Your Discipline Plan and the Consequences
I think it is a very good idea to introduce your discipline plan and consequences on the very first day of school. Students need to know from the ‘get go’ what will happen to them. It can be reassuring to know what you will do if they are disobedient. They want to know how safe they are from punishment or how near to receiving rewards.
Everyone makes mistakes. Build a system that includes some forgiveness and room to correct errors. Regardless of the system of discipline you use, the most important principles are:
Be clear, consistent, and fair!
It helps students to be able to have visual references for discipline matters. Some teachers employ clothespins marked with students’ names, or reserve a place on a black/white board where names are written if there have been discipline infractions during the day.
You will need to work out for yourself ‘how much is too much.’ Some teachers use the old baseball metaphor, “Three strikes and you’re out…,” and send recalcitrant students to the principal’s office after three infractions.
also think you also need a carrot, not just a stick. You can motivate your students to want to do and behave well in the class. Gold stars on a score sheet, candy rewards, and other “carrots” have long been used in the classroom. The focus of the class should be about individuals and the group learning and achieving excellence, not about taking a lot of time to punish a “bad boy or bad girl.”
In my classroom, I use a card system, which I introduce on the first day. On one wall of the room, I hang pockets labeled with each child’s name. In each pocket, I place 4 cards. Throughout the day, if an issue comes up, I may walk over to the pockets and move a colored card to the front.
Normally, I place the cards in the following order, with green at the front:
If a child gets, let’s say, a yellow card; he or she has the opportunity to “work” their way back to green. I have a ‘take a break chair” for the first infraction and then after that I pull the card. Again, if the child’s behavior improves, they have the opportunity to earn their way back to green. This is in line with “Responsive Classrooms.”
After a student reaches 3 warnings and I have turned up the red card in their pocket, they can expect that the 4th warning will be an Office referral – they will have to go to the main office to meet with the principal, vice principal, school counselor, or other person assigned to handle disciplinary matters.
After I explain the colors and their consequences, I do a ‘think-pair & share’ activity with the class, similar to the “Classroom Rules” activity. Students discuss what kinds of situations would merit a warning and a change of colored card. After about 10-15 minutes of brainstorming and discussion, we do a whole group share about discipline and consequences.
The students generate examples of situations that might be considered infractions. They share their ideas about what kinds of infractions would warrant which color card. We discuss what a yellow, blue, or red situation would look like – and how to avoid or prevent them from occurring.
To make the cards
I use four different colors of construction paper – green, yellow, blue and red. First, I laminate several pages of each color. Then I cut the laminated colored paper into 1 inch by 4 inch strips. You will need four cards per student; i.e. if you have 25 students, you will need 25 of each color for a total of 100 cards.
To make the pockets
On tagboard or wood backing, use hot glue to affix one envelope for each child in the class. Write their names on each with a marker. Stuff each envelope with four cards, 1 in each of the 4 colors in the order above.
One final note about your discipline plan and the consequences: it does not matter so much which specific method you choose to use – cards, clothespins, names on board, etc. The trick is to temper your discipline plan with common sense. Apply it fairly to all students without exception.