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How to Set Consequences for Rule Breaking

Learn how to set consequences for students who break the rules from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


There are kind of two things out there for setting consequences for rule-breaking. A lot of schools use a very specific kind of step-by-step consequence guide for rule breaking. And it's mandated by the school or the district that you use it that way. For example, that might look like "give the student a warning, move the student's seat, call the student's parent, send the student out."

That is one way to go about it, but it lacks flexibility. And because it lacks flexibility, it doesn't work in every situation, and it corners the teacher into having to figure out how to make that step system fit every student and every misbehavior. What I would recommend is coming up with a more tiered system. So for example, you might have three tiers.

And on the first tier, this would be your mildest consequences. These would be things like proximity, moving closer to the student, looking at the student with the teacher stare. Saying the student's name along with the teacher stare,"Johnny." Things like that that are gentle, but might then get the student back on task would be on your first tier.

The second tier would be things that are a little bit more involved and a little less mild. Things like moving the student's seat temporarily, or having a one-on-one conversation with them really quickly at their desk. Things like that might be on tier two.

Tier three, then, might be your most severe consequences. Things like sending the student outside for a private conversation, or sending the student next door to a partner teacher for a time-out next door. And then you might actually have another tier that is referral to the office, or involving the parents and the counselors, and other things like that.

But when we have multiple consequences on each of those tiers, we can be more flexible about how we choose our consequences for each individual student. Just like in a baseball game if you're the pitcher, you're not going to throw a curve-ball to every batter. If they can hit a curve, you're going to throw a fastball. Likewise, in the classroom, we have students who are misbehaving. The right consequence for each student might be different depending on who that student is, what makes them uncomfortable, and what you've used in the past with that student.

So we can pick and choose from our different tiers. We might still move through a progression, though. From mild, to less mild, to a little bit more involved, to severe. It doesn't just have to be one thing on each of those steps. So that we can really meet each student where they need to be met to get the behavior that we want from them when they're breaking rules in the classroom.

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