Why A Letter Home Is An Effective Consequence

Smart Classroom Management: Why A Letter Home Is An Effective ConsequenceAs a third consequence of your classroom management plan, I recommend a letter home to parents.

But probably not for the reasons you may think.

I can’t emphasize enough that consequences for misbehavior are only a small part of classroom management.

By themselves, they cannot deter students from misbehaving.

No set of consequences is strong enough on its own.

It’s all the other stuff—what this site is about—that makes for foolproof classroom management.

As Effective As Possible

The three consequences I recommend—a warning, a time-out, and a letter home—when delivered in a certain way, make them as effective as consequences can be.

And when combined with the right classroom management strategies, techniques, and procedures, you can create the class you really want—no matter who is on your roster or where you teach.

How To Send A Letter Home

Sending a letter home can be remarkably effective when done the right way.

Here’s how:

1. Use a form letter.

A form letter—official looking and impersonal—strikes the right tone in communicating the seriousness of breaking rules and interrupting learning.

Click the link below to download a sample letter. Please take a look at it before reading the rest of the article. Also, feel free to use the letter or change it in any way you wish.

Sample Letter Home

2. Hand it to the student immediately.

As soon as a student breaks a rule for the third time in one day, fill out the letter and hand it to him or her immediately.

3. Get the letter back.

If you don’t get the letter back the next day, simply follow up with a phone call. Chances are you’re being tested. Once you prove that you always follow through, however, you’ll rarely be tested again.

4. No surprises for parents.

Your classroom management plan and a sample of the letter should be included in the parent information packet you send home to be reviewed and signed during the first week of school.

5. No surprises for students.

Because you’ve taught your classroom management plan thoroughly, your students, too, shouldn’t be surprised when handed a letter. They should know the process of receiving consequences backwards and forwards.

Why A Letter Home

There are three reasons why you should send a letter home as a third consequence.

1. Parents have a right to know.

If a child breaks your classroom rules three times in one day, his or her parents have a right to know. One of the most common complaints parents have is that they’re not adequately informed of problems and concerns. A third-consequence letter ensures that they are.

2. It’s a responsibility.

The act of bringing the letter home and handing it to parents is a high level of responsibility.

3. It forces full-scale accountability.

A letter home forces students to be accountable to those affected by their misbehavior.

They’re accountable to you because they must get the letter signed and returned—honoring and respecting your authority. They’re accountable to their parents because they’re required to personally inform them of their misbehavior.

And they’re accountable to themselves—understanding that there are consequences for the choices they make.

If you’re not yet a member of this site, I urge you to join us. It’s easy—and free! Click here and enter your email address, and each week a new article will appear in your email box.

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85 Responses to Why A Letter Home Is An Effective Consequence

  1. lisa July 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Now it makes sense. Thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding.

  2. Beth July 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    I’m an art teacher, and only see my students once a week at best. If I send a letter home, should I expect it back the next day (even though I won’t see that child’s class), or expect it back the next day they have art?

    Also, if they DON’T return the letter, how many weeks should I continue to drag it out? Is it okay to give them a second letter home, incase they lost the first (or maybe the parents lost the first). I certainly want my students to live up to my consequences, but it’s a little harder when I don’t see them all day, every day. I also don’t know how my principal would feel if I kept a kid out of art for a month, just because he/she isn’t bring a letter back. They do need to earn the right to rejoin the class…but what if they really just hate art, and would rather sit alone for 40 minutes once a week then actually rejoin, anyway?

    Thanks for your advice!!
    Beth Weinandy

    • Michael Linsin July 3, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi Beth,

      Yes, you should expect the offending student to deliver the letter to you the next day. And yes, if the student doesn’t have the letter the next day, hand him or her another one–then turn and walk away. However, rather than missing an entire art class period, he or she should spend each recess with you (i.e., sitting close to you while you teach your class) until the letter is returned.

      You’ll have to arrange this with the classroom teacher, but it is absolutely worth it–many, many benefits in terms of the offending student and his or her future behavior, and the students who witness you holding him or her accountable. Also, It’s always a good idea to provide your principal with a copy of your classroom management plan (and parent info packet) at the start of the school year.

