A Classroom Management Plan That Works

In his book, Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys To Creativity, Hugh MacLeod points out that Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg Address on borrowed stationary.

Hemingway wrote with a simple fountain pen.a cartoon by Hugh MacLeod

Van Gogh rarely used more than six colors on his palate.

And MacLeod, himself an artist, sketches cartoons on the back of business cards.

His point is that there is zero correlation between creative talent and the materials and equipment used.

The same can be said about an effective classroom management plan.

A simple set of rules and consequences hand-printed on ordinary poster board is all you need.

You see…

There is no magic in the plan itself. It has no power to influence behavior.

Only you have the power to influence behavior by creating a classroom your students want to be part of and then strictly—obsessively—holding them accountable.

Therefore your plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, complex, or involved.

It just needs to be followed.

A Classroom Management Plan Is A Contract

A classroom management plan is a contract you make with your students that promises you will protect their right to learn and enjoy school without interference.

And once it’s presented to your class, you’re bound by this contract to follow it every minute of every day and without exception.

Otherwise, if you don’t, you’re breaking your word—and your students’ trust.

A classroom management plan has two, and only two, purposes:

1. To state the rules of the classroom.

2. To state exactly what will happen if those rules are broken.

That’s it.

Some will tell you that you need to include a system of rewards and incentives. But to really change behavior, to create the class you really want, you have to let go of this idea.

The “do this and get that” mentality is a short-term solution that may get you through the day, and thus is a good strategy for substitute teachers, but it won’t actually change behavior.

It won’t transform your students into the class you really want.

A Classroom Management Plan I Recommend

I recommend the following plan because the rules cover every behavior that could potentially interfere with the learning and enjoyment of your students, and the consequences, when carried out correctly, teach valuable life lessons.

It’s proven to work regardless of where you teach or who is in your classroom.


1. Listen and follow directions.

2. Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.

3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

4. Respect your classmates and your teacher.


1st time a rule is broken: Warning

2nd time a rule is broken: Time-Out

3rd time a rule is broken: Letter Home


*For a high school classroom management plan, click here.

*For information on warnings and how they can be effective, see the articles Should A Warning Be Your First Consequence and How To Give A Warning That Improves Behavior.

*For information on time-out, see How To Get Students To Stay Seated And Quiet In Time-Out and 10 Ways To Make Time-Out More Effective.

*For information on sending a letter home, see the article Why A Letter Home Is An Effective Consequence.

A Small Role, But A High Priority

A common mistake teachers make is assuming that a classroom management plan is able to do more than its intended—and quite narrow—purpose (see above).

On its own, it provides little motivation for students to behave.

Its usefulness comes from how it’s implemented, enforced, and carried out, from how you communicate with your students, from how much leverage you have with them, and from how much they enjoy being part of your classroom.

Your classroom should be exciting and creative. Your classroom management plan, however, shouldn’t be.

Avoid cutesy and colorful designs. Even kindergarteners need to know that your classroom management plan and the rules by which it governs are sacred, serious.

Let it have a look worthy of its utilitarian purpose.

Two large pieces of poster board or construction paper—rules on one, consequences on the other—will do. Put them up on your wall, prominently, so everyone who enters your classroom will know that behaving in a manner that is most conducive to learning is a priority in your classroom.

Then honor the contract you made with your students by following it exactly as it’s written.

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130 Responses to A Classroom Management Plan That Works

  1. lisa June 26, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I don’t get it. So what is the consequence, a letter home. And do you expect the parents to do something? Oh sure, they will “talk” to them, but what difference will it make?

    • Michael Linsin June 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      The article on why and how a letter home is an effective final consequence is forthcoming. The kind of note I’m referring to doesn’t ask anything of parents. Why it’s effective has nothing to do with parents talking to the student. Whether they do or not doesn’t make a difference to this particular consequence and its effectiveness. If you don’t want to wait for the article, you can read about such a letter in the book Dream Class.


  2. Rachael July 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    I was wondering, where should I document the consequences? I don’t like the idea of writing names on the board, can I just keep it on a clipboard? Or does there need to be some visual cue to the student each time they get a warning? If they get a warning for breaking 1 rule and then 5 minutes into the same activity break another rule should they go to time out since it would be the 2nd consequence? Thanks so much! I’m really enjoying reading everything on your site!

    • Michael Linsin July 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

      Hi Rachael,

      As long as you notify the student, there doesn’t have to be public documentation. A clipboard is fine. However, a visual reminder for the student–name on the board, for example–isn’t such a bad thing and may even provide, for some students, a little extra incentive to follow rules. Also, if it’s clear what rule was broken, it’s nice to be able to put the student’s name up or turn his or her card over without saying a word.

      And yes, if a student breaks a second rule, whether five minutes later or five hours later, he or she goes to time-out.

      Glad you’re enjoying the site, Rachael!


  3. Danielle August 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I am in the process of applying for a position teaching math at a middle school. All of my experience, up until this point, has been in an elementary school setting, and I feel confident that I could successfully apply your plan in an elementary school classroom. Would you use this plan exactly as is for older students? Are there any ideas/tips you have that are specific for middle school?

    Thank you! I have learned so much from your book and your website!

