A Classroom Management Strategy Every Teacher Should Use

The Do It Again StrategyWhat do you do when your students perform an everyday procedure, like entering the classroom, in a way that doesn’t meet your expectations?

How do you respond when they appear to ignore your instructions about how you want a classroom procedure completed?

Less effective teachers typically respond in one of two ways.

They either let it go and move on to something else, or they raise their voice, show their disappointment, and dissect everything the students did wrong.

The former will result in more of the same behavior from students and an eventual loss of control (see article on broken windows theory). And the latter, when repeated often enough, will cause private resentment and make classroom management an uphill battle.

The “Do It Again” Strategy

The best response is to use a strategy that is proven to be both effective and easy on the teacher. It’s called the “do it again” strategy. The way it works is when your students don’t meet your expectations for a classroom procedure, you ask them to do it again.

This is a widely used classroom management strategy, but it’s rarely utilized in a way that makes it most effective.

A common mistake is adding negative commentary while students are doing the procedure over again. The fact is, students understand why they have to do it again and don’t benefit from the teacher spelling it out for them.

You don’t need to make students miserable or fill them with guilt to get your point across. Plus, there’s that whole resentment thing that threatens to undermine the trustful relationship you have with your students.

The most effective teachers are able to hold students accountable without causing friction in the student/teacher relationship.

Another mistake is using the strategy inconsistently. If your students perform a procedure incorrectly or inappropriately and you let it pass without a response, even one time, you’ll undo the work you did teaching the procedure in the first place.

You have a responsibility to yourself and your sanity to make sure procedures are done correctly. When your students know what to do and how to do it throughout every moment of the school day, your job becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

Further, teaching a procedure and then not holding students accountable when it’s done poorly is bad teaching.

Effective classroom management requires an unbending commitment to respond every time expectations aren’t met.

How To “Do It Again”

The “do it again” strategy is an effective way to respond when your students don’t meet the expectations you have for a particular procedure. But to ensure that the strategy is a success, there are five steps to keep in mind.

To make these steps clearer, we’ll use as an example a class of students who just entered the classroom noisily.

  • Step #1 – Before asking your students to trudge outside the room and redo the procedure, wait until they’re finished doing it incorrectly and are seated, quiet, and looking at you. Only then, and after a long pause, should you begin to speak.
  • Step #2 – Simply tell your students that they did it wrong. Don’t rehash every mistake they made or remind them of how they’re supposed to enter the classroom. They already know. That is, if you taught them the procedure thoroughly enough the first time.
  • Step #3 – In a calm voice, say, “When I say ‘Go’ I want you to stand up, walk outside, and then come into the classroom like you’re supposed to.” If it’s a primary classroom, you might have to walk them out yourself. However, all students benefit from following procedures with as little support from you as possible. So don’t hover; watch dispassionately from a distance.
  • Step #4 – Don’t say anything until the procedure is completed and your students are sitting and attentive.
  • Step #5 – If they did the “entering the classroom” procedure correctly the second time around, let them know. With a smile, say, “Now that is how I expect you to do it every time.” If, however, they didn’t meet your expectations, even in a small way, you need to teach it again.

If you’ve been a regular reader to this blog, then you may have noticed that brevity in speech is a common theme. When it comes to classroom management, hashing things out and discussing mistakes is generally a waste of time.

Students respond more favorably to actions and clear, concise speech. The “do it again” strategy fits this definition perfectly.

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10 Responses to A Classroom Management Strategy Every Teacher Should Use

  1. Jennifer July 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    I have had amazing success with penmanship by circling each and every mistake that is made early on in the year. I do this without emotion or comment. The students very quickly improve their writing dramatically. I don’t know why I never made the jump to using this same technique with their behaviors. Thanks for helping me to see how effective this technique is more clearly!

  2. Miss November 1, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I have done this procedure with my classroom of first graders when lining up to leave the room. They are to get in line when their table number is called quietly, face the front of the line and to give no ups or backs in line. I have had them go back to sit down and retry again sometimes up to 4 or 5 times. It finally pays off and at the same time it calms me while releasing stress.

  3. mc January 12, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    I have been turning my class around with the ideas I’ve found on this website, and this is one of the more powerful ones. If my class comes in noisy I just have them line up at the door, and release them back to the tables with the word “go”. It’s amazing how calming this is, and you can just feel the environment of the room change after doing this. I feel like it puts the control back in my hands, and I only have to say five words (“lets do it again” and “go”). Thank you so much for all of the advice, it is transforming my teaching!

    • Michael Linsin January 12, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Awesome! So glad for your success.

      :)Michael

  4. Michael January 29, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Hi Michael, I really appreciate your website. After 11 years of teaching, you’ve helped me change my game for the better. After reading through many of your posts, I still have a couple questions:
    – How many attention signals are too many? I taught my class several, but I fear their effectiveness is dissipated by not using the same one over and over.
    – How many times in a row should my class “practice” a routine, such as walking in line in the hallway? In another post you wrote only twice, then later you wrote until they get it right.

    Thanks for your time, Michael!

    • Michael Linsin January 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      Hi Michael,

      I recommend just one signal. The various noise-makers and such can be fun, but I believe a simple “Can I have your attention please” is most effective. Excellent second question! Walking in line is so simple and straight forward (pardon the pun) that the expectation is to get it right the first time it’s practiced. Essentially every time your class walks in line is practice because if they don’t get it right, then you’ll go back to the beginning and do it again (i.e., until they get it right). Most other routines, however, like entering the classroom in the morning, have many components and take some learning and practice time. Therefore, they should be practiced only twice at a time (if they’re doing well and so you don’t make it drudgery), but revisited often until they prove to you they can do it fully independent of you.

      Note: If a class struggles to walk in line after being taught precisely and thoroughly how to do it, then it’s a behavior issue.

      Michael

  5. Amanda D. May 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    What do you do if a class has to repeat a procedure due to the misbehavior of a few particular students? Since it is a behavior issue should it lead to a time-out for those students instead of a repeat of the procedure? Or should the students still repeat the procedure (without the misbehaving students)?

    • Michael Linsin May 3, 2013 at 6:18 am #

      Hi Amanda,

      You always enforce your CM plan, and quickly. Only repeat procedures when it’s more than a few, when the class as a whole didn’t do as well as you want or expect. Performing procedures well (or not) and misbehavior are two different things and should be kept separate.

      Michael

  6. kenneth August 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    what if there is a certain students who always fail to do his regular class activity

    • Michael Linsin August 28, 2013 at 6:22 am #

      Hi Kenneth,

      There are several articles on the site that address motivating students, including this one: How To . . . There are more to come. Also, be sure and look through the Classroom Management Plan category of the archive. You should have a rule you can enforce when a student doesn’t follow your directives.

      Michael