A Guide to Good Classroom Discipline

Nancy B. Alston

1. Good classroom discipline starts with being fair. Make sure that all students get the same punishment for doing something wrong – even if it is your best student. Conversely, make sure that all of your students get equally rewarded for good work. Do not favor a student – other students will see this and resent you for it and be even less likely to follow your rules.

2. Make your rules easy to understand. If you want excellent classroom discipline, make sure that your students understand exactly what is being asked of them. Do not make a list of 200 rules – no student is going to remember all of those rules. Instead, think of the rules that are most important to you and enforce those rules. And make sure that you make those rules very clear.

3. Make your consequences easy to understand. Make sure that your students know in advance what the consequence will be if they break one of your rules. Make sure that the consequences are just as clear as the rules.

4. Be Consistent with your classroom discipline. You need to make sure that you consistently enforce your rules. Your students are not Pavlov’s dogs – the best way to enforce a rule is to consistently have a punishment for breaking it, not just at random.

5. Use a little humor to enforce good classroom discipline. If things are getting a little out of hand, it may be a good idea to throw in a little joke – there is not need to throw in the towel. Sometimes all your students need is a little humor, a little fun, to get them back onto track.

6. Try to avoid confronting a student in front of his or her peers. You do not want your student to look bad in front of his or her peers and friends – you will be resented for it. Also, every confrontation has a winner and a loser, and if your students think that you do not look like the winner in a confrontation, they may not respect you as readily. Be sure to take a student aside before confronting him or her.

7. Classroom discipline does not need to interfere with your classroom teaching. You want to deal with classroom disruptions as quickly and smoothly as you can – you do not want to lose your class momentum. Deal with disruptions immediately.

8. Start your plan of classroom discipline out hard. As the school year goes on, you can loosen the reins a bit. Just remember that it is much harder to start out as a softy and then try to tighten the reins – students will still act out.

9. Do not assume that your class will need to be disciplined. Why not assume the best of your class? Do not assume that you will constantly need to enforce some form of classroom discipline or another. Have high expectations. Assume that your class will behave. Then teach your students as though you know they will behave – if your students believe that you think they are good students, maybe they will act like good students. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

10. Make sure that you have enough activities and lessons to fill a day. Classroom discipline can start to get a little rocky if you have too much free time that must be filled. Avoid having free time – this is a time that a class can get disruptive.

11. Treat your students as individuals. Know that what works for one student may not work for another. Just because 9 students understand your rules, it does not mean that the tenth student will. Students learn in different ways. All students are different. Individuals have different needs.

12. Use positive rules of classroom discipline. For instance, instead of having all of your rules say what your students should not do, have rules that state what they should. Instead of, “Do not speak unless called on,” say, “raise your hand if you have a question.”

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