For me the establishment of norms, rules and procedures in the classroom is an absolute must. Failure to develop a comprehensive set of rules and procedures will make a teacher’s job neigh impossible. However, establishing norms, rules and procedures is only the first step and they become effective only if they are consistently and constantly enforced. In this blog I will talk about my thought process around the application of rules and procedures in the classroom.
How a given teacher maintains their classroom rules and procedures will necessarily be idiosyncratic, but they will be sure to use either positive consequences, negative consequences or a combination of both. When discussing application of rules and procedures Marzano (2010), states that, “a combination of positive and negative consequences appears to be the optimum approach” (p. 133). I too echo this sentiment and believe strongly in the use of both positive and negative reinforcement to maintain classroom discipline. In this blog I will outline my positive and negative consequences plan with a chart and a verbal description of my positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement methods.
FLOW CHART ON POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT
I categorize positive reinforcement into two main areas of recognition, verbal and non-verbal. Under each category I have several actions that I take to reward and promote positive behavior in the class.
This is verbal recognition from the teacher, i.e. good job, well done, I like how hard you tried etc.
- Quiet Praise: To make it more personal I like to praise individual students very quietly so that others don’t hear. Then if the student wants to share what I said it is up to them.
- Praise: This is usually to the whole class and praise on a given procedure i.e. I really like how everyone is writing quietly, or I’m glad everyone worked well together to move the desks so quickly, etc.
- Public Recognition: I use this only with permission of the student. If I encounter a really good example of student work , effort or process, then I share that with the class and we all give the student(s) involved a cheer for hard work.
This category is praise that doesn’t come in the form of speech. It can be really informal like a high-five or formal such as a letter home to parents.
- High-five/Smile: These are non-verbal actions and cues that I like to cultivate. Making someone else smile can be a powerful motivator. Also, I’ve discovered after working hard my student’s enjoy a high-five to celebrate their hard work. A high-five plus a smile is even better.
- Tangible: These are rewards the students can get their hands on or experience visually. I use two tangible reward system. The first is a raffle ticket system where I give students a raffle ticket for positive behavior. This can be just extra helpfulness or cooperation, to finishing a difficult assignment in time, to doing extra-curricular work. At the end of each quarter I hold a raffle draw and I have some novelty stationary items they can win. The second is a class point system. In this system I give the class points for following our procedures and rules. At a set number of points there is a class reward, usually a gamified learning activity but it could also be a video lesson.
- Home Recognition: This is not something I currently use but it is something I am looking toward using. Parents are usually only a recipient of a teacher’s email when their son or daughter is in trouble at school, however, I would like to send out at least one daily email regarding positive behavior. So, I will create a student of the day award. At the end of each day I will recognize one student as the student of the day and they will get a special certificate and a raffle ticket too. Also, I will send an email to their parents informing them of their son’s or daughter’s excellence on that day.
I categorize all the actions I take when students are not following the norms, rules or procedures as negative reinforcement. These could range from a simple non-verbal cue to a letter home to the parents depending on what the situation warrants. I have also further subdivided this category into actions to undertake for minor infraction vs. major infractions.
- For minor infractions regarding rules or procedures I will follow what Mazano calls, “Using a Series of Graduated Actions” (2010, p. 142), if number one fails to resolve the issue than I will go on to number two and so forth.
- Look at the offending student(s): Giving the students “the look” to let them know they are outside of the expectation.
- The next step is to move closer to the offending student(s)
- If proximity doesn’t help then I’ll quietly remind the students to follow our rules and procedures.
- If a quiet reminder doesn’t work then I will stop the class to deal with the offending behavior.
- Classroom Behavior Card Color Code: This is a system that I am not currently using but envisioning for the time in the near future when I will be a middle school homeroom teacher. The system will consist of a bunch of pockets, one for each student with their name written on it, attached to the class bulletin board. Then color cards are inserted into the pockets to represent the students overall behavior.
- WHITE: No problem, the student’s behavior is within the norms, rules and procedures that have been established.
- BLUE: Caution, the student is having trouble maintaining some of the norms, rules or procedures. This color in the student’s pocket should be a reminder to them that should they continue to ignore the classroom rules and procedures more serious consequences will ensue.