      Michael

  3. Allison July 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    I’m just wondering if you give students a “fresh start” during the day (i.e., after recess and lunch), especially for young children (grade 1)?

    • Michael Linsin July 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Allison,

      It’s a good idea for k-1 in the beginning of the year, when students are still learning your behavior expectations. After three or four weeks, though, first graders should be expected to follow your rules–and you should follow your plan all day.

      Michael

  4. Victoria July 8, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Thank you for all the wonderful advice both in the book, Dream Class, and in these articles. I was wondering what your policy is for returning homework. I have many students that forget to do or return their homework. In the past I have had students miss their morning recess to complete the homework so they are ready to participate in the correcting/discussing. Unfortunately the same students continue to have homework missing. Do you have another idea?
    Thank you,

    • Michael Linsin July 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

      Hi Victoria,

      I’ve found that the culture of the classroom is a strong determiner homework return. If it becomes normal and expected to get homework in on time every day, not just from you but from your students as well, then the slackers get on board. There are several ways to do this, but the most important is that you walk around the room and check every morning–publicly–while your students work on something else. This doesn’t take long, but done a certain way, it’s effective and worth the few minutes.

      There is nothing wrong with the pressure of having to wait for the teacher to come around to ask where the homework is in front of one’s peers. It’s not about humiliation, but it’s a level of expectation bordering on outright surprise that homework isn’t completed that motivates students to never want to come to school unprepared. Missing recess because of homework isn’t effective on its own. There has to be some greater motivation. You’ll find it by creating a culture of excellence that ultimately, deep down inside, every student wants to be a part of. Homework is a bit off the behavior focus of this website, but I plan on writing about it in the future. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

      Michael

  5. Paige July 31, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    I teach in a low-income high school where it’s difficult to get students to submit signed permission slips because parents are so often not involved in their child’s life, and I can’t imagine having much more success with the letter home for behavior. Also, I know that many students would simply forge a signature. Help?

    • Michael Linsin July 31, 2010 at 9:12 am #

      Hi Page,

      Yes, high school can be a different animal altogether, especially in a low-income neighborhood. However, we need to hold parents accountable as well. No excuses. Send the letter home, follow with a phone call, send another one home the next day, follow with a phone call, and keep it up. Don’t give in. Letting parents know what is going on at school–however difficult this may be–is part of your job.

      You have to take a stand. Decide that this is your classroom and this is just the way it’s going to be. Whether they want it or not, you’re going to make parents acknowledge, one way or another, that their child isn’t making it–isn’t doing what needs to be done to graduate. Don’t give up. Decide that you’re going to do your part, that you’re not going to just let it go. You’re not going to just let the student fail and fall through the cracks without having a say in the matter.

      If it takes you weeks, don’t give up. Hanging in there and not giving in until you get the letter back makes a statement to the parents and their child that you’re not going to give up on them, that you care enough about this student that you’re going to see it through. Maybe you’re the first to make such a statement. Maybe it will be the one thing that turns this troubled student around.

      It can and does happen.

      Michael

  6. Amanda August 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I am worried that giving a student an in class time-out will draw attention to that student which can be disruptive and a negative motivator for the student in time-out. I teach middle school music so would I put the student in a different area of the room for their time-out and still allow them to play their instrument?

    • Michael Linsin August 7, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

      Hi Amanda,

      Learning to play a musical instrument is fun and is a privilege. It’s an important that you make sure your students feel that way. If they don’t, no consequence is going to work well for you. However, as long as your students are happy to be part of your class, than an in-class time-out will be effective and not a negative motivator. Oh, and I would not allow anyone in time-out to play an instrument.

