Friday, November 14, 2014

My Classroom Rules and How I Enforce Them

The educational strategies I use in my classroom are things I continuously reflect on and develop. The behavior management of my middle school classrooms is one of the things I’m most proud of with my teaching.  I generally had a happy classroom that was under control and focused on learning, which wasn't always easy considering my classes each consisted of 30+ seventh graders at ALL possible academic levels working out of their seats on science experiments and activities. My biggest pieces of advice for a well behaved class are to keep your rules and consequences simple, clear, and consistent.

I only had three rules in my classroom and they were broad enough to cover just about any out of line behavior. At the beginning of the year we went over these rules thoroughly and acted out examples and nonexamples so there was no room for confusion or purposeful misinterpretation.
Rule Number One:Respect yourself, your peers, your teacher, and your surroundings.” This rule is meant to cover all interactions in the classroom. Students who respect themselves value their education and learning time and get their assignments completed to the best of their abilities. Students who respect their peers understand their classmates need a safe learning environment free of distractions and impolite communications. Students who respect their teacher recognize the importance of the education opportunities being presented in class and allow the teacher to facilitate lessons and help all students learn.  Students who respect their surroundings acknowledge the resources, furniture, and equipment in class are used by others for the pursuit of education and need to be kept in good condition. 

Rule Number Two:Raise your hand silently to speak.” Having strong student participation is important for learning, but entering chaos territory is so easy when middle school students are allowed to interject whenever and for whatever. Students need to know every voice is important; for everyone's thoughts, ideas, and questions to be heard there needs to be an order to the sharing process.

Rule Number Three:Follow all directions quickly the first time they are given.”  It sounds basic (and it is) but so much educational time is saved with this rule, especially in a science classroom where there is limited time to complete time-consuming experiments. 

After much trial and error, and some great advice from an administrator, I developed a list of consequences that worked perfectly to enforce the rules of my classroom. The key with consequences is they must be followed in order every single time for every single student. 

Consequence Number One: "Warning." This was in place so I could let students know their behavior was unacceptable in the classroom and needed to be changed. I gave the warning in different ways to communicate with the offending student, depending on what worked the student’s personality. Sometimes I would approach the students discreetly and quietly tell them they had a warning. Other times I would catch the student's eye from across the room and show a number one with my finger. If I had a particularly easygoing class where the students were all comfortable with one another I'd pause in the lesson to tell the student they had a warning.

Consequence Number Two:Complete a Behavior Think Sheet and move seats.”  If students continued to disregard the class rules they would get this consequence that served three purposes. First it removed the student from the situation, making it easier to revert to proper behavior. Second, it allowed them to reflect on their behavior and analyze its effect on themselves and others.  Third, the BTS provided me with documentation of misbehavior that I could save and keep on file. I realized completing a BTS takes time out of learning, and so did the students. My lessons were fun, engaging, and rigorous; the students did not want to and could not afford to miss part of the lesson by acting out and completing a BTS. In addition, if the misbehavior was allowed to continue it would distract others from learning the content. Occasionally I would have a student test me by not completing the BTS. For those students I gave them a choice: They could complete it in my class and be late to their next class (without a pass), or they could leave it incomplete and move on to the third consequence. The Behavior Think Sheet (with English and Spanish copies included) is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Consequence Number Three:Parent or guardian contact.” If the first two consequences were not effective, consequence three often curbed the desire to misbehave. Sometimes I would have the student call home with me right after class. Sometimes I would make the contact immediately after school. Rarely, and only after exceptionally poor misbehavior, would the family be contacted during class.

Consequence Number Four:Referral.”  I was lucky enough to teach in a school with a fantastic dean of discipline. The fourth consequence involved me contacting the dean about the student’s misbehavior and it would then be handled in a fair manner.  In other schools a similar consequence might be used with the principal or other administrator instead.

As I said earlier, the consequences should be followed in order every time for every student. There are exceptions to that, and I was always upfront and honest about the exceptions with my students. My students knew that if one student punched another student in class that a simple “warning” would not happen. That just wouldn't make any sense. The steps can be skipped for serious breaches of the classroom rules. The only other reason I would skip a consequence was for repeat offenders. If the same student had the same problem over and over again I met with that student privately to make a plan. Usually that plan involved skipping one or two steps in the list of consequences until the student was able to demonstrate appropriate behavior consistently over time. All of my classes knew skipping steps could occur in such situations, so there was never any backlash of “that’s unfair” if I went out of order.

I hope this post provided you with useful information and gave you ideas for rules and consequences in your own classroom. The classroom rules and consequences are in poster form in my store. You can get them in the Classroom Management Rules and Consequences Poster Pack. Remember to check out the Behavior Think Sheet if you think it’ll be helpful for your classroom. Thanks for reading!

