A friend emailed me this week to share a story about his son’s first week of school.
Evidently some of his classmates were misbehaving, and in response the teacher kept the entire class in for recess.
This isn’t an unusual strategy.
We often hear from teachers asking if they should do the same.
At first glance it seems like an odd question with an obvious answer.
But the truth is, keeping everyone in for recess, taking away points, or asking them to put their heads down can indeed get unruly students temporarily under control.
It’s a reliable way to get the class quiet and settled down. It gives the teacher a much-needed breather and usually results in calmer behavior for the next lesson.
The problem with the strategy, however, is that it alienates your most well-behaved students.
When my friend’s son got home after school he was angry and confused. It didn’t make sense to him. Why did he have to stay in for recess when he did nothing wrong?
Students from kindergarten on up have an acute sense of fairness. Although they may not always voice their frustration to you, you can bet they’ll bring it up at the dinner table.
You can bet they’ll look at you differently.
Holding everyone accountable when only a few are misbehaving creates resentment and will damage your influence.
This begs the question, then, of redoing routines, which we recommend here at SCM. Isn’t asking your entire class to repeat a routine a form of holding everyone accountable?
Yes, it is. But there are some notable differences. First, you should never redo a routine if the problem is just a few students.
This underscores the importance of closely observing all routines, and then being quick to enforce individual consequences. This alone virtually guarantees that it will never be more than one or two students.
Also, when you redo a routine, it’s not because of misbehavior. It’s because your class did the routine incorrectly. It’s because they didn’t quite believe that when you taught the routine so explicitly, you actually meant it.
Furthermore, after now 24 years of teaching students in kindergarten through high school, a poorly performed routine is usually, almost exclusively, everyone.
And although we often use the word ‘redoing,’ it’s best to think of it as reteaching. Even if you’re not actually modeling the routine again, asking your class to show you how you expect them to do it is a form of reteaching.
It’s a way to communicate that when you say something, you mean it.
Finally, when you ask students to repeat a routine, you’re not taking anything away from them. They aren’t missing recess or arriving late to lunch or losing out on class points.
You’re merely backing your words with action and ensuring what is best for them and their learning.
To sum up, when individual students misbehave, hold them accountable individually by following your classroom management plan. If it’s more than one or two at a time, then it’s a sign you must become a more vigilant observer.
When the class as a whole performs a routine poorly, have them do it again as a form of reteaching.
In this way, you’ll never alienate students, cause resentment, or feel the need to punish everyone for the behavior of a few.
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