      Michael

  7. Casey August 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    If the letter home is the third consequence, and the warning is the first, what is the second?
    Thanks

  8. shawn October 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    Hi, Michael. Love your book and website. A clarification on the third strike, I guess, or the letter to parents and extended time-out. So, the child is in extended time-out, removed from his classmates for the remainder of the day but still expected to follow lessons and do the work that others do. But what if there’s any further poor choices? I mean, if a child has had a warning, a time-out, and then an extended time-out with a letter, it’s not crazy that he’ll continue to make some poor choices (not doing the work of the class, talking while in time-out, etc.). I’m just wondering what’s next.

    Thanks,
    Shawn

    • Michael Linsin October 6, 2010 at 6:24 am #

      Hi Shawn,

      While in extended time-out, there shouldn’t be anyone to talk to. Further, the whole idea of time-out is that they miss being part of the class. So it’s important that you create an environment that all students want to be part of–this is where leverage comes in. It’s critical. Time-out won’t work unless the student would much rather be a regular member of the class. They’ll be motivated to do the work and convince you they’re ready to be part of the class again only if it pains them to be separated from their classmates. For more on this, read the articles in the time-out category.

      Michael

  9. Jamie October 18, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Hello,

    I’m curious to know how to do time-outs in high school classes. I teach high school Spanish and I feel like some of the students who have behavior issues want to be sent out of the class. Are the time-outs you suggest for elementary only or can they work in secondary?

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

      Hi Jamie,

      I write primarily for k-8 teachers. However, many of the strategies on the website can be modified for older students. I recommend high school students be placed in an in-class time-out, clearly separated from classmates and regular participation. I wouldn’t call it time-out, though. I would simply say that, because of poor behavior, they can’t be part of the class–other than completing all required work–until the following day.

      Michael

  10. Sariya November 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    Hi, Michael,
    Love your articles. I am a middle school teacher. My problem is I am not consistent in giving consequences and forget. Any tips on being consistent.

    • Michael Linsin November 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

      Hi Sariya,

      Following your classroom management plan is a daily, even moment-to-moment, decision. You have to decide that you’re going to follow your plan no matter how inconvenient it may seem at the time. Knowing that it’s always best for you and your students, and it’s never a mistake doing so, makes it an easy decision to make.

      Michael

  11. Dale February 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi,
    I agree that consistency is key in management. We have a new principal this year and it has been mandated that we are not allowed to take recess away from any student, we are not to isolate a student either. I rarely send students to the office except for extreme behaviors such as fighting, or doing something that would endanger someone. Which I guess is a good thing because we are discouraged from sending kids there.I like the idea of a letter but I can see certain students that would get a letter and tear it up in front of the class and get very defiant about it. Most likely I would call the parent as I have few other consequences left to choose from. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin February 11, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      Hi Dale,

      I think your most powerful consequence is not allowing a student to participate in a desirable activity like a regular member of the classroom. Although physical separation makes a symbolic statement, the strength of the consequence isn’t dependent on it. The limits you have underscore the importance of building rapport, improving your likeability, bringing fun, humor, and high interest into the classroom, and creating an environment your students want to be part of. This will give you leverage and add teeth to your “no participation” consequence.

      Michael

  12. Jessica July 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Michael,

    I read your book in one sitting. It was amazing!

    I am wondering about students with frequent problems. Say you give a warning, a time out, and a letter for one behavior in the morning- for example, calling out. Then, they are out of their seat several times and need a warning, a time out and another letter. If the behavior continues throughout a day, what happens? Do they take a letter home with more than one box checked? A written explanation? Or several letters?

    I have students who need reminders for things like this all day long. (Clearly I am in need of a management make-over!)

    Thanks,

    Jessica

    • Michael Linsin July 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      I’m glad you like the book! To manage students with frequent behavior problems, read the article series How To Turn Around Difficult Students. If it doesn’t answer all of your questions, email me. I’m happy to help.

      :)Michael

  13. Teacher Erika September 9, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks a lot for your advice. I have a problem with the Letter Home consequence, the school didn’t allow me to send it. I refuted, asked to talk over it with the principal, but my coordinator said there is no way… even when I explained the procedure in advance. I had the idea of showing kids the sample and they should explain their parents they’ll be in time-out and how it works.

