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How to Deal with Students & Their Cellphones

Learn how to deal with students and their cellphones from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


Part of how you deal with students and their cellphones is to get really clear about what you will and will not allow. Sometimes, you are working in a school and they've already told you what you will or will not allow but school policy might be, "See it, and take it. No cellphones. No way for no reason at all." In that case, that is on you to now teach and re-enforce and practice that procedure with the students. So, I might come to my students and say, "In this class, in this school, the policy for cellphones is see it, take it. It doesn't matter if you are using it, it doesn't matter if you are talking on it, it doesn't matter even if it's turned on or not. If I see it, I have to take it. That is the policy." Let's practice what that is going to look like and then have a student modeled out with you. Have them put their cellphone on the edge of the desk but not be using it and then walk by and say, "Please give me the cellphone" and have coached the student, in advanced, to argue with you. So that they can see what that is going to lead to if they do argue.

"No! I forgot! Oh, I'll put it in my pocket! Oh, why are you making such a big deal about this, all right?"

"Please give me the cellphone or step outside and we can talk about a little bit longer."

"No, no, no."

"Okay, step outside."

So you are going to role-play that kind of thing with the students and you can ham it up a little bit and make it a little bit silly so that they see, "Oh, every time she asks for cellphone, if I give it to her, she puts it on her desk and she gives it back to me at the end of the period or the end of the lesson. If I don't give it to her, I end up outside with a phone call home and potentially, a referral to the office for defiance." So that they can see those two things happening in an accountability free environment, right. It's just a role-play, we're just hamming around a little bit about what's going to happen when that really does happen in class, gives them that impression in their heads so when it really happens in real time and I ask a student for their cellphone, they go, "Oh, I forgot" And then you say, "You remember how we role-played this at the beginning of the year.

You have two choices here, you give it to me, I'll lock it in my desk, I give it back to you and nothing else happens and all is well or, you argue with me and you end up outside, having a private conversation with a phone call and potentially, a referral to the office if it goes that way. Think about what you want to do here." With all things, not just cellphones. It's really about making it a 100% clear what your expectation is, role-playing, modeling and/or practicing what that expectation is and then, re-enforcing it in real time from a place of compassion but strength at the same time.

I don't have to be angry, I don't have to be mean. This doesn't have to turn into a big fight or confrontation between me and the student with the cellphone. I can just calmly offer the student choices. "You have a choice, give me the cellphone and this will happen or refuse to give me the cellphone and this will happen. You decide what you'd like to do." And then, consistently follow through based on the choice that the student makes. That's one way to deal with cellphones in the classroom.

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