores with 3rd grade reading levels, and left to figure out what to do about it). It was not the planning that nearly cost me my passion–it was the lack of discipline. I didn’t know what to do when a student misbehaved, but they knew just what to do when I faltered…they pounced! I mean it…I think they could smell my fear and it was on. The power struggle ensued and I was left to my own devices as to how to solve even the most minor of offenses. So, what sort of (PUNISHMENT) did I dole out? Hmmmm…

  • Writing hundreds of sentences
  • Lunch detention
  • After school detention
  • Saturday school
  • Cleaning my classroom
  • Extra worksheets/homework
  • Finally, the office

And how did that work out for me? As you can guess; awfully!

In the last few years, however, I have learned a few tricks and was lucky enough to work in a district that used a discipline method based on grace…BIST. It is from this Kansas City, MO based program that I found the guidance I needed to help my students behave in class, and help myself to a less stressful life. After studying many discipline programs with my school team, I realized that many are very, very similar. BIST (they are in no way sponsoring me) has books full of methodology, but for the sake of time and space, I have gleaned the most effective and most useful.

~First and foremost: Have a plan for misbehavior before you even start. And practice, practice, practice all the following procedures until students know exactly what you expect. It is essential to know what to do before it happens. You can count on kids forgetting supplies in their locker, talking when you are talking, being distracted in class, and even the occasional talking back. You have to know what to do in these situations before the students even walk into your classroom. For all of the above scenarios, proximity, a look, or another subtle cue will usually get the offending student back on track.

The Top Three Ways to Create Order in Any Classroom

  1. Redirect a student ONE time…no more. This is key to have compliance and leads to a smooth running class. If a student is off task in any way, direct their attention to the misbehavior and ask for compliance. It sounds like this: “Stacy, this is your redirection.” or “I see you are talking to Cameron, can you quit talking even if you don’t want to?” This scripted response–I see, Can you, Even though–is an excellent reminder to the student that she is being redirected.**
  2. If a student cannot comply after the first request they must be removed from the situation. This is where you must have pre-planned your actions. I have a safe seat in my room–a desk next to mine, away from the class and facing the wall–that I utilize to remove the student from the situation. To have the students go to the safe seat, I always say, “You were not able to follow my instructions so you will have to go to the safe seat until we can solve your problem.”
  3. The student must apologize for their behavior. The was the hardest for me–if a student acted remorseful and seemed okay, I would automatically place them back in the class. I didn’t give them the time to reflect on his behavior, therefore, I never really let them get to a point of change. And change is ultimately what I want.

The most important part of this post is that this is only part one…what the student must do to behave in class. Here is part II.

**BIST website

2 responses so far