    – Danielle

    • Michael Linsin August 24, 2010 at 8:27 am #

      Hi Danielle,

      Yes, I would use the same plan for middle school students. There are obvious differences in how you speak and interact with older students, and some routines are different. But handling behavior remains the same. Other than minor age-related adjustments, there is no particular strategy I recommend that is exclusive to middle school students.


  4. joli October 30, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    So how do you suggest that you do a time out in middle school?

    • Michael Linsin October 31, 2010 at 7:35 am #

      Hi Joli,

      The recommendations I make are for both elementary and middle school students, with some minor variations. Send me an email with your specific concerns/questions regarding time-out. I’m happy to answer them!


  5. Kirsten November 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    I like your plan, and it makes a lot of sense as I sit here and read it. However, I anticipate that some of my students with major behavior problems (ED and some that aren’t) will make it to letter home 10 minutes in to the day at first. Then what happens when they keep breaking rules?

  6. cindy February 18, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    I was wondering how to use the time out strategy with middle school students. Do i really put them in time out and where in the classroom would I do that? Thank you

    • Michael Linsin February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am #

      Hi Cindy,

      Yes, I would use the time-out strategy with middle school students. Just set aside a desk or two for this purpose anywhere in your room. As far away from the rest of the class is best, but anywhere that allows for a physical separation, even if only a few feet, will do.


  7. June April 6, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    I’m a trainer at a medium sized call center organization. Due to restructuring, we’ve experienced a decline in morale over the past 6 months, and it is manifesting itself in our mandatory employee training classes.

    It’s unfortunate that I even have to consider this, but do you think a Classroom Management Plan is appropriate and/or adaptable for adults?

    I think I’d be able to tailor the Rules for our purposes, but I’m unsure about the Consequences. Would a warning be laughable? Of course I’d have to take into account what I’m permitted to do within my organization, but what might be effective consequences for adults at a mandatory training?


    • Michael Linsin April 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi June,

      I think it’s a good idea to set guidelines (rather than rules) regarding employee behavior during your classes. Think of the behaviors you see that waste time and interrupt learning, and create your guidelines based on those behaviors. Or, better yet, you can create them together with your employees during class. Be positive when presenting them and emphasize that having guidelines makes it easier, more efficient, and more pleasant to learn. I’d make sure that they are given plenty of opportunities to share their ideas and questions during class and to move around and work together. And there is nothing wrong with sharing a good laugh. Establishing a system of consequences in an environment with declining morale may not be a good idea. My experience with adults is that they’ll readily accept and follow guidelines that make things better for them–as long as they feel like they’re benefiting from your instruction.


  8. Roderick Woodard April 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm #


    I am in the process of ordering your book Dream Class. I am studying to be an elementary school teacher and I currently work as a paraprofessional for middle school students. I have a question about severe disruptions of the classroom environment. When students cause severe disruptions to the classroom environment or when they cause harm to other students and to the teacher, are there any additional consequences for dealing with this kind of behavior or can I read about in your book? I’m really enjoying this website because I’ve been putting the material being presented before me to good use! I especially enjoy the article about not arguing with students and I definitely agree with you on this because it doesn’t solve anything, it only makes things even more difficult. Thank you once again!

    Roderick Woodard

    • Michael Linsin April 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Roderick,

      Read the article, How To Handle An Angry, Verbally Aggressive Student. It should answer your question. However, if a student causes physical harm, then you’re obligated to document the behavior by involving an administrator. As you’ll read in Dream Class, I don’t recommend sending students to the principal unless there is dangerous behavior. In the case of a student physically assaulting a teacher or another student, then you definitely should call in the principal ASAP.


  9. Roderick Woodard April 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm #


    Thank you so much for answering my question. But I have another one for you. I’ve read your article “A Classroom Management Plan that works” and at first I was a little skepical about using both rules # 3-Respect Your Classmates and Your Teacher and #4-Keep Hands, Feet, and Objects to Yourself because I always thought that both of those rules followed under the same guidelines of respect. But then I placed both rules in a different categorization of each other and I found out that they are most definitely different. I’ve spent years trying to come up with rules that focused strictly on behavior and your website has truly helped me out a lot and has given me 4 rules that are truly going to help me when I first start my teaching career. I will put all 4 of them into good use. Before I came across this website, I was one of those paraprofessionals who yelled and screamed all the time at students, and got into shouting matches with students. But once I read about not arguing with students, and also not yelling at them, I’ve become such a better individual and at the rate I’m going, I hope to become an effective teacher as a result. Thank you so much!

    • Michael Linsin April 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

      Always glad to help, Roderick!


  10. Jessica April 26, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I am just curious about the “raise your hand before speaking rule” and how I can more consistently enforce this. I work with fifteen different classes (I am an elementary Spanish teacher), and with about twelve of my classes, this classroom rule is not an issue. However, for some of my older classes, they struggle with side-talking during certain activities. I do not really mind them talking quietly to a neighbor during an activity, but technically this would be breaking the “raise your hand before speaking” rule. I am just unsure whether I should inflict the consequence for breaking this rule in a “side-talking” situation if they are talking quietly or have a question about something. Sometimes I feel that I am too strict or unlikable if I require students to raise their hand every time they want to state something or ask a question. If you could just help me in this area, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin April 26, 2011 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Jessica,

      If you don’t mind your students talking quietly during certain times and activities, just be clear about when those times are. They need to know when it’s okay to talk and when it isn’t. You decide where the boundaries are. If your students cross those boundaries though, then enforce a consequence without giving it a thought. Oh, and as long as you don’t lecture. scold, show frustration, etc, while enforcing rules, they won’t see you as unlikeable. When you protect their right to learn and enjoy school, they’ll love you for it.