    • Michael Linsin September 9, 2011 at 7:26 am #

      Hi Erika,

      Strange. But if your school doesn’t allow it, then you can’t use it. For your third consequence simply call home.

      Michael

  14. Denise September 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve spent alot of time on your website and read the book twice, trying to start over again after 25 years of stressful classroom mismanagement. It doesn’t seem to be working for me. I calmly wait for a class to settle down, and as the minutes tick by, the well-behaved students get more and more frustrated that their class time is wasted. I have given warnings, isolated students, and made phone calls home *all in the same class period* because the misbehavior escalated so severely. I teach music and see my students once a week for 40 minutes. We are not allowed to refer students to the office unless they commit a “Level 3” violation which includes things like fighting, drug use, other “hard core” disciplinary infractions. I just need them to stop talking and pay attention. What am I doing wrong? I really had hopes for this approach 🙁

    • Michael Linsin September 11, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Denise,

      Given that you only see your students once per week for 40 minutes, (in many ways) you’re at the mercy of the classroom teacher(s) and his or her classroom management style. This doesn’t mean you can’t overcome the many hours your students spend in other classrooms. It just means that you have to be that much better. The first place you should look is your leverage. Do your students enjoy coming to your classroom? When you’re an art, music, or PE specialist this is especially paramount. If your students don’t look forward to seeing you once a week, if they don’t love your class, then you’re going to struggle, regardless of how faithful you are to your CM plan. Smart Classroom Management is a two-pronged approach–strict adherence to the rules of your classroom AND creating leverage.

      Michael

  15. Denise September 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Can you explain leverage and how to create it? Have I missed that somewhere in all the reading? Sorry.

  16. Tim Bailey January 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    What about if the student forges the parent’s signature? Doesn’t that undermine the consequence? Won’t the student feel like they got off easy?

    • Michael Linsin January 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Hi Tim,

      Yes, if a student forges a signature it indeed undermines the consequence and the student will likely feel that they got one over on you. Therefore, you have to make sure that doesn’t happen. You have to be sure the signature is authentic. If you have any suspicion that it isn’t, then you must call and verify.

      Michael

  17. Ben February 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi, I’m a second year teacher, teaching K-5 music. I see each of my students every fourth day. I’ve started using your classroom management ideas just a couple of weeks into the second semester. I’d noticed that even students who are normally on task were interrupting me without a second thought, so I knew it was time to rethink my discipline strategy. I found your website and adopted your plan.

    So far, things have been going fairly well. However, in the process of enforcing rules consistently, I’ve sent several letters home already. I’m using the example you provided in this article. Yesterday I sent one home with a student who is normally very focused. I believe that he was used to how things were before – that I did nothing about interrupting – and weren’t expecting me to enforce three consequences that easily. Today I got the letter back with a note from his mom that she thought the time-out during the next class sounded a bit harsh, and could we please TALK? (I understand the caps to mean she was annoyed that my letter didn’t offer an invitation to work together on the child’s behavior. I get that idea from another parent who complained about the “aggressive” tone of my letter home and the lack of an invitation to work together.) I’m thinking that since this system is new and I was not able to send it home in an information packet, the surprise is part of the problem for the parents. What would you recommend?

    I’m also curious about what you will say about this part. I have good rapport with my students and their parents, and they enjoy my class. I believe that the focused students are enjoying it even more now that they are not being interrupted. But I did introduce this system and enforce it very strictly after a year and a half of a more relaxed approach. I believe that my students have found the new atmosphere stifling compared to what they’re used to. As a few weeks have gone by, and we get back to having fun with instruments and games, I’ve noticed that the atmosphere lightened up again a bit. But I’m still worried that being strict about enforcing rules consistently will lead students to find my class less enjoyable, or lead parents to think I am being unkind to their children, which will reduce rapport. What are your thoughts?

    Finally, what about students who might have abusive parents? I don’t want a letter home to lead to any physical or verbal abuse. If it did, I believe it would also undermine a student’s view of me, even if the parent’s actions are not my fault, because it would all be set off by one of my consequences.

