It is one of the most common questions we get here at SCM:
“When do I enforce a consequence and when do I redo a routine?”
In other words, if there are students misbehaving while entering the classroom, for example, do you hold them individually accountable?
Or do you send the entire class back outside to perform the routine again?
It’s a great question. And it confuses a lot of teachers.
It’s confusing because if there are a lot of students misbehaving, then it’s hard to get to them all.
“You have a warning and you have a warning and you have a warning . . .”
And if it’s just a few, then it doesn’t seem fair to make them all redo it.
The good news is that there is an easy way to determine the best strategy to use and when.
Strangely, it’s based on a natural phenomenon.
You see, when students fail to perform a routine as taught, in the vast majority of cases it’s either just a small number of students off track or it’s most of the class.
In other words, it’s very rarely in the mid-range of say, 6 to 15 students. So the rule is if it’s just a few, or less, then you enforce individual consequences.
“Kaylie, Jacob, and Lindsay, you three have a warning because you broke rule number one and didn’t follow the ‘entering the classroom’ routine correctly.”
If it’s more than a few—and again, it’s likely to be a lot more—then it’s best to send them back out to do it again.
However, you need to be careful here.
Because, if most of your class is performing a routine incorrectly, then it’s a sign that you may need to reteach the routine in greater detail.
Simply asking them to redo it is easier, of course, and takes far less time, but this should only be done if the off-track behaviors were minor—light talking, rushing, sloppiness.
If, on the other hand, the class was disruptive and chaotic, then it’s best to stop everything and reteach the routine as if it’s the first time.
Because, in this case, their behavior shows a lack of respect for you, for each other, and the classroom as a whole. It’s also likely to bleed into other areas and get worse over time.
This is primarily how teachers lose control of their class.
So the solution is to teach, model, and practice the routine in explicit detail. Raise the bar even higher than it was before, and teach with a passion that refuses to accept anything less than excellence.
Not only will you clean up the routine and prove to your class that you really do mean what you say, but you’ll sharpen every other area of classroom management as well.
In other words, it’s an opportunity to get better.
So, to sum up, while observing a routine, if a few students misbehave, then enforce individual consequences.
If it’s more than a few, and the behaviors are minor, immediately send your class back to the beginning of the routine to do it again. If the behaviors are more substantial, however, then reteach the routine in greater detail.
In this way, you’ll always know how to respond.
You’ll always know how to fix the problem, improve behavior, and keep your classroom running smoothly and efficiently.
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