  11. Teresa July 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    I just finished your book, and I wanted to thank you. I have been teaching for 20 years, but the last few years I’ve let my classroom management slip. I desperately needed to be reminded of the 15 keys. Now I am truly excited to start a new year with my “dream class.”

    • Michael Linsin July 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

      You’re welcome Teresa! Thanks for sharing. I know you’re going to have a great year!


  12. Stacey July 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I have really been enjoying your advice and ideas on classroom management. I have a pretty specific question for you. This fall I will have the pleasure of teaching the same group of students for the third year. I have known these students for four years, having met them when they were in the eighth grade. They will be juniors this fall, and you can imagine how they, and I, have changed. My dilemma is that I need a more specific procedure and classroom management plan for myself. I am a traveling teacher for the third year, and my organizational abilities are suffering. I am naturally a laid-back person and teacher.

    How do I go into the first day in August and be successful in classroom management with a group of students who know me as easy-going?

    Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.


    • Michael Linsin July 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      Hi Stacy,

      I have a few thoughts:

      1. You can still be easygoing And stick to your CM plan, demand more out of your students, be well-organized, etc.
      2. Be honest and direct with your students. Example: “You’re older now and things are going to be different. Here’s how…” Make it as simple as that.
      3. Just do it. Decide what is best for your students and that’s the way it’s going to be.
      4. They’ll adjust quickly to the still easygoing but more effective you.

      If you have further questions on this, email me. I’m happy to help.


  13. Dana July 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I teach Kindergarten. I like everything I have read in your articles but I am wandering if it works the same for students of this age.

    • Michael Linsin July 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      Hi Dana,

      Yes, it does!

      🙂 Michael

  14. Lisa Uccello August 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I was wondering how you handle students who have recieved a letter for the third consequence and continue misbehavior/disruptions if the letter is received early in the day. Thanks for all your tips, they are awesome!!


    • Michael Linsin August 3, 2011 at 7:05 am #

      Hi Lisa,

      A student who continues to misbehave after three consequences is showing a high level of disrespect to you and his or her classmates and therefore will stay in time-out the rest of the day. You may also want to read the article series How To Turn Around Difficult Students.


  15. Patricia August 26, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I just finished reading your book. I absolutely loved it!! I have taught first grade for the past two years, and I am moving to Kindergarten for this upcoming year. I was wondering how long would you recommend a student stay in time-out for?

    • Michael Linsin August 27, 2011 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Patricia,

      I recommend 15 minutes.


  16. Tania September 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    When you say time out, what exactly do you mean? You send a child to a corner or special seat or out of the classroom? I don’t think that is allowed in my Private school. Over here, anything could be a”psychological damage” to child! So that leaves me little options.

    • Michael Linsin September 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Tania,

      Read through the Time-Out category of the archive. The articles you find there should answer all of your questions.


  17. David December 18, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Mike, I just discovered your site a week ago and I have to say it’s given me hope. I teach French as a Second Language and the behaviours we face are significantly more challenging than those in the regular classroom. However, I think the strategies you advocate will work in any situation. I have a question about consequences. In some schools, when a student gets to a fourth or fifth step on the plan, he or she is sent to the office. In other schools, the student is sent to a “buddy classroom” to work independently. Older students are sent to younger grades and vice versa. The advantage is that the disruptive student is removed and other students can get on with their learning. What do you think of time-out in another classroom?

    • Michael Linsin December 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Hi David,

      In general I think it’s best for students to remain in the classroom for time-out–particularly for regular ed., self-contained classrooms. However, for your situation, where you’re not with the same students all day, a time-out in another classroom–after first having the opportunity to take care of the behavior with an in-class time-out–I think it’s a good idea.


  18. N March 4, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    I teach ballet and between the exercises the kids age 10-12 start being silly talking running and being silly and I understand now its late to pull them back in but I have too help,,,, !!!!!

  19. Jillian March 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I am planning to “start over” with my classroom management plan tomorrow. I teach 7th grade and have been way too lax on management and come home frustrated quite often. I am excited about starting over, but I have one main concern. Instead of calling it “time out” I will be calling the consequence “separation from peers.” However, there are some students that have refused to move seats when I ask them. They say “no” I won’t move and then glare at me. What should I do then?
    Thanks so much,

    • Michael Linsin March 5, 2012 at 7:44 am #

      Hi Jillian,

      You go on to the next consequence–a letter home.


  20. Sam April 23, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    hi there, I know this is an old article…. next year I will be teaching for my first year…. 3rd grade.
    I am trying to work out a discipline plan for the class. I like the simple plan that you have here, but I have just one question.
    What do you mean by time out? I can only think of a timeout where the student sits out of recess etc…. but what does a timeout look like within a classroom?
    (this may be a stupid question)

    • Michael Linsin April 23, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Hi Sam,

      Time-out is a place, a desk set aside in your classroom to use as a consequence. I recommend reading the articles in the Time-Out, Rules & Consequences, and Classroom Management categories of the archive.


