When To Enforce A Consequence And When To Redo A Routine

Smart Classroom Management: When To Enforce A Consequence And When To Redo A RoutineIt 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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21 Responses to When To Enforce A Consequence And When To Redo A Routine

  1. Backroads September 23, 2017 at 7:38 am #

    I have been waiting for this answer and I love the simplicity of the answer.

  2. Dorothy K September 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    Thank you for making this post concise! Much appreciated. Dorothy K.

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      You’re welcome, Dorothy.


  3. Amy September 24, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve tried this strategy of asking the class to redo the routine and with my old class it worked really well. However, for my new class it’s not working so well because they see it as a punishment even though I didn’t present it in that way. They say “why do I have to do it again- I wasn’t even talking!” But the problem is I only ask them all to do it again if there are so many talking that I can’t identify who it is. It doesn’t help that my school has a really tight timetable with only twenty minutes to eat lunch, so if I make them redo a routine at lunch time they all miss a lot of playtime. Any tips?

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Amy,

      Be proactive by lining them up for lunch earlier. As for how to eliminate grumbling, I’ll be sure to cover this topic in a future article.


  4. Amy September 25, 2017 at 6:38 am #

    Thanks Michael! Unfortunately they come from another class before lunch but I definitely agree that in general, trying to finish lessons early and leave extra time for routines seems to somehow create more time and even has a knock in effect to other routines!

  5. Libby September 25, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    This article showed up in my inbox just when I needed it. My class this year is giving me a run for my money. Thankfully, I read this article before starting my day and I already re-taught a procedure. Now if I follow through the rest of this week at least I know my day will start out well. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin September 25, 2017 at 9:07 am #

      You can do it, Libby! Have a great week. 🙂


  6. Chris September 26, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

    Just the support I needed to clarify my thoughts while in the process of establishing routines with sometimes difficult PreK and K students. Thanks for sharing your confidence and encouragement!

    • Michael Linsin September 27, 2017 at 7:35 am #

      You’re welcome, Chris!

  7. Susan Davis September 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    I work as a substitute, and I have an issue with coming in and going out quietly….does a sub have time to make them line up again and again when you are only there one or two or three days at most for the whole year…..what am I missing in getting the kids to not talk and disrupt when lining up and coming and going into the room…..they can be like ping pong balls. haha

  8. Joel September 28, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I explained the classroom management plan for the seventh grade students, but they started playing a game, they raise their hand one by one and say sth fake and interrupt me.

    What should I do?


    • Michael Linsin September 28, 2017 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Joel,

      You don’t have, or have lost, their respect or authority–along with control of your class. I’ve written about these topic extensively, but because there is a lot at work you may want to consider personal coaching.


  9. math teacher September 28, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I have one small class 6 ESE students and 4 gen ed students. I am an ESE teacher. Some have been unmotivated. During a test review they only did a few problems and kept saying I can’t do this. So today I tried to switch it up and we talked about the I can’t do it. I told them my story. Tried to inspire them and set my expectations higher. This time they got a lot more problems finished (they are pretty tough problems) and knew they did pretty good. When they would start talking about something else, they would catch themselves and say I need to get back on track. Therefore I did not give them a consequence for being off-task but wondering if I should have? Problem is I said I would but then they corrected themselves so quickly that I let it go… Also this time when they said I can’t do it they would correct themselves and say oh wait I can do it and they did it from an example or from help with their partner. I feel like it was so much better but I am worried about not giving them that consequence for talking about something other than math! I told them I will give them a break and a chance to talk to friends for a minute or so halfway through so should I expect them to only do math talk the rest of the time? or should I give them a chance to correct themselves? Please help for tomorrow thanks your site is the best!

    • Michael Linsin September 28, 2017 at 9:20 am #

      I don’t think it’s necessary say anything tomorrow, but if you don’t allow off-task talking, then you definitely need to recommit yourself to being consistent. If you think it’s best to allow them to correct themselves, then define what exactly this looks like and when you will enforce a consequence.


      • math teacher September 28, 2017 at 11:41 am #

        thank you so much! in your opinion, for 7th grade math ESE (some attention span difficulties etc), it would be better to allow off-task if they can correct it right away OR only math talk and then give them that “break” halfway through to say hi to friends… do you have any opinion either way for what would help them more in the long run?

        • Michael Linsin September 28, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

          The latter.

  10. Reynske September 29, 2017 at 3:10 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much, I’ve tried this strategy of asking the class to redo the routine and it worked really well

    • Michael Linsin September 29, 2017 at 8:33 am #

      You’re welcome, Reynske.

  11. Jennifer C. October 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

    I have a very small class of kindergarteners and am struggling with when to reteach a procedure/routine and when to enforce a consequence. With such a small class (only 7 kids) a few is half the class. We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year practicing routines and discussing classroom rules. However, part of the issue is I have a co-teacher for an hour of my morning who has never worked with children this young before. He will give reminders, pep talks, respond to students who haven’t raised their hands, etc. I have spoken to him about it even though it’s hard to do so without feeling like I am disrespecting him. He hasn’t really gotten much better and it’s making it hard to be consistent. Since he is in my room first thing in the morning this means we often get off track first thing in the morning.


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