Student behavior is no better in 2022 than it was in 2019 is it? We teachers are working overtime to manage our classes, and we have less leverage to use than ever before. One complaint I hear is that teachers feel they have no classroom consequences to give students. Admin tells us we need to be positive, and we can’t take recess. Some parents don’t even pay attention to our write-ups or behavioral referrals. GRRR!
I have to admit that taking recess from super energetic kids who can’t manage themselves isn’t the best idea. Students need an outlet, especially younger ones. Sitting inside all day is tough on our children, and giving them a few minutes of free play outside might be the only time they have all day to run. Many of our kids go to daycare early in the morning and stay until six or seven in the evening. That’s a LOT of time to be stuck inside.
That said, kids need consequences for bad behavior. These consequences need to match the infraction and repair any damage done. Of course, you have to follow your district policies when you deal them out. There are a few things you need to think about before you give classroom consequences, though. Here is my list.
1. Clearly display and teach your expectations.
We can’t move forward with consequences until our kids know exactly what we expect of them. Assumptions aren’t allowed because we don’t know what rules kids have or don’t have at home. Last year’s class doesn’t count. That happened months ago, and kids may not even remember what they were supposed to do back then. The expectations in last year’s classroom could be completely different from yours anyway. You can’t fairly dish out consequences if kids don’t understand the rules.
2. Call parents before you send home behavioral write-ups or give classroom consequences.
This one is worth a try, and it gives you a lot of information. If a parent tells you they will follow through to support your expectations and does it, you may have solved your student’s behavior problem. If parents promise to help, but then nothing happens, that’s good information. Parent support is important, but it isn’t the be all end all. You can’t control what happens outside your classroom, but you can use this knowledge to drive your management techniques.
3. If you get no parent support, then you need to make sure that expectations are clear and consequences are consistent in your class.
Remember, children crave consistency because it makes them feel safe. You have more of an advantage here than you think. You have the chance to create boundaries with rewards and consequences to teach your students that adults can be predictable and set up a positive environment where people get things done.
What Classroom Consequences Should You Administer?
Here’s a trick. You don’t have to take recess. However, you can shrink recess. Figure out what your students love to do on the playground. If there’s a behavioral problem in class, limit the areas where students can play. This way, students get outside to play, but they get the message that their behaviors in class won’t be tolerated.
Instructional time is precious. That said, you may need to create a reward time on Fridays or another day of choice where students get to experiment with STEM bins or play learning games. You may choose extra technology time. Regardless of your choice, students who misbehave may lose this time. Kids who don’t get work done, probably shouldn’t lose recess, but they can be asked to finish during this time.
Students who continually break specific rules need time to think about what they did wrong. Sitting them out from a fun activity is fine, but having them write about what they did while they’re missing out is impactful.
You could give them a sentence starter like I chose to _________________. The effect of my choice was ____________________________. The next time, I will choose to _______________________.
Struggling students often take out their frustrations on other kids or you! In this case, they need to learn the power of an apology. If they refuse, have them sit out of something fun until they say something genuine to the person they insulted.
Teach kids this sentence starter:
“I am sorry that I _______________________. I will do _________________________________ instead the next time I am feeling _____________________________. “
Understand that they won’t learn this right away, especially if their adults haven’t taught them this at home. In that case, you are teaching a new skill, and you have to sell the reason for kindness to others and apologies. I tell kids that they don’t have to like each other, but they have to be civil. I show them that when we spend our days in a room where everyone is polite, we create a productive energy. We get through what we need to get through without a lot of drama. I make sure there are fun activities at the end of each lesson if we didn’t have to stop for nonsense. Always approach relationships in your classroom from a building or restorative place. These are life skills—like it or not, it often falls to us to teach them.
You may have heard the term “logical consequences” as well. This basically means that consequences should sensibly match the infraction.
- Damage to the classroom
If a student spills something, have him/her mop it up. If they knock something over, they pick it up. Once I had a kid misusing a wobble stool and fell through a bookshelf. Luckily, this child wasn’t hurt, and free time was spent helping me fix the mess.
- Talking During Instruction
If a student talks or plays during instruction, they work alone. I was teaching the other day and two kids continued to talk. I went over and separated their desks, then explained that we couldn’t meet our goals and objectives for the lesson if we’re playing.
- Hallway Behavior
If a child runs in the hallway line, then have them walk by you.
- Cafeteria Behavior
If monitors complain about your students’ behavior, assign seats. If one students struggles, have him/her eat alone in the office for a time.
- Trouble in Art, Music, Library, Technology, or Gym Class
Have students spend their free time working to help the teacher in the class where they’ve had trouble. They could also spend that time doing missed assignments.
You have much more power in your classroom than you may realize, regardless of your districts policy on behavior consequences. Try these responses to misbehavior and see how your class handles them. If you still need help, it’s important to reach out to admin and school counselors for assistance. You have people in your building to support you. Remember, you may not be able to “fix” behavior as I discussed here, but you can make small differences that will have a larger impact on learning in your class as a whole in the long run. Stay with it…you’ve got this!