  21. Martha June 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I am a college teacher with little teaching experience. Can I use the same classroom rules? I will love to have your advice!


    • Michael Linsin June 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

      Hi Martha,

      I think you absolutely should set standards of behavior and polite discourse with your students. Frame it in the context that everybody benefits, learning is assured and protected, and time isn’t wasted. After all, your students are paying for their education and you want to make sure they get the most out of it. As for consequences… they are adults and I would not give warnings and time-outs. I would speak to those students who don’t abide by your standards one time, then I would allow it to affect their grade.


  22. michael walsh July 17, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Hi having purchased your book and reading blogs, with your classroom management plan you outlined. In your opinion can I use and implement the above product adapted (already purchased previously for positive reinforcement and I am negating away from this) e.g. green (plain card): expected behaviour yellow: warning, red: consequence card (time out), make white cards: letter home. This I think will help manage who is on what level. After x has broken a rule teacher says ‘change your card’ calmly. Student changes card themselves and each has their own, cards are changed over each day except when white until letter returned. Chart is usually in prominent position with easy access e.g. front of room near whiteboard.

    • Michael Linsin July 18, 2012 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Michael,

      Yes, I think it would work fine.


  23. Crystal July 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Hello Michael,

    Your articles are enlightening. However, I’m having difficulty adjusting these rules and consequences for high school students such as “keep your hands and feet to yourself” and the “time-out” consequence. It seems that your audience is mainly elementary and middle school teachers. I am a new high school teacher, but I have done long-term assignments. I used to send students to their administrator often after a warning. I know this wasn’t a good approach.
    I want to make my “dream class” right from the first year. I am going to be teaching at an “inner city school” and everyone says “good luck.” I have found your articles motivating and practical. I know that my “dream class” is possible.
    Looking forward for your response.


    • Michael Linsin July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Crystal,

      You’re right. They need adjusting for high school. I recommend having time-out, but not calling it time-out. In other words, I think any student who is unable to follow your rules should be separated, even if symbolically, from the rest of the class–so no working in groups, no participation, no anything except listening and doing independent work. As for the rules, read the article The Classroom Management Mindset and create rules that suit your specific needs. Yes, I’d get rid of “hands and feet to yourself” and perhaps replace it with one that addresses cell phone use or food in the classroom or any other issue that threatens to disrupt your class.


  24. Tiffany Dyer August 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Dear Michael,

    First off, thanks for your practical, effective management advice. I am entering my 3rd year of teaching–heading back to middle school. I love your basic rules (I call them expectations) and consequences, but I have some difficulty with Rule #2–raise hand before speaking and getting out of seat. I think this is a great rule overall, but I do not always require students to raise their hands during class discussions or obviously during their own group/pair work. How do I simply explain this distinction to students? I greatly believe in simple, straightforward expectations, and I don’t know how to express this difference to students….or do you think I should just require hand raising during discussions too?? I just don’t want to stifle their enthusiasm during impassioned discussions.

    Thanks for any advice you can offer.


    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2012 at 7:09 am #

      Hi Tiffany,

      If there are times you don’t require hand raising, then you have to define those times very specifically for your students. This should be part of your beginning of year teaching, modeling, and practicing of your classroom management plan.


  25. Tiffany Dyer August 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I have one other question–do you think it is appropriate to include these two other rules:
    5) Observe all rules in the student handbook (this encompasses electronics, gum, eating in class, etc.)
    6) Participate, produce, and be prepared (this is a great expectation, but I’m not sure it fits with the behavior management plan…)

    What do you think?



    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2012 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Tiffany,

      I think it’s appropriate and reasonable to include number five. Number six is an academic expectation and shouldn’t be included.


  26. LaDona Chao August 20, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    Hi. I am going to implament your plan on Sunday school class. But I have three questions, 1. How would you adapt this for your own kids? 2) maybe this will be answered as I read more…but what if the majority of the class is breaking rules and you can’t pinpoint the culprit? My daughter is very well behaved in school and hated it when she would get punished for other kids misbehavior. And 3) how can this be adapted for preschoolers/nonreaders? Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Hi LaDona,

      1. This is a much bigger question than I can answer here. It’s an important topic that I may one day write about on another website. If so, I’ll definitely let readers know.

      2. This is answered several places on the website, but start with the article, How To Handle Whole-Class Misbehavior.

      3. I think the plan will work just fine with preschool students. However, you may want to have two warnings in the beginning instead of one.


  27. Yvette October 18, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Hi Michael!
    I work in a before/after school program. My age group consist of 60 first thru 5th grade (combined)! We are having a lot of disrespectful children mainly in the 4th and 5th grade group. We are to refrain from using time-out…not productive and humiliating towards the child! We have taken the steps of communicating with the parents and typically the parents responds are “We’re also having problems and have no clue how to help!” The children are aware that are hands are pretty much tied and can’t really do anything to discipline! Removing them from the program in not an option unless the child hurts someone and it must be done more then once and hitting a teacher doesn’t count! I’m very frustrated because I’m spending more time with the disrespectful children and not enough time with the children that are behaving! Most of the teachers are discouraged and don’t want to deal with the older group….any suggestions will be helpful. Oh by the way, I am against behavior modification (no rewards if you do this or that)! Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Hi Yvette,

