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Tool: Restrained use of options for responding to inattention and misbehavior

Without restraint, the teacher will be the most disruptive person in the room, constantly stopping class activity to deal with someone.

Category and purpose

Teacher's move

Used in a lesson?

Seeming results?

Ignore it

It didn't happen (had no effect, a non-event).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Non-verbal interventions let you keep on teaching.

Make a face; the "teacher's look."

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Give a hand signal.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Move toward the student.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Non-directive verbal interventions give students information and opportunities to regulate themselves.

Say the student's name (just the name).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Incorporate student's name into lesson.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Call on student (as though normal).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Gently joke about the situation.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Calmly report the effect on class and teacher.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Directive verbal interventions say clearly and simply what the student should do.

Give a command.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Remind the student of a rule.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Give a choice between responding and penalty.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Penalties should be both proportionate to the misbehavior and logical responses to the misbehavior.

Express disappointment in the student.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Assign restitution: "Apologize, fix it, clean it, pick it up, repair it, make it right, etc."

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Make the student make it up: stay in or stay after to do it, finish it, correct it, etc.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Assign a written reflection on the misbehavior.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Invoke "time-out" routine, taught previously.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Take away a privilege.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Detain after school for a problem-solving talk.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


*Adapted from Weinstein, C.S., & and Mignano, A.J. (2003). Elementary/Secondary Classroom Management: Lessons from Research and Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Clarifications and expansions

"Keep on teaching." When you stop teaching to deal with one student's inattention or misbehavior, what do you do to the rest of the class? If they had formed a train of thought moving along with yours, they and you will have to start it again. And you have put them in idle, but they will not remain idle, will they? Here we see that the teacher easily can be the most disruptive force in the class. Non-verbal interventions enable you to avoid doing that. Effective managers handle a very large proportion of all inattention and misbehavior by non-verbal means that enable them to keep on teaching.

"Students regulating themselves." Please consider the similarities among and differences between these three states of affairs: Obedience, Responsibility, Cooperation. Perhaps you will settle for obedience from time to time, but you know that obedience depends on a constant assertion of the teacher's will; that is the meaning of the term. How do constant assertions of your will affect your relationships with students? You know that student self-regulation is desirable, but notice also that when students' only choice is to obey or not obey, they have no opportunity to regulate themselves. If you provide them opportunities to regulate themselves, they inevitably will make mistakes because they are novices at self-regulation. What does this mean? It means that a teacher who is promoting self-regulation by students has decided to work in the midst of a mess because that is the only condition in which any condition other than obedience is possible.

"Restitution." As a penalty, restitution has special merit because it aims both to repair the damage that a student's act has caused and, thereby, to repair the student's standing in the classroom community. By apologizing to the person s/he harmed or repairing the thing that s/he damaged, the offender also repairs herself or himself--regains good standing among the members of the class.

"express disappointment "


Does NOT mean

Expressing disappointment, as a penalty all by itself: "Oh, Jenna, I am so sad (disappointed) that you did that." In what world could your expression of disappointment be a punishment--by itself? It would be a world in which the student has come to care what you think of him or her. How would that happen? Partly by building relationships with students over time. Partly by exerting yourself to teach well and supportively. Partly by acknowledging good performances in sincere, specific praise. And so on. That is, disappointment would be a punishment in the world that you probably want to create in your classroom and have some means to create by other practices examined here.

Saying that you are disappointed before you go on to impose some other penalty.


A problem-solving method*

Step 1. Build a warm personal relationship with the student (build moral influence to draw on in the problem-solving).

Step 2. Deal with the present behavior:

  • "What happened?"
  • "What did you do?" (Help students take responsibility for their part in a problem).

Step 3. Make a value judgment:

  • "Is it helping you?" (Help students consider their own behavior and underlying assumptions).
  • "Is it helping others?" (Promote students' social cognition).
  • "Is it against a rule or does it violate a compelling state interest?" (Help students understand their own and others' rights and responsibilities).

Step 4. Work out a plan

  • "What can you do differently?" (Social skill training).
  • "What do you need me to do?"
  • "What do you need other students to do?"

Step 5. Make a commitment

  • "Are you going to do this?" (Confirm students' responsibility).

Step 6. Follow up.

  • "I'll check later and see how the plan has worked." (Demonstrate care).

Step 7. No put-downs, but do not accept excuses

  • "If the plan didn't work, let's analyze and develop a new plan." (High expectations and persistence).

*Adapted from Jones, V., & Jones, L. (2004). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems, Seventh edition. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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