- PURPLE: Reteach, the student is clearly not following one or more of the classroom rules or procedures. At the point when a purple card appears in the students pocket they will have to meet with the teacher at a specified time to discuss the difficulty and to practice the rules and/or procedures that the student is violating.
- BLACK: Intervention, the student is not following several of the classroom rules or procedure and having a negative impact on the class environment. When a black card appears in the students pocket it means that the student’s parents will be informed of the behavior. From this point if the behavior doesn’t improve further measures such as a parent teacher meeting or a meeting with the school councilor may be scheduled. Depending on the outcome of those measures a special behavior plan or additional/special classroom rules or procedures may be implemented to help the student and to preserve the learning environment for the rest of the class.
- Out of Control/Dangerous Behavior: This is my plan for handling worst case scenarios involving student(s) in class. e.g. fights, yelling at the teacher, breaking down into tears, etc.
- Calm Myself: Whenever encountering a highly charged situation it is important to not escalate the the level of emotion or tension. Therefore, to intervene in a calm manner to diffuse the high emotion I must first be collected and calm. I will take a moment to recognize that the situation is bad. Take a deep breath, remember it isn’t about me and then wade in.
- Calm the student(s): I will engage the student(s) with a simple direct statement identifying the situation, e.g. Wow! You are mad, I can see you’re very upset, etc. Then I will open up dialogue by inviting the student(s) to tell me what is the trouble, e.g. what are you feeling right now? What happened? etc. Then I will just listen and listen actively, mirroring the student(s) statements to show that I am hearing what they are saying. I will continue this until the level of emotion has decreased significantly.
- Once things are relatively calm I will follow Marzano’s advice and, “[communicate] a simple request intended to diffuse the situation. Typically, the request will involve the student and teacher leaving the classroom” (2010, p. 147). Once outside of the classroom further debriefing and discussion can follow and further help can be found, e.g. go to the school councilor, contact the parents, etc.
- The behavior color code BLACK can be considered part of the major infraction section as well.
- Contact Parents: When any serious trouble starts to disrupt the class and the usual avenues of discipline are not working it’s time to enlist the help of the parents. Contacting parents could be an email or a phone call as the situation warrants and the intention behind the communication would be to open up dialogue about their son’s or daughter’s situation. Ideally the parent will be able to provide additional insight into the child’s behavior and could possibly assist the teacher in correcting that students behavior.
- Further Action i.e. Parent Teacher Meeting / School Counselor Consultation / Behavior Plan: For more serious situations where an informal phone call or email has failed to resolve the situation, or where the behavior of the student is so extreme that a more formal forum is necessary then a parent teacher meeting should occur. This meeting may include a school counselor or the counselor can be recommended by the teacher as one method to help the situation. Additionally, if school policy and local law allows the teacher may direct the student to see the student counselor before obtaining parental consent (this is the case in Japan at my school). A possible result of the parent teacher meeting and/or a consultation with the counselor is a behavior plan whereby additional and/or special rules and procedures are outlined with the goal to help the student manage their behavior and become a positive participant in class.
Although I have done my best to make a comprehensive plan maintain classroom rules and procedures I recognize that it is impossible that I’ve thought of everything that could possibly happen. Additionally, as I was describing the flow chart I realized I had not included a powerful device for maintaining classroom rules and procedures, the class meeting. A class meeting is the perfect forum to discuss behavioral expectations and to poll the student body to generate their own ideas for rules and procedures, as well as, for solutions to any current classroom troubles. Definitely, should I become a homeroom teacher I would use class meetings to discuss and reinforce classroom rules and procedures. With regards to the methods outlined here I am already using many of the strategies in my current teaching practice and they have proven effective for me. I definitely agree with Marzano’s idea of “the balanced approach, which involves
acknowledgment of positive behavior and negative behavior” (2010, p. 148). Certainly I want to remain as positive as possible in the classroom and respect student’s by treating them fairly and kindly, however, I do believe as teachers we must not be afraid to defend our behavioral expectations and confront students to maintain the rules and procedures established. If we shy away from conflict, from enlisting the help of parents or from the hard work of behavior/conflict resolution then our rules and procedures become no more than pie in the sky ideals which will look very nice on paper but have no effect on keeping a safe functional learning environment.
Marzano, R. J. (2010). The art and science of teaching: a comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.