      The answer is to hold misbehaving students accountable. If there is no way of doing that (i.e., time-out, loss of privileges, separation from a group, class, or activity they enjoy), then I might be the wrong person to ask. Accountability, combined with creating a learning experience children like/love being a part of, forms the basis of my philosophy of classroom management. I don’t want to steer you wrong, and the truth is I don’t have confidence in any alternative method. 🙂


  28. Alexandra November 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I need help. I am a second year teacher and my first year was actually amazing. This year has become quite the challenge and sometimes I get so discouraged that I dread coming to school and I hate feeling this way. I have about 6 unruly children. I have two with severe emotional issues and defiance, another one that doesn’t have a clue what’s going on because of language issues so he is always playing. I have done everything from this website and it works sometimes. But there are times when towards the end of the day my head is spinning and I get overwhelmed. What do I do to stop these feelings? Is it normal for me to feel this way?

    • Michael Linsin November 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Alexandra,

      If I understand your question, this article is my best advice for you. Be sure you read the linked articles too. They’re sure to calm you and improve the way your students respond to you.


  29. Warren February 8, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Hi, sorry if I missed this but I’m a soccer coach and plan to implement the system on the ‘field’. Does a consequence carry over from one lesson to the next? I see most students for one lesson 1-2 hours a week. I’m thinking that students might end up in time out every week but stop when they realize one more mistake and it’s a letter home. So every week they could misbehave enough to disrupt the class but not enough for a letter home so they don’t care?

  30. Megan February 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I am recently a new educator going on almose a year now. I teach college for Cosmetology. I love my job and really care about my students education. I am 28 years old so am sort of young, I guess to be taken seriously? Not really sure what it is because some of my students are around my age, so in assumption I can’t help to think this way. I got written up today at my job and one of the things on there was classroom control. My Program Director tells me to send my students home if they don’t listen to me and I disagree because I feel their education is more important and I can dock their grades other then them missing class. I need help PLEASE

    • Michael Linsin February 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Hi Megan,

      You’re not too young to be taken seriously, and I agree with your program director. You’re teaching adults who are paying to learn what you know, and you do them and their future employers a disservice by allowing them skate by without listening in class. Because their education is important you must establish good classroom control and high standards of behavior and performance. I’ll venture to guess that if you were to send just one student home for disrupting your class, you wouldn’t have any more problems.


  31. Elizabeth April 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    A problem that has been bugging me with my students is, if you have multiple levels of consequences and the student breaks two different rules, do you have to start the consequences over for each rule or can you simply go to the next level since they broke two rules regardless of which two? Also, any suggestions on how to deal with students that cannot accept the consequences to their actions? I teach high school freshmen and one of the main rules in my class is that they are not allowed to have their cell phones out. If they have them out, I will take them up. Every time I take one away, the students go up to me and demand that they have it back and will not accept it when I tell them that they can have it back after school. I try to walk away and they follow me and continue to demand it back, sometimes it scares me, especially when I have multiple boys all crowding around me. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin April 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Hi Elizabeth,

      It doesn’t matter which rule is broken; you move on to the next consequence regardless. As for your second question, keep taking the phones and don’t give in. Either your students don’t understand the rule well enough, you haven’t enforced it consistently, or you’ve given in before (and given phones back before the end of school). There is a reason they think you’ll capitulate. Once you prove to them that there isn’t now and never will be exceptions, they’ll stop asking for them back before school is out.


  32. Nick June 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    All this sounds great in theory but how am I supposed to reason with unruly parents who have signed on to this classroom management contract only to come to my class and accuse me for picking on their kid and throwing the contract at my face? (I’ve even been spit on by parents).

    • Michael Linsin June 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Hi Nick,

      I’m happy to help, but I want to make sure I understand what you’re asking. Would you mind emailing me?


  33. simone loone June 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    what rules would apply for grade 9-12 students.

    • Michael Linsin June 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

      Hi Simone,

      I think they all would apply.


  34. Sarah June 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Hi Michael, I’m a first-year teacher, and I’m so glad I found your site. Thanks for the tips! I did experience behavior problems in my class, and did a lot of waiting and reflection–but I certainly do not want that negative class environment again. I planned to go in positive and consistent, reinforcing rules/expectations and modelling appropriate behaviors. Would this be effective after a “bad” day? Thanks

    • Michael Linsin June 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

      Hi Sarah,

      Yes, absolutely. You may also want to read the article, Losing Control . . .


  35. sophal July 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I would like to comment my students have a good morality and be brave and silence in the class while I am teaching them.


  36. Christina August 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I love your rules. I am a middle school teacher and I would like to add a rule for no gum chewing, eating or cell phones in class. However I do not like negative rules. Is there a positive rule for these with out saying no?

    • Michael Linsin August 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Christina,

      I don’t see anything wrong with your additional rule. I would use it just the way it is. No isn’t a bad word.


  37. mike wazaoski August 11, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    seriously no point in sending a letter home.
    its a really small thing

  38. Amanda August 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Good Evening!
    I want to start off by thanking you for your amazing advice. Also, I have read both of your books and love them both. I have a question about your consequences: I teach middle school, and was wondering what is another name that I can call the 2nd consequence to fit the age group? I thought about isolation and separation, but did not know if they sounded too harsh. Keep up the good work!