    • Michael Linsin February 11, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Ben,

      Art, music, and PE are different animals altogether. Although you can and should utilize a letter home, it definitely needs to be modified. Because you don’t have the same students all day, rapport is difficult, as is navigating the many varied habits and expectations each class learns from their classroom teacher. Thus, for you, you should only send letters home for major behavior problems or repeated problems. You do have some advantages, however. Music is, or should be, inherently fun–making time-out particularly effective. I recommend two warnings before a time-out and a letter home only after continued (weekly) disruptions to your teaching. Also, you must, must, must read this article.

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

      Michael

  18. Hannah February 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    4th graders can be a pain to handle. Can you imagine a child’s disrespect like “YOU SHUT UP?” I think a time-out for 9 minutes should be used in a naughty corner. Then they get a letter home.

  19. Patti April 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    I work in an extremely low-income, urban elementary school. Like another poster, I have lots of problems getting things signed and/or returned. In addition, I am required to give a daily recorded conduct grade. How can I merge this with my plan as you outline it? Also, I have some parents who change their cell phone numbers more often than some people change underwear, so I often do not have correct contact numbers for them, and they VERY RARELY return anything signed. Some I will only see on Field Day. Any suggestions? Oh, and I teach 1st.

    • Michael Linsin April 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      Hi Patti,

      In order to do them justice, your questions need a more detailed response than I can provide here. However, I’ll be writing about how to get behavior letters back from parents in the future, and I’ll keep your questions in mind. Stay tuned!

      Michael

  20. Sonya August 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    I was wondering if the student receives a “letter home” at 11 am on Tuesday and returns the letter the next day on Wednesday, are they out of time-out at 11 am on Wednesday, or do they still need to be in time-out for the entire next day? That would make a day and a half if it were the entire next day. I was wondering what your policy is on that?

    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2012 at 7:20 am #

      Hi Sonya,

      It depends on you, how effective you are, and how much leverage you have (i.e., the extent to which your students enjoy you and your classroom). I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but if you’re just starting out and your creating a plan for the first time, then I recommend the entire next day. Otherwise, 24 hours should work fine.

      :)Michael

  21. Sarah Smith August 18, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Thank you so much for these posts about effective classroom management. Last week was my first week of school and I have used the ideas about creating a management plan that works. There are many things falling into place for me as far as teaching goes, and this is one that came at just the right time. I mentioned this post in my newest blog post because it helped me to realize some of the deeper reasons for classroom rules and expectations. Because of that, I could verbalize the importance of rules to my students in a way that had much more impact than ever before. Thank you!!!

    • Michael Linsin August 18, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      You’re welcome, Sarah! Thanks for your thoughts. Looking forward to checking out your blog!

      :)Michael

  22. Dilehan October 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi.I’ve been trying to use the classroom management plan and last lesson there were three students in time-out.After i gave warning, they kept on talking so i said time-out.Is is too many? I hung the sheet on the wall and i usually say “classroom rules”.But i’m worried if i apply the rules correctly.

    • Michael Linsin October 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      Hi Dilehan,

      If it’s the first time you’ve used a classroom management plan before, then having three students in time-out at the same time isn’t unusual. Stick with it, work on building leverage and rapport, and in time, time-out will be a rare occurrence.

      :)Michael

  23. Tracy January 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I have students who will refuse to leave their desk to go to a time out spot. They will have a tantrum which includes shouting, yelling, and throwing things. What do I do?

    • Michael Linsin January 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Tracy,

      There are a couple of articles about tantrums in the Difficult Student category of the archive, and I encourage you to read them, but more important, please read the article What To Do When A Students Refuses To Go To Time-Out.

      Michael

  24. Emily DelGiorno February 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    One of my students that has a growing behavior issue doesn’t have any English spoken in the home. How would a letter or a phone call home be effective in this scenario?

    • Michael Linsin February 14, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Hi Emily,

      You must translate your letter. If you don’t have a friend willing to do so, there are excellent and free programs on the internet to do it for you. As for a phone call, it should be easier to find a colleague to do it for you while you’re standing by.

