Your lesson ends, the recess bell rings, and you release your students to the playground to let off some steam. But on the way you notice one of your students, call him Anthony, rudely shoving others aside on his way out the door.
How dare him, the little bugger.
So you run out, pull Anthony off the playground, and let him have it. You give him a fire-breathing, finger-pointing, he’s-got-it-comin’ lecture, topped off with a stern, “Do you understand me?”
He hems and haws, looks at his shoes, and mumbles an apology. Semi-satisfied, you send him on his way and head back to your classroom with a sigh.
Of course, not all lectures are so vigorous. More often, teachers lecture because they believe that with the right words their students will see the light and suddenly be transformed.
But does it work? Is lecture a viable classroom management strategy?
On the surface the answer appears to be yes. Lecturing often works in the immediate aftermath. But in the long run, it’s a costly mistake that makes classroom management more difficult.
1. It’s stressful.
Using words to try and convince students to behave is perhaps the number one cause of stress among teachers. And because lecturing kinda-sorta works in the short term, teachers feel encouraged to keep on doing it—despite the tension headaches.
2. It replaces real accountability.
When you lecture students, they know that your talking-to is the accountability. And so if they can just endure it and tell you what you want to hear, then they can be on their way—free and clear and with no real accountability.
3. It sabotages real accountability.
If you send a student to time-out but give a lecture along the way, then from the student’s perspective your not following your classroom management plan as promised. It feels like a double consequence. So instead of sitting in time-out and contemplating their mistake, they’re simmering with anger over the injustice.
4. It tempts students into argument.
When you lecture, you all but dare your students to argue with you. In fact, it takes a strong-willed student not to. When backed into a corner and forced to listen to something they already know, they’re going to want to fight back.
5. It causes resentment.
Few students respond well to a lecture. More often than not, even the most genteel dressing-down causes resentment. Whether they deserve it or not doesn’t change this fact. Truth is, teachers who lecture struggle to build behavior-influencing rapport with their students.
6. It’s time-consuming.
If you rely on lecturing as a classroom management method, then teaching and learning will be affected. Lecturing students takes time, brings tension into your classroom, and takes you away from preparation, instruction, and the joy of teaching.
7. Actions speak louder.
Your words will never carry as much weight as your actions. And the longer students are in school, the more this is true. By the time they get to you, they may have been on the end of dozens of lectures—making it unlikely yours will have the desired effect.
Speak Less, Act More
The next time a student misbehaves, try saying as little as possible.
Simply tell the student what rule was broken, then enforce a consequence and move on to more important things—like teaching your class. This ensures three things:
- You won’t be stressed-out.
- The misbehaving student won’t be resentful.
- Accountability will do its job.
Instead of lecturing and telling your students what lessons they ought to learn, which go in one ear and out the other, let accountability work…
And they’ll soak up those lessons on their own.
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