    • Michael Linsin August 12, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      Hi Amanda,

      You may want to use something super simple like “side desk” or “corner table,” as in, “If you break a rule a second time, you’ll have to go to the side desk.” Certainly, you’ll want to define precisely what that means, but there is no particular need to call it time-out if it seems too elementary.


  39. Nicole Lee August 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    I can’t find your bathroom policy anywhere. I’d love to see a “search” button in addition to the archives.

    • Michael Linsin August 19, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      Hi Nichole,

      The restroom policy article was removed. I hope to rewrite it in the future.


  40. Jennifer Booth September 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    These are actually the rules/consequences I started using this year, and they work beautifully! So much better than the rewards system I used last year. For my warning I use a small stop sign (I found on pinterest) that says: ” please stop what you are doing and make a better choice” ……I have told students that at some point everyone will likely receive a stop sign (because no one is perfect all the time) and not to sweat it, just to correct the behavior. I don’t even stop my teaching I just walk it over and put in on their desk and keep on going. I have only put 2 students in time out, and that was for a short period. I have let students know that the time out zone is also a place of no worries for them. If they get there, they just need to reflect and get there act together….everyone has bad days. I do not hold it against them. I do not keep record of them being there, and I wipe the slate clean…the next day is a new day….they start it as if the previous days behavior was perfect. I have sent no letters home, and only very minor infractions in misbehvior. I do remind them often of the rules, and my expectations.

    • Michael Linsin September 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

      Fantastic! Way to go, Jennifer!


  41. Javier September 19, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Nice ideas, I know for sure that this will help me in my classroom,

  42. Lito October 24, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    I have a class in middle school where my plan has backfired: I use a warning, then time-out in the classroom, then 5 minutes out of the classroom, then a letter home. Some of the (clever!) kids use it like this: “oh, it’s ok, I’m still at stage one, I have three to go.” So far I have only had to send two letters home, but I have many kids who regularly break the rules once or twice every day, which is really tiresome and disruptive.
    I don’t think modifying my classroom management plan is a good idea at this point, as I wouldn’t like to take my word back.
    Any suggestions?…
    Thanks in advance,

    • Michael Linsin October 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Lito,

      I’ve written about this in the past. Forgive me for not remembering the exact article, but as part of your plan you should have the option (stated to students in advance) to skip directly to time-out, or your final consequence, if the behavior is severe or grossly disrespectful. If a student breaks a rule on purpose because he/she knows she has a freebie, then this would definitely fall into the latter category. The best way now for you to handle this is to simply inform your class that this is the way it will be done from now on.


  43. Lito October 25, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    Thanks!n I’ll try that.

  44. Lindsey October 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm #


    I teach 4th-6th grade emotional support, and I have 3 students that are pulled out to my room. (all 3 are boys) I love the simple consequences you give here in your example, but would this work in my type of classroom? Only one warning for each behavior or just overall for the whole day?

    Thanks! Your site is already a huge help to me!


    • Michael Linsin October 27, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Hi Lindsey,

      Assuming that you run your class like a traditional classroom, yes, the consequences should work fine. As for your second question, it’s one warning for the whole day–although it’s perfectly fine to modify for your needs.


  45. sharon carey December 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    Dear Michael –

    I am in a special ed. bd classroom (5th – 7th grades). My school does not allow us to take recess away as a punishment (although I think this would do a world of good). These kids are impoverished and have no parental support. My classroom is so small that I don’t have anywhere for a time out. A fight breaks out at least once a day. What do you suggest?

    • Michael Linsin December 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

      Hi Sharon,

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. If you’re looking for an effective approach to classroom management, I think this is the right place. Keep in mind, though, I’m not a special education teacher and thus my advice may not always apply. I recommend spending time in the archive, beginning in the Classroom Management Plan category and going from there. If then you have any questions, please email me. I’m happy to help.


  46. Debra December 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm #


    Do you have advice for paraprofessionals regarding behavior management away from the teacher (classroom setting) such as during transitions or in a classroom where the management is poor?
    My approach so far has been to work with the troubled student and try to redirect their behavior but in the hall they are totally zoned out and hard to reach.
    My students are special ed.
    I am in a middle school now and am trying to form relationships as a classroom Para.
    Sometimes it is a challenge when the teacher or school does not provide a set of consequences and to act independantly (furnish consequences) is something I don’t know how or what to do.

    Have a happy and healthy New Year.

    Thank you,

    • Michael Linsin December 23, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Hi Debra,

      There isn’t much you can do in front of the teacher without undermining his/her authority. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own rules and consequences when your students are working directly with you or are within your direct responsibility—which would be my advice.


  47. Sharon January 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Do you think a phone call home can substitute for a letter home?

    Please help me – I’m a new teacher and want to leave due to my inability to manage behaviour. What you’ve said has hit the nail on the head. I am letting my classes down by being inconsistent. I always hope that next lesson will be better, but it never is. The kids know I can’t control the class.

    I try to use a minutes system on the board, whereby if they’re talking when I’m talking or misbehaving, they get time for detentions added on the board. BUT it is so hard to be fair sometimes when in a class of 30, 20 kids are talking etc.

    Please help me.

    • Michael Linsin January 14, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Sharon,

      I think a phone call home would be okay, especially if you’re using a classroom management plan in earnest for the first time. My best recommendation is to spend some time in our archive, getting a feel for our philosophy. It sounds to me like you need to start over from scratch. I would begin your reading in the Classroom Management Plan and Rules & Consequences categories and go from there.