 Behavior Think Sheet
 Rules and Consequences Poster Pack

17 comments:

  1. Thank you! I need this for next week! :)

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    1. You're welcome! Hope you're having a great year!

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  2. Thank you so much! I am stepping into a classroom where the teacher was dismissed - they have had a long-term sub for the last 9 weeks....I have to re-establish some order! :)

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    1. You're welcome! I don't envy your situation, but I'm sure you'll do great!

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  3. Elly,
    Today is my school's first day back from Winter Break. I sent this site to my building's teachers to use as a resource to reinforce classroom policies and procedures. The beginning of a new semester is always a good time to refresh students' minds. Thanks for the site and resource! You are awesome! Also, glad to hear you had a good dean at your school that supported you in your classroom. ;-) Miss you my dear friend and colleague in education, -R.

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    1. Hello Rebecca!
      Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog post! It was great to hear from you. I haven't been tending my blog like I should, so I missed your comment until now. Thank you for sharing this post with your school! That's awesome. I hope they found it helpful and useful. My dean was the best. She totally rocked. ;)
      -Elly

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  4. My classroom rule: Be a good human. I also have the same consequences.

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  5. i purchased this file but what is the secret to unzipping it?

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    1. Here are some detailed instructions for opening zipped files. https://support.teacherspayteachers.com/What-a-ZIP-file-c46-a88.html

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  6. I'm going to be a first year teacher and I have really enjoyed all of your posts! They are helping me a TON!

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    1. I'm sure you'll have a very memorable first year. I'm happy my posts are giving you some good ideas for your first classroom. Good luck :)

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  7. Thank you for this post. I have a question. If you follow this order of consequences every time they do not follow directions, how do you ever get to a point of writing a referral? I would think that you would only get to the point of calling home. Also, how many times do you let them be a repeat offender before you skip steps. I'm trying to tweek my consequence plan. I appreciate you posting this. Thank you again.

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    1. Hey Jackie! You’re welcome! I’m happy that what works in my classroom helps you too. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

      Question 1: Most of my students end their poor behavior at consequence 1 or 2, and I don’t have to proceed with 3 or 4. The majority of the time a student will only get a referral for one of two reasons: something severe (like punching a classmate) or having an incredibly poor attitude that stemmed from receiving the enforcement of the rules. Here’s what I mean by that. The students who do get referrals have often blown through the previous consequences. For example, they get a warning and a minute later they get a BTS/seat change. They then get angry and act even worse because of consequences 1 and 2 so they get number 3 shortly after. This might be because of refusing to move, throwing the BTS on the floor, yelling, filling out the BTS incorrectly (maybe writing “this is stupid” in all the boxes)—all of which leads to a call home. When a student is in a state like that, they usually get a referral pretty soon after I say I’ll call home. The good news is this doesn’t happen too often. Also, sometimes you can deescalate by having a little chat in the hall, especially if this kind of behavior is unusual for the student.

      Question 2: I play it by ear. I don’t have a set number of problem days before I skip steps. If I start to notice a student doing the same misbehavior several times in the span of a couple of weeks, I have a talk with the student and let them know I will begin skipping steps for the next infraction. I’m always clear about why I am doing it and what steps I’ll be skipping. They need to know exactly what to expect.

      Does that all make sense? Good luck with your tweaks. You can use the “Contact Me” page if you have more questions. Thanks for reading!

      -Elly

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  8. HI - Would you use the same consequences in a high school classroom?

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    1. Hey Ellen! I'm strictly middle school, but I don't see any reason why these consequences wouldn't work for high school too.

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  9. Thank you for this! Where are the student when they fill out the BTS? Are they in the new seat and trying to multitask (fill out BTS while listening/taking notes/participating)? Or are they supposed to direct all efforts on BTS before they continue to participate?

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    1. Hey Brandon! Thank you for reading and commenting. My classroom is arranged in tables that seat 4 students each. When a student reaches consequence two, he or she gets a BTS and is sent to a small desk alone. My students are expected to finish the BTS by the end of the class and complete any other notes or classwork. As a part of every class period, my students participate in discussions and activities in their small table groups. Whenever the class is engaged in one of those discussions/activities it is an ideal time for students to complete the BTS (since they are sitting off by themselves and no longer have a group to interact with). Yes, they miss out on the benefits of group work and learning from their classmates, but when they reach consequence two they’ve proved that they aren’t learning and/or are preventing their classmates from learning. Even though they have the BTS to complete, I still think they and their classmates learn more than they would if they remained in the group environment. Hope that helps answer your questions!
      -Elly

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