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Classroom Discipline 101

Learn how to discipline students and how to keep your classroom in order from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


The number one thing we need to do to maintain excellent classroom management in our classes is to have really clear expectations, teach the procedures we need the students to be able to do, and consistently enforce those things. So for example, one of the places that you might start is with hand-raising. All teachers ask students to raise their hands sometimes. Some of us do it more frequently than others, but we all do it sometimes. And yet, I have never observed a teacher who is 100% consistent about having students raise their hands to speak, not even observations of myself. So that's a good place to start, because we all do it, it's easy to practice being consistent around it, and my experience has been the more consistent I am in any one area of my teaching, the more I am consistent in all areas of my teaching.

So for example, you ask a question. "Raise your hand if you know the answer to question number six." And some kid yells out the answer. Or the classic dilemma, you pose a question to your class, and some student raises their hand and then yells out the answer. And then what do we do? What we do is we stay 100% consistent in honoring not the called out response, but in honoring the procedure. So I might say, "Johnny, thank you for going halfway with that procedure and raising your hand, but I do need you to wait until I call on you before you answer, so let's try it again. I'll call on you and we can talk about what you said." Being consistent - 100% consistent - with getting what we want and when we ask for it.

Being 100% consistent around hand-raising doesn't mean that you need the students to raise their hands every single time they speak. Right? It just means getting it when we ask for it. One of the best things I ever saw related to being consistent around hand-raising was a third grade teacher, and what she did is she had a brainstorm hat. It was like a bowler hat that had a plastic toy brain sewn to it. And when she wanted the students to raise their hands, she'd say, "Raise your hand if..." and she'd pose a question, and students would raise their hands. But when she wanted them to be able to call out and not have to raise their hands, she'd walk to a different place in her room, put that brainstorm hat on - "Kids, we're going to brainstorm now. We're going to have a conversation. You can say what you want when you want. Don't yell out over somebody else, but other than that, say what you want when you want." And when she was done with that, she'd take the hat off, put it back, walk to a different area in the room - "We're going to go back to hand-raising now, kids. Raise your hand if..." making it crystal clear to her students when she needed a raised hand and when it was okay to call out.

So if you want to practice being consistent around hand-raising, this is what I'd suggest you do. Take a picture of a hand. Print it out. Blow it up, poster size. Put it on your back wall as a visual reminder to you that you're trying to be more consistent about hand-raising, and see what happens. And make it clear to the students that when you ask for a raised hand, you'll verbally say it - "Kids, give me a silent hand if you know..." and do a visual to reinforce it for them. And let them know, "If I don't do this or I don't say, 'Give me a raised hand,' then you can call out an answer" so that they can help you be consistent and they have very clear cues from you when you need a raised hand and when it is okay to call out.

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