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
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!