      Michael

  25. Sabrina April 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I am having some trouble trying to figure out how to mesh your consequences with our school wide behavior system. We have a conduct card that goes home each Friday and is marked throughout the week as a consequence.That is supposed to be our communication to the parent of their child’s behavior. I will be required to still use the conduct card, so do you think the altering the 3rd consequence of breaking a rule as Letter Home and Conduct Card marked would be appropriate, or should I separate marking the card and letter home as consequences?

    • Michael Linsin April 21, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      Hi Sabrina,

      No, I would think your first suggestion (keeping them together) would be appropriate.

      :)Michael

  26. Lindsey April 29, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    I was wondering if I have a student who breaks rule 1 and receives a warning, but then breaks rule 2 do I givve another warning or do they move to timeout? Just curious if the letter would be sent home for 3 violations of any rules or 3 violations of just one rule? Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin April 29, 2013 at 6:53 am #

      Hi Lindsey,

      After breaking a rule the second time, the student would go to time-out.

      Michael

  27. Amanda D. May 15, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Michael,
    I was wondering, what are some other options besides holding a student with you during recess if they do not return the letter? Our principal does not allow any teacher to keep students from playing during recess time. I am an art teacher that has each class once a week. Also, some of the parents will not return phone calls, or will tell me that it is not their problem how the child acts while he/she is at school. I’m not really sure how to do more follow through. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin May 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Hi Amanda,

      As a once-per-week art teacher, your concern is that the parent sees the letter. What they do about it or how they react to it isn’t your concern. Also, the consequence isn’t contingent on keeping them with you during recess. The key is that the letter gets to the parent. I recommend reading the article How To Send A Letter Home To Parents Redux. If you then have any questions, email me. I’m happy to help.

      Michael

  28. Joanna August 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I’m wondering if you ever recommend having students fill out a reflection form. I’m referring to a paper where they have to write what rule they broke and what they could have done differently. I am thinking that a good time for this may be when I hand them the parent letter. Then both papers could be stapled together? What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks so much,
    Joanna

    • Michael Linsin August 8, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Joanna,

      I don’t recommend a reflection form. I’ve written about this in the past (don’t remember the exact articles), but briefly, a reflection form is much like “talking it out,” which essentially absolves the student of responsibility. It give them a chance to point the finger elsewhere–which they are quick to do. I’ll be sure and write more about this in the future.

      Michael

  29. Dave September 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I just started implementing your classroom management suggestions and they’re working fantastically for the most part, but I have one small hiccup. What should I do after I give a student a letter home and they continue to act out? Sometimes I’ve had to give a letter home in the first fifteen minutes and then the student has been misbehaved afterwards because they’ve already gotten my toughest consequence. Should I give them another time-out if they’re continuing to disrupt my classroom? Another letter? What comes next?

    • Michael Linsin September 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Dave,

      This is an optional step for most teachers–depending on grade level and teaching environment/situation–but you can require any student who receives a letter home to stay in time-out until the letter is returned. If there is still no improvement from this particular student, then please read the article series, “How To Turn Around Difficult Students.” You can find it in the Difficult Students category of the archive.

      Michael

  30. Deb October 24, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    I have been reading some of your blog posts. I teach high school in a very challenging community. I have parents who never attended school and can not read. About 1/3rd of my students do not have phones at home. The average education of the adults in this community is about grade 5.

    Coming to school on time is a huge problem. Student wander in for the first hour in the morning and for the first half hour at lunch. I have serious challenges keeping my thoughts straight with all the interruptions and challenges and I get frustrated and do a number of things that you’ve pointed out are a problem.

    Attendance is also a huge problem.

    I also have students with learning abilities between grade 3 and 12 in the same classroom without support.

    I am constantly having to teach subjects that I am not strong in, without resources. I am having to figure out how to teach new content from scratch, and this is a challenge of a small school, 34 students from grade 9-12. Two teachers have them for 4-5 years and can not repeat elective courses each year. We have 4.75 teaching hours per day and only two hours of my teaching time is what I teach all the time, the rest might be every second year, or every 3-4 years or completely new.

