A Forbidden Classroom Management Strategy You Should Be Using

two applesNo, it’s not corporal punishment.

It’s not bribing with Snickers bars.

It’s not free time.

The forbidden strategy I’m referring to has gotten a bad rap, but is so effective it’s used to train nurses, police officers, professional athletes, and opera singers.

What is it?


An Important Distinction

The overuse of repetition to teach subject matter, lovingly called “drill and kill,” is frowned upon because it can dampen enthusiasm for learning. But using repetition to teach classroom management routines is another story.

Anytime both body and mind are involved in learning, repetition must play an important role.

Administering CPR, learning a new aria, arresting a suspect, lining up for lunch. These routines are best learned, and mastered, through repetition.

It’s the only way to deepen the grooves.

A Danger

There is a danger with using repetition, however.

In the hands of an unskilled or impatient teacher, students can become bored, resentful, and likely to cause trouble.

They’ll have little incentive to behave for a teacher who like an old football coach yells, “Let’s do it again! And we’re gonna keep on doing it until you get it right!”

Repetition Done Right

Repetition doesn’t have to be agony or time-consuming for you or your students. Done a certain way, it’s an effective classroom management strategy you’ll both enjoy doing.

Here’s how:

Call it practice.

Using the metaphor of a sports team practicing for a game makes sense to students and gives meaning to a seemingly mundane exercise.

Teach and model first.

Repetition should come only after baseline learning takes place. Teach and model routines thoroughly before asking students to practice them.

Practice at intervals.

Practice each routine only twice in a row. Then take a break from that particular routine. Your students will learn faster if you come back and practice later in the day—or the next one.

Praise now.

Your students need immediate, positive feedback while practicing routines. Praise keeps the momentum of each repetition moving forward and effectively expresses what you expect from them.

Judge later.

After your students are finished practicing a routine, sit them down and tell them exactly what areas need improving. Don’t pull any punches. Be specific about what you want and accept nothing less.

If they get it right, stop.

Only repeat a routine done incorrectly. If your students get it right, tell them they were perfect and move on to something else.

Lighten up.

Arms crossed, frequent sighs, exasperation. Many teachers dislike teaching routines. But if your students see your annoyance, it’s going to take them forever to learn. Having fun and demanding excellence are not mutually exclusive.

It’s all teaching.

Whether you’re teaching your students great works of poetry or a run-of-the-mill routine like how to clean your classroom, it’s all teaching. It’s all good. It’s what we’re called to do. Choose to see every opportunity to teach as enjoyable and worthy of your time.

Mastering Routines Is About Pride

Routines make your life easier and less stressful. They save oceans of time. They keep students focused on excellence, which will transfer to everything you do.

But more than anything…

Routines are about pride—pride in doing something well, pride in being part of a special group, and pride in standing apart from the crowd.

A brisk, confident class rolling like a train on their way to lunch is a beautiful thing.

Your students will walk tall and purposeful, taking both compliments from adults and stares from other classrooms in stride.

And you? You don’t have to do or say a thing.

Just follow.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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15 Responses to A Forbidden Classroom Management Strategy You Should Be Using

  1. Nefertari September 7, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    I work in a large urban district where there is a high demand for classroom management training. Any solutions you provide will be greatly appreciated.

    • Michael Linsin September 7, 2011 at 6:31 am #

      Hi Nefertari,

      I’m not offering any workshops at this time. You might want to visit newmanagement.com. Rick Morris has workshops geared for high school teachers.


  2. gloriaas October 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi, our school, Discovery Hills and Valley (check out website) -mostly high school students-is struggling with our students labeled as conduct disordered, emotionally disturbed. I dislike labeling, and of course students react to that (self-fulfilling prophecy!). So far, their influence on one another is one of negative behaviors- “against the machine”. We built relationships, trust , choice,fun woven in
    reading Dream Class together starting next week. Any ideas?

    • Michael Linsin October 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm #


      I think that’s wonderful you’re reading Dream Class together. There is a chapter on accountability that describes my feelings dealing with difficult students. If you have any specific questions after reading the book, email me. I’m happy to help!


  3. Kim July 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Does your book give specific rules and procedures you’ve found to be most effective for middle school?

    • Michael Linsin July 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

      Hi Kim,

      The rules I recommend for both elementary and middle school can be found in the Classroom Management Plan category of the archive.


  4. Jessica Gagne July 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    I feel like I have a good classroom management plan and things go pretty smoothly throughout the day for us but one area that I/we really struggle with is cleaning up at the end of the day. We have a “workshop” time for the last 50 minutes of the day where some kids leave for outside of the room instruction some are working independently on projects and I’m reteaching small groups. When the class rejoins as a whole it’s almost time to line up. I teach the cleaning/end of day routines intensely at the beginning if the year but it’s too hard for me to make them do it again with the clock and the buses staring me down – kids are too stressed about getting out in time to care about a messy room and then it’s left on my shoulders to clean/organize what they didn’t do. How can I ensure a super clean room at the end of each day?

    • Michael Linsin August 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      The students who leave to another classroom should clean their area, be organized, and have homework ready to go before leaving. The rest of your class should go through the cleaning/organizing before the others return. (They too can get homework/backpacks ready with the others.) Thus, the returning students walk into a quiet classroom, all students seated and ready to go.


  5. Jessica Gagne August 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks Michael,

    I forgot to mention that before the 50 min. Workshop there’s a 25 min math workshop time where kids are coming and going….but it makes sense to have it their spot ready and clean before the child exits for the day..it will take practice and independence but we’ll give it a try.

    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      Hi Jessica,

      It’s not a matter of giving it a try. “Giving it a try” is guaranteed not to work. You set your expectations and that’s it. Your students will do whatever you teach and model specifically—and then enforce.


  6. Dave August 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Michael, I love this line:

    “Routines are about pride—pride in doing something well, pride in being part of a special group, and pride in standing apart from the crowd.”

    You’ve got such great content on this site — I hope it continues to flourish. Seriously great stuff — I can’t stop tweeting it and posting it to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/teachingthecore).

    Thanks again for the great insights into the first day!

  7. JMandela October 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    This is wonderful simple information.

    • Michael Linsin October 23, 2012 at 6:35 am #

      You’re welcome, JMandela!


  8. KS May 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Hi, I am a first-year teacher in a 7th grade classroom and have really struggled with the “Do it again” strategy because students sometimes intentionally do it wrong so that I have them repeat it again and waste class time. Granted I only started doing this technique in February/March, so next year I plan to start it right away to get things off on the right foot, but in your experience how have you avoided students from intentionally doing routines incorrectly in order to try to frustrate the teacher or waste class time? I see here that you suggest only repeating routines twice and then giving feedback and trying again the next day, but I can imagine that pattern continuing for a while if you never require them to get it right before moving on.


    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi KS,

      You’re mixing a couple of things here. The article above refers to learning a routine for the first time. The do-it-again strategy is a way to hold students accountable for that which they’ve already proven competence. As for students intentionally doing it wrong, this is a respect issue and doesn’t have anything directly to do with the strategy. Commanding respect is a combination of the totality of our approach here at SCM. I encourage you to spend time in the archive as well as referring to our books.