Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Classroom Management for Today's Students

Today I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle's Dazzling Discipline Linky Party.

Dazzling Discipline Linky Party

I was reading a Facebook post the other day (that I can't find again to see who wrote it), and the person was questioning the idea of no "rules" in the classroom. When I first started teaching, I had read "The First Days of School" and set clear expectations through - you guessed it - rules! They went something like this: Keep your hands and feet to yourself, Raise your hand to be called on, and a host of other "do's and don'ts." They were posted when students walked in for the first time and we went over them on the first class. We used an Assertive Discipline plan at that school "Tags" and students who broke a rule were directed to "pull a tag" when they got back to class. My thought as a beginning teacher was "Great! There's a school-wide discipline system in place - all I have to do is follow it!"

 Fast-forward a about three years, and a couple of classroom teachers have started implementing a new form of "discipline" in their classroom (they team taught). They had gone to Responsive Classroom training during the summer, and it changed everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - they did with discipline in their classroom. So now, we have our Tag system in all but two classrooms. I started to notice that the Tags had little effect on how students were responding to their behavior choices, so I started to pay close attention to the behaviors of the two classes using this new system. I found that those two sets of students were better behaved in general and responded better to redirection. This got me thinking, maybe this Tag system and the way I'd been doing things needed to change.

The next summer, two more teachers, one in fourth grade and one in third went to the training. The next year, I noticed more of the same - the students in the "Responsive" classrooms were acting much differently than the rest of the school. This made me want to learn more about Responsive Classroom, so after a lengthy conversation with my principal about what I was noticing, I was allowed to attend the Level I training the following summer as a representative from the Specials Team. What I learned during that week-long training was amazing.

 When I got back to school that August, the first thing I did was throw away my "Rules" poster. Instead, on the first day of music, each student in every class gave me one "rule" they felt needed to be in our classroom. Every. Single. Rule. was written on the IWB. We then talked about how overwhelming that many rules would be, and how cool it would be if all of those rules fit into three nice categories. The students were very intrigued, with some of the older children saying things like "no way!" The three categories I gave them were "Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of our classroom and everything in it." I asked the students to classify each of their rules into these categories. After we finished that task, I asked the students if it was going to be easier to remember x rules or 3 positive statements. Almost every student in the school said they liked the three statements better.

During the next class, we discussed consequences, but I framed it as "What happens when we don't meet these statements or expectations?" I have found that the key to student buy-in is to have the consequence be logical. Most of the problems I see in my classroom are easily solved by implementing immediate, logical consequences. What good did it do to take recess from a kid who used the xylophone improperly??? When a student needs time to cool off - they "Take a break." I no longer go into a long diatribe about what a student did wrong or should do differently. Now I simply tell a student "Johnny, take a break." That student goes to a chair in a designated spot in the room, and is invited back after several minutes. If a child misuses an instrument, they lose the privilege of using the instrument.

Basically, I have no rules in my classroom. Instead, I use norms or positive expectations. Student buy-in is key to this and it's totally worth the class time devoted to setting this up each year.

My thoughts have evolved slightly since I first did this in my classroom, but the principles are still there. I now have all of their ideas fit into a "MUSIC" acrostic with norms/expectations, and my students understand that some activities are privileges and are much more respectful of the expectations in my classroom.


  1. Interesting!! Thanks for writing this, and for joining the party! :)

    1. Thanks! I know it's not necessarily the popular belief, but I love using RC principles. The best part is, RC isn't just about classroom management, but rather about building community and a classroom family.