    We have a high level of alcoholism with the parents. We have parents that are alcohol-free now, but the children have been very damaged, and with cut backs, our classes which were smaller are getting bigger. In my 6 years our school size has declined by 11 students, but our staff has declined by 3. So, we’ve had a 9% decline in enrollment, but a 24% reduction in staffing.

    • Michael Linsin October 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi Deb,

      Your comment underscores the importance of becoming an expert in classroom management–especially given the environment you teach in and your unfamiliarity with your subject matter. Having said that, there shouldn’t be any excuse for being late, and it shouldn’t be something you have to deal with. Tardiness is an administrative issue, and I think it’s worth speaking your mind about.

      Michael

  31. Jorge April 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    Hi. I am an spanish teacher and I am teaching in my country. I love your books, I,ve read them from cover to cover. I see many things really interesting but I cannot see how a letter home can be a good way of having a consequence talking about parents that they do not really are worry about their children or they do not know how to tace care of him/her.
    I have some parents that tell me things like “I can’t stand him/her anymore, you have to help me”. If a child with this type of parents has to bring a lettet home I am sure this is going to be a wastr of time.
    Or it might happen that a child recieves two or even three in the same day…

    According to create the best classes in the world, I am absolutely agree but how could I manage to do that if I havd to finish a book compulsory? How can I handle my class if I havd children with autism in my class or they do not know a word in spanish?

    Thanks for your time.

    • Michael Linsin April 2, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      Hi Jorge,

      If the strategy is followed in the manner we recommend, a letter home is effective because of how it affects the child, not the parent. As for your other questions, we’ll add them to the list of topics to cover in the future.

      :)Michael

  32. Andrew June 8, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Is an e-mail to a parent as effective as a letter, provided the student is informed about it? A parent’s signature being the acknowledgement of the e-mail.

  33. Rhonda Gamboa August 4, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    My plan is to implement your 4 rules and 3 consequences plan. Instead of calling a student out on a rule broken, would it be acceptable to announce to the class the rule number that was broken and then the entire class repeat the rule out loud. Would this count toward first consequence to a student or would it be necessary to actually call out their name? Or at the beginning of the school year, use the rule recite and then move to the direct verbal consequence in a few months?
    Your book Classroom Management for Art, Music and PE Teachers was extremely helpful. thank you Rhonda

  34. Ali Williams August 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I have been giving out parent letters for the past 2 years. I wasn’t as consistent last year, but am motivated to really back up my word this year. I am a librarian and technology teacher. I see every single K-5 student twice a week in each class and in 2 different, separate places in the building (computer lab and library).

    I have had students tear up the letter, storm out of the room, teachers not send the student to me during their recess. Last year I had a parent angrily respond to me that her son felt like he was a victim and that she refused to sign the letter! My point is I love this program, but applying it to 388 students is a challenge to say the least.

    I really want to start the new school year with a firm, but kind foundation of using this plan. But I have to admit that I am depressed about starting a new school year and my ability to do this right. It has been the bane of my teaching existence.

    Can you help me problem solve the issues I mentioned above.

    Thank youl

    • Michael Linsin August 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

      Hi Ali,

      I recommend that you read the book for specialists (Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers). The approach to creating and enforcing a classroom management plan is different for those who see hundreds of students every week and therefore different that what you’ll find here on the website. Your unique challenges need unique solutions, which include how best to handle the third consequence.

      Michael

  35. Sasha September 21, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Hi! I have been teaching for 5 weeks now, a 5th grade class, and it seems that they have forgotten all the rules we went over. I see that my classroom management plan was not effective. Can I start over tomorrow? Can I begin with the letter? How do I start over?
    Thanks!

  36. Heidi October 17, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    What would you say is an acceptable number of letters to send home in total over a half term (7 weeks)? I worry I’m sending too many, I have sent about 20 this half term (not including one boy who pretty much gets one every day!) thanks, Heidi

    • Michael Linsin October 18, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      Hi Heidi,

      20 is a lot and is usually a sign that other areas need fixing/addressing. I’ll add this topic to the list of future articles.

