Strategies from K-12 schools, districts, and programs that are dramatically improving the learning process.
We share evidence- and practitioner-based learning strategies that empower you to improve K-12 education. This article is adapted from Larry's new book, Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation.
My general answer is that you can never have too many positive, not punitive, classroom management strategies in your toolbox.
Obviously, there are serious student transgressions, including violence, where some kind of punishment is an appropriate response. Community organizers try to help people understand the difference between public and private relationships (I was an organizer for 19 years prior to becoming a teacher). Here is another example: I have spent time over the years working with many organizations, including religious congregations, organizing for community improvements. And we carried this distinction over to how members needed to act in the context of the organization -- at our meetings, with the media, and whenever they were in the public eye. I apply this concept in the classroom by helping students understand the difference between public behavior and private behavior.
I sometimes will have done it enough times with a student that when I go over, he or she will recite all of the lines.
These kinds of inappropriate comments seem to decrease as the school year goes on, because at least some students gain a greater understanding of the differences between public and private, an understanding that should serve them well for years to come. Educator and positive classroom management consultant Marvin Marshall recommends a simple strategy of asking a disruptive student a simple question, either in the moment or afterward: "What would be the long-term effect of doing that?" As he suggests, asking can be far more effective than telling. A paper airplane, ball of paper, or pencil flies through the air, or somebody makes an obnoxious noise.
It's not uncommon for teachers to first yell something like, "Who threw it?" No one admits to it, and then the teacher will punish the entire group. Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. This kind of misbehavior does not happen that often in my classes, thankfully, but it certainly does occur. I asked them both to come outside with me, and I explained that I was disappointed that one of them was not keeping their word.
So in other words, the second step, when necessary, is to ask students to consider the impact their actions have on others, and ask them to try to work out problems among themselves.
Of course, one of the most common situations where the specter of collective punishment is raised is after a difficult time with a substitute teacher. This can be a very effective strategy to reduce teacher temptation to inflict collective punishment on a class, enhance the likelihood of a class with a sub being somewhat productive, and dramatically reduce stress for the sub. After a class has shown that it understands and respects the expected behavior, a teacher can experiment with not using the grading rubric and explaining to students that he or she trusts that they will act appropriately.
In Part Two of this excerpt, I'll offer additional positive classroom management strategies.
One of the most important things I've learned (and teach) about classroom management is the teacher's attitude. I'm seeing a great system being implemented at an elementary school that uses a positive behavior color chart school-wide. The key is to not use it for punishment, but instead as a teaching tool or a self-awareness tool for students. Almost always students are noisier, unmotivated to work, and even ruder sometimes when there's a substitute teacher around. Your Attitude and Behavior with a Substitute Teacher grading rubric sounds like a good idea. I was doing a long term sub job last year and sent a positive note home with a student for his father.
When I think of our most struggling and distracted students, I see how social pain and rejection often hijack their ability to be academically focused and successful. When students and teachers feel this connection, we are all responding from the higher cortical regions of the brain, and our dopamine reward centers are activated by these feelings, these positive emotions. In this post, I'm proposing a classroom management model that I developed with the help of Judy Willis.
Just as we discuss and model other procedures, we will initially need to teach students about this model. The first aspect of this behavior engagement model is to teach our students about their own neuro-anatomy.
John will work on the assigned project for 15 minutes without distracting his classmates by talking, gesturing, or interrupting their learning.


