Discipline ranks right up there with excessive paperwork on most educators’ lists of favorite things. But when it comes to students, discipline is an absolute necessity. After all, it is impossible to teach effectively in a classroom environment that lacks order. Therefore, implementing an effective discipline plan is crucial. However, it is equally important to engage in disciplinary practices that are fair, reasonable and designed to preserve students’ dignity while correcting, reducing and eliminating inappropriate or disruptive behaviors.
Ten Great Strategies
Here are some strategies for creating a stable, structured classroom environment that makes students feel safe and secure and is conducive to learning:
1. Discuss the importance of having rules with your students. This is an excellent opportunity to teach a mini lesson that combines discipline instruction with social studies and character building activities. Start by dividing students into small groups. Next, ask them to discuss why it’s important to have laws. You can give them prompts such as “What do you think it would be like if there were no traffic lights or signs?" or “What do you suppose it would be like to live in a country with no laws?" Have each student group share their responses and write them on chart paper. Use the responses as a springboard for a discussion about why it is important to have, abide by and enforce classroom rules.
2. Consider students feedback and input. Have your students participate in developing classroom rules. Of course, you will need to start with some basics such as “Conduct yourself in a respectable manner" “Treat others with respect" and “Respect the property of others." You can have students add rules or provide specific examples of what it means to follow (or break) the rules you have established.
3. Have students sign a Classroom Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. This is another excellent opportunity to include a social studies mini lesson. Your students can emulate the process of developing the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution by creating and signing their own Classroom Bill of Rights. Having students participate in decision-making and sign documents helps to invest them in the disciplinary process.
4. Develop partnerships with your students’ parents. Introduce yourself to your students’ parents as soon as you possibly can. By making your first contact with parents a positive one, you will start your relationship with parents off on the right foot and enlist them as allies for discipline early on. In many instances, just the knowledge that their teacher is in contact with their parents is enough to keep students behaving within acceptable limits.
5. Draft a behavior contract. Again this is another strategy for investing students in the discipline process. Have each student—and their parent(s) or guardian(s)—initial and sign the contract that outlines acceptable and unacceptable behavior, as well as incentives and consequences. Of course, you will sign it as well.
6. Create a positive learning environment. Create a classroom environment that is appropriately structured to make students feel comfortable, safe, secure, valued and respected.
7. Be firm. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
8. Be consistent. Apply your rules and enforce your consequences fairly and evenly.
9. Be discreet. Do not embarrass or humiliate students. Discipline can be meted out with dignity.
10. Avoid showdowns with students. Nobody wins when you have a public blowout with a student. If a student’s inappropriate behavior is escalating, do not engage the student. Instead, give the student an opportunity to calm down then arrange to speak with him or her privately to address the inappropriate behavior.