  48. Ray February 5, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I am preparing to teach piano classes to elementary and middle school kids as part of an after-school program. Classes will be small (4-8 kids). Kids need to sign up for the class, so they are participating because they want to. Would you still recommend using the classroom management plan you outline above?

    • Michael Linsin February 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Ray,

      I think it’s a good idea, although you probably don’t have to teach and model it extensively and you may rarely use it. It’s always good to have. It may help you avoid headaches down the line.


  49. Lynn February 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    What should a teacher do when there is more than one student that needs to be put in time out at the same time.

    • Michael Linsin February 9, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      Hi Lynn,

      You do what you have to do. Although you may only have one desk designated for time-out, you need one or two contingency areas just in case.


  50. Lexay February 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I love your tips and they have helped me out so much. With one of my classes, these tips work great. However, I currently have a class that is so argumentative with each other (it is special Ed so they have been with the same students forever) and so talkative (whether it’s side conversations or side arguments) that every day about half the class is on warning or time out. I can hardly give out consequences as quickly as the rules are being broken and the students who are raising their hand and doing the right thing are getting no attention due to me dealing with others’ behavior CONSTANTLY. I do use some whole class consequences but they are not that effective. I really need some help and advice with this talkative and constantly yelling/arguing with each other class. Raising my voice sometimes works in the short term, but it’s not the kind of teacher I want to be. Thank you in advance!!

    • Michael Linsin February 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

      Hi Lexay,

      I have this same topic (students arguing and not getting along) planned for a future article. I hope you’ll stay tuned.


  51. Mummamia March 14, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I’m so pleased I’ve stumbled across this fabulous website. It’s full of great advice and has inspired me to be a better teacher.
    I have read a lot about your classroom management and rules and consequences and the importance of sticking to these all day for every student. The problem I have at the moment is there is one child who has major behaviour issues who has refused to work in class for the last couple of years and no one, even the toughest disciplinarian at the school has been able to ‘crack’ this student. He not only refuses to do any work, he will not sit in his seat nor be quite, disrupting children showing off or being rude to both myself and other students and intimidating students also and attempting, and occasionally successful in bringing others down with him. This child has the ‘I don’t care attitude’ and is not very intelligent I’m guessing due to a mix of prenatal influences and past behaviours that have not enabled this child to learnt to read and/or write properly and hence probably not a lot of success/wins at school. Now he just literally does nothing, so there is no chance for success (or failure as he probably sees it). He also comes from a very troubled home and has three older brothers who were fairly similar going through primary school (and I dare say high school!) My question is after all of this is that this child can have all of the rules broken within 1/2-1 hr and seems unfazed by this and it seems to leave me with ‘nothing’ with regards to consequences and only worse behaviour for the rest of the day. I have always searched for the tiniest things I can praise this student for (an extremely difficult task most days!) but that approach still does not seem to be proving successful. There has always been rules for this child and rules for everyone else as he is deemed so out of control. Nevertheless, there really hasn’t been many, if any rules for this little guy. To make matters worse, he wants to be suspended and his family do not respect teachers or value education so it’s very tricky indeed! What to do?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Michael Linsin March 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Mummamia,

      You can find the answers to your questions in the Difficult Students category of the archive. I also encourage you to dig deeper into the archive to get a full picture of our philosophy and core principles. The Classroom Management Secret will help in this regard.


  52. Andrew March 31, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Thank you.

    I have been driving myself nuts for 2 years, unable to understand why it is so hard for them to listen to me.

    I have been my own worst enemy.
    I began implementing your thoughts a month ago (with some tweaks for my circumstance) and have found my stress lessened, my problems decreased, and my demeanor happier.

    I look forward to gleaning all I can from what you say, and slowly becoming what I want rather than what I fear.

    Thank you

    • Michael Linsin March 31, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      Awesome! Way to go, Andrew!


  53. Joy April 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    What is your recommendation if students break another rule after the third consequence – letter home.


    • Michael Linsin April 6, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Hi Joy,

      When a student receives a letter home they spend the rest of the day in time-out. If they misbehave while in time-out, then in all likelihood they’re showing a pattern of frequent and severe misbehavior and are therefore candidates for an additional step. Please read through the Difficult Students category of the archive, paying particular attention to the article series, How To Turn Around A Difficult Student.


    • Michael Linsin April 6, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      Hi Joy,

      I answered this in response to your other question.


  54. Heidi April 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Hi Michael – One day after weeks of trying to handle a particularly difficult combination of students I typed in “losing control of the classroom” and up popped your wonderful article (and links to many others). The most palpable moment I had reading this was the bit about how no matter what, current classroom behavior is on me. Gone was my last grip on blaming the teacher I stepped in for more than halfway through the year. The next day I apologized as expected, laid out the 4 golden rules, showed them the letter (written in English and Spanish) and modeled behaviors. I relaxed immediately and things immediately began to improve. Several weeks later, I am writing a form letter rewarding students for positive behaviors which many many students will be able to take home to their parents. Felt moved to thank you. As a newish teacher, I was thinking perhaps teaching was not my calling. But your suggestions and insights have taken the sting out of classroom management and have cleared the way for more fun in the classroom! I look forward to he weekly emails!