Alice will enter the classroom, gather her work or supplies, and be ready for instruction within three minutes.
Anthony will choose a signal and a Level 2 option within a five-minute period when feeling angry or frustrated. The student has reached the point of no return -- angry, closed off, disengaged, hopeless, and feeling the desire to fight, freeze, or flee. The student is slightly engaged, a bit distracted, and the flow of learning is interrupted. The social rewards can be many and varied for students who attain the higher levels of this model on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. Ferrari is thirteen years old and has the mind of a mischievous pixie who's constantly being electrocuted at all his joints.
This is a series of three books (lower, middle & upper primary) which provides primary teachers with hundreds of practical strategies and classroom teaching activities for reinforcing positive student behaviour as well as preventing and managing misbehaviour.
The personal and social skills developed as a result of these books can have a profound impact on the lives of individual students, as well as the school environment. The Ready-to-Go Series has been designed to help teachers painlessly incorporate important perspectives into their teaching program. However, in many other instances, punishment may work only temporarily, may not work at all, or may only make the problem worse.
Often, those in power will try to blur that division when it suits their purposes (for example, politicians kissing babies). The political decision makers with whom we would have to negotiate for those neighborhood changes were sometimes members of those congregations, and they would often try to privately influence pastors or congregation leaders to take a different public position. The object is probably aimed at another student, and it may or may not hit the intended target. It's frustrating because that kind of behavior does not contribute to a learning community. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. What I usually do is go over to the area where I suspect the noise or projectile originated and quietly explain that I don't feel respected when this kind of thing happens.
In my teaching career, this has almost always resulted in stopping the inappropriate behavior and, I hope, students gaining some added maturity. One preventative strategy is the use of something like the Attitude and Behavior With A Substitute Teacher grading rubric. Students need to know that it's okay not to love, or even like, everything they do in school. One of my major challenges is classroom management because I usually just come and go after a day or two or a week of sub teaching for a homeroom teacher.
They know that it's a different set up as compared to when their homeroom teacher is present. I like the way you handle Johnny when he said something inappropriate in class, and I would always remember to try that in my classroom. The student was elated to get something positive and he told me that his dad would be so happy to get that note. However, the problem starts when we are positive, open and want to communicate and the one of our students is cheeky and impudent, moreover - egoistic and somehow antisocial. Optimal school performance requires positive emotional connections with those students that we want to prosper while feeling capable and competent.
This model for behavior and emotional engagement incentivizes students to self-assess and reflect, choosing options that are socially rewarding. When we understand how the brain learns and feels -- with every word, thought, and experience -- we empower our students with the lifetime tools that will enhance their experience in and out of school.
The student feels increasingly irritated, somewhat oppositional, and shuts down to feedback and learning.
It is at Levels 3 and 4 that we move in closer to the student, touching a shoulder, showing authentic interest while observing all forms of communication. We continue to implement affirmation, noticing the effort, and sharing our observations about the high engagement. If a student is not working during class time, we need to think about an alternate environment and time where he or she can complete assignments once the negative emotion has been drained. I work with my students on levels of engagement in the classroom and model my expectations.
Click on the individual covers for more information about the books, and for ordering information. An accompanying picture pack incorporates 23 large full colour cards with teaching notes on the back.


This series of Ready-to-Go books provides teachers with ideas and activities for reinforcing positive modes of student behaviour, as well as guidance on preventing and correcting misbehaviour. These activities can be used in isolation, as part of a sequence, or dipped into as teachers require. Research suggests that punishment often primarily teaches the student that he or she just has to be more careful next time to avoid getting caught.
The religious leaders, in turn, would point out that when it came time to participating in public life, it was a public relationship and public dialogue -- and when it came time to a personal issue, it was a private relationship and a private dialogue. One small example is a student shouting out "I'm bored" or some other inappropriate comment.
And, since I feel like I show that I respect students at all times, I would hope they would want me to feel respected.
So I said that I couldn't trust the word of either of them and didn't like feeling that way. Early in the year, the teacher shows the simple rubric to students and explains that a substitute will use it with them.
One time I covered for a homeroom teacher who would count up to 5 to make sure the students have put away their laptops and are in the line by 0. When our efforts in the classroom meet with frustration and opposition, we can inadvertently mimic our students' negative emotions. The model resembles a video game, with students moving through levels and noting how they feel.
Teachers and students must agree ahead of time about how they will communicate their growing frustration, ideally with a signal or gesture that indicates a need to choose an option at a specific level. We emphasize process, effort, and attainable goals once the negative emotion has been cleared away. Social intrinsic rewards work well here, because when someone else notices what's working well, we continue doing it.
Research repeatedly reports that social rewards are sustainable and meaningful when assisting students in shifting habit, mindsets, and behaviors. Ferrari is the most hyperactive kid, mentally and physically, on all continents of the world and more than any kid who might also be sailing around on any of the oceans and seas, too. I then explain that I don't know who actually did it, but that I would like each of them to commit that they will not throw something (or make a noise, etc.), and we shake on it. I suggested that the person who was making the noise might want to think about how his or her actions were now affecting the other student. Five minutes prior to the end of class with the sub, he or she will distribute the rubrics, and students will write down their names and grade themselves. For every 5 counts that the class is not in a line, he will have 1 minute taken away from their free choice period.
They choose options at each level that motivate them to the next level, which lessens growing anxiety and anger. Adjust this model to the growing and changing needs of your students and your personal teaching profile. Then, I gave them a few minutes to talk about it privately (I left the door open and asked them to stay in front of it so I could observe their actions, but not overhear what they said).
The sub will then go around, give what grade he or she believes the student has earned, and collect the sheets (this process means the sub does not have to worry about remembering individual names and can base the evaluation on student faces). I think If the teacher had explained that, "Man, I know this is hard for you (or boring), but we'll both get through this together." I think I would have put more effort into those boring subjects. We sometimes think changing their color or pulling their card is enough for them to realize their mistakes and how they can improve, but it's like getting a math problem wrong.
However, I noticed that when I do this, most students would be in a line, except for 1 or 2 students. Nevertheless, when we want to solve the problem quickly enough to be able to realise our goal, it can be just painful. Many of our students don't have the social modeling from their environments to assess an alternate way of approaching a problem, especially in those moments when negative emotion is growing stronger. What I did then was to put the names of these 1 or 2 students on the white board and told them that instead of a class deduction, only the two of them would get it.



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