      Michael

  37. Heidi October 18, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    That’s what I thought, but I have worked really hard to follow everything I’ve read here over the last couple of years and generally everything is going very very well, better than I could have hoped! I have modelled and practised all routines and rules thoroughly, even dressing up as a student as you once did, which they loved! i have a lovely relationship woth all the pupils. i wonder if I’m giving consequences too much, such as when one or two pupils forget not to put their hand up before the register (a part of our morning routine). But I’m trying to be absolutely consistent. I will look forward to your article about it!

  38. Debbie October 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Hi I teach Spanish at a K-8 district. I only see the students for 36 school days a year. Also in my district Spanish is not valued and many children reflect their parents view that it doesn’t matter. Further, my grades do not matter to honor roll or academic probation. and I am paired with less academic classes such as art and cooking. I find it difficult to instill procedures with so little time and the students want to play like their other assigned arts classes.I make it as fun as possible but at the end of the day some study is requirds for success. I also teach 7 grade levels in one day. I think your plan will help but I am concerned that particularly at grades 5-8 parents will not care about behavior in my class. Suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin October 24, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

      Hi Debbie,

      I recommend you read Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers. It was written for anyone who sees students as infrequently as you do.

      Michael

  39. teresa November 24, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    HI Michael,

    I have enjoyed reading and feeling reassurance from your articles. I am running into some problems with administration wanting everything to be positive. Don’t get me wrong I believe in positive reinforcement on appropriate behaviors, but I am struggling with being positive with students when they are misbehaving. I copied your sample letter home to parents to use as a consequence in my room. I showed it to my principle to get approval to use and she wants me to change the top to say Dear parents, child’s name has followed these rules today. instead of child’s name has broken these rules today. Then place did not on the places where they broke the rules. Will this work or will it change the results I am desperately seeking. We are not to use the word consequence anymore anytime it gets to the point were I need to send a student out they enjoy going. They get to do special jobs etc. I think those things are great, but feel they should be done when the students are showing appropriate behavior rather than inappropriate. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • Michael Linsin November 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      Hi Teresa,

      Although odd, the letter should work just the same with the changes. As for second part of your query, if I understand you, it appears the students are being rewarded for breaking rules. To curb misbehavior, there should be a consequence they do not enjoy.

      Michael

  40. Jane Porras January 24, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Someone named Rachel is charging $2.50 for your Sample Parent Letter on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. Thought you might want to know.

    Thanks,

    Jane

    • Michael Linsin January 24, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know, Jane. I appreciate it and will check it out.

      Michael

  41. Liuda February 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi, Mihcael! I’m trying to apply your approach as I find it very reasonable and fundamental. But could you clarify the following moments?
    First, I teach small groups and have an opportunity and even must (according to our school’s demands) talk to parents after each lesson (twive a week). Should I still give letters as the third concequence? Or it would be better to talk to parents with a child after a class?
    Second, when is it better to start implementing concequences? I mean when we’ve just started learning the routines. What should I do, if a child. for example, interrupts me or calls out, but we haven’t modeled it yet?Give a warning or start modeling?
    And the last, how is it better to learn the routines from the very beginning? One or two a day or when a problem occurs?

    Thank you so much!

    • Michael Linsin February 23, 2016 at 8:00 am #

      Hi Liuda,

      -If the parent is there, then speak to them instead of sending the letter.
      -Model your rules first, but don’t enforce until after.
      -From the beginning.

      Michael

  42. Liuda February 23, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks, Michael!
    You now, now I feel a little depressed, because students are sad when they leave the class after the lesson. Some of them even cried being in time-out or after the lesson. Is it OK for the second day with new concequences?

    • Michael Linsin February 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi Liuda,

      I can tell from your question that you may benefit from spending more time in our archive, getting a feel for our approach and supporting strategies. You may also want to consider personal coaching.

      Michael

      Michael