    Thanks again,

    • Michael Linsin April 24, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Awesome Heidi! So good to hear of your success. Way to go!


  55. Joy May 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    I teach in a country where “time out”, or any form of punishment, is not seen to be an acceptable (“legal”) consequence. What are my options?

    • Michael Linsin May 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      Hi Joy,

      I’m considering an article on this topic. Stay tuned.


  56. Skyla May 5, 2014 at 5:49 am #


    We have to give the students green, yellow, and red to for their behavior.. What would you consider a green to be/look like
    Same thing for red and yellow

    • Michael Linsin May 5, 2014 at 6:21 am #

      Hi Skyla,

      Corresponding warning, time-out, and then letter home makes sense to me.


  57. Evan August 4, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    Do these rules and consequences apply to high school classes? If not, how should I approach handling students that are older?

    • Michael Linsin August 4, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Evan,

      They definitely need to be modified depending on your grade level. Rules and consequences for ninth graders would likely look different than those for seniors. This is a discussion with many variables that takes more time and space than we have here. I hope to write an ebook on the topic in the future.


  58. Deborah August 3, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    I have yet to find a discipline plan I am happy or successful with. I have a question. Do all the rule breaking moments have to be in the same day? Or if they break a rule one day, and the next they break the same rule, do you then give them the second warning the next day or go back to the first?

    • Michael Linsin August 3, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Deborah,

      Every day is a new day and a fresh start for every student.


  59. Jan August 9, 2015 at 3:31 am #

    I will be teaching a highs school class this year. Are there a different set of rules to be posted then above? Keeping hands and feet to self and giving a time out seem to be geared to younger students.

    • Michael Linsin August 9, 2015 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Jan,

      A classroom management plan for high school will look somewhat different. I hope to put out a guide for high school teachers explaining the differences in the near future. Stay tuned.


  60. Madelyne August 17, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    I am entering my 9th year of teaching HS math (as a second career- I came from engineering) and I repeatedly get the same comment from admin and even some students, that I am too “nice”. They say I let students get away with too much, and from reading this article I know my problem is in not sticking to my consequences. BUT one thing that I liked doing and found maybe temporarily helpful was sending students out of class. I know they do not learn out in the hall but in doing so we, the class, could move on in peace.
    Your suggested plan does not call for getting kicked out, or issuing detentions (which I found tedious), or even being sent to the “in-school” room, which are all options in my district…
    Is just giving the kid the boot (for non violent ,more persistent offenses) ever an option?

    Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin August 17, 2015 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Madelyn,

      I don’t think sending them out of class is a good idea for the reason you described. An alternative, appropriate for high school (rather than time-out), would be a quick (30-second) conference with you after class, whereupon you’ll advise them to take care of it (the misbehavior) on their own or, if it happens again, they’ll lose a percentage or point from their behavior/citizenship grade. Why and the how this is effective, as well as how it can also be connected to a school-wide detention (if applicable), will have to wait for another day. I’m planning to write a guide or ebook for high school teachers in the near future.

  61. Matt September 3, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Michael –

    I’m curious about your criteria for giving consequences. Does the student need to break the SAME rule three times to get to the third consequence? For example, blurting out at three separate times. Or could they reach the third consequence by breaking three DIFFERENT rules, like this:

    1) Student blurts out
    2) Student says disrespectful comments to classmates
    3) Student pushes and shoves while walking to hand in his/her assignment


    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      Each time they break a rule, whether the same or different, they receive the next subsequent consequence.


  62. Matt September 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    Michael –

    Thanks for your quick response! What do you suggest if a student gets to “time out” with only five minutes left of class? Is it effective if they only have a five minute time out? Should the time out be extended into the next day I see the student. I see students twice a week for 45 minutes.

    Also, thanks for these articles. I’ve felt good about my classroom management skills, but have been poring over all you’ve written since the school year started. Very great and helpful stuff! I can tell this will definitely fill in the gaps where I’m weak – this year will be the best yet!


    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      You may want to read the book for specialist teachers. There are some key differences. Yes, it’s okay to have them in time-out the last five minutes. Only, don’t invite them to line up until everyone else is in line and ready to exit. This is a small detail, but done right, can add to the effectiveness.


  63. Candy Turner September 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    Dear Michael, I have been teaching for almost 20 years. I was looking online for a better way to close my school day and stumbled across your website. I fell in love! I made the commitment the first day of school with the same children I had had last year. Your plan has transformed my class. They are angelic. It has even helped them to get along with each other better and be more thankful. Thank you so much for sharing your secrets.!!

    • Michael Linsin September 20, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      You’re welcome, Candy! So glad to hear it. Thank you for sharing your success with me. 🙂


  64. Caroline September 29, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I really like your ideas in this article! I would like to know how you recommend progressing when the student doesn’t move, even after the parent letter has been handed to him/her. Or if the student balls up the letter and throws it in the trash. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  65. Linda February 20, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Just wondering, if you are familiar with Ed Ford (Responsible Thinking) and what you think about giving the responsibility back on the student for their behavior? I took a workshop with him in the 80’s and found that his, Responsible Thinking Theory, work really well in the inner city as well as the Navajo Reservation. Just wanted to know your thoughts?

    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

      I’m sorry, Linda. I’m not familiar with him.