What we usually think about punishment. Instead, let’s

What makes a great classroom? Is it the teacher, the students, or the resources? While these components are important, tying them into great classroom management skills is key. Learn more about classroom discipline, preemptive strategies, and in-the-moment tools.

Classroom Discipline

Discipline is defined as the practice of teaching others to obey rules or norms by using punishment to correct unwanted behaviors. In a classroom, a teacher uses discipline to ensure routine is maintained, school rules are enforced, and the students are in a safe learning environment. While the word discipline seems negative, the goal of using discipline is to teach students boundaries and limits to help students achieve personal and academic life goals.Without discipline, learning cannot be accomplished. If students constantly disrupt the teacher, the others in class are affected. If a student does not follow the rules and does not complete classwork or homework, that student is missing out on valuable learning opportunities. The goal of discipline is to ensure each student receives the most from their education.

Let’s take a look at some strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

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Systems and Preemptive Tools

When thinking about classroom discipline, we usually think about punishment. Instead, let’s try and stop the negative behaviors before they start.

To do this, we need to think about classroom management. What tools are you putting in place before the school year begins to manage your classroom? What types of routines or systems will you use to ensure a consistent and safe classroom environment? Let’s start with expectations.


Before you can enforce rules and norms, you have to clearly establish your expectations. Our students need to know what is expected of them and how to behave.Teachers should have class rules. It is important to have a list of expectations, such as class rules, either posted on a wall or in a syllabus to ensure students understand what is expected of them.

It’s also imperative that the teacher explains these rules so students have the ability to ask questions.Daily routines are also important. Having a routine students commit to every day is a great way to help reinforce good behavior, responsibility, and best practice. Depending on age level, this could look a few different ways. For younger students, hanging up coats and bags, getting materials to tables, and putting lunches away are a few great ways to help kids get settled and reinforce routine and responsibility. For the older students, having a worksheet or assignment on the board for kids to start right away is an excellent way to refocus students and get them settled while the teacher takes attendance and/or checks homework. This puts the student in charge of starting the learning process.

Expectation and routine are necessary for proper classroom management, but these strategies alone will not equal success. You must enforce these rules and routines at all times. The more consistent you are, the more consistent your students will be.

In-the-Moment Tools and Strategies

While putting systems in place is a great way to prevent discipline problems, those systems don’t ensure a perfect classroom setting. Students are going to act out and push boundaries because they are still learning their way in the world. Therefore, in-the-moment strategies assist teachers in working through push back. Here are some strategies that can be used in any classroom setting.

Signaling is one technique. When a disruption occurs, use methods such as eye contact, snapping fingers, tapping on desks, or hand signals to show students that they should cease the negative behavior. If the teacher’s body language changes, the students should learn to be aware of the change and correct their behavior.Vocal commands should also be used. Sometimes we need to stop the lesson and verbally tell a student to stop talking, sit down, and/or work on their assignment. Tone here is the key; make sure your tone is neutral. You want to be in control of the situation, but you always want to ensure you are not coming off as combative or aggressive.

One-on-one interactions might also be needed. If a student is acting out, typically for attention, speaking with that student in front of the class will only cause more of a disturbance. Removing the student from peers and speaking with the student in the hall or after class is a great way to explain your feelings and hear why the student is struggling to pay attention.You also might need to contact home.

Sometimes there is more going on in a student’s life than meets the eye. Calling or emailing home is a great tool to help reinforce good behavior and gain deeper insight into your student’s negative behavior.An after school session might also be warranted. At times, behaviors need more than verbal reinforcement.

Having students stay after school can help deter negative behavior.You might also need administration involvement. There are some behaviors that simply warrant outside help, such as fighting, repeated disruptions, and insubordination. In these cases, the teacher should ask for help from their administrative team to keep the classroom safe and allow the teacher to continue daily routine with the rest of his/her students.

Things to Remember

Disciplining students can be difficult, but the important thing to remember is to keep the classroom safe and make sure all students feel comfortable. Kids will be kids; they’re going to push boundaries and act up, but the majority of the time they’re simply learning the boundaries of our society.

Others may be acting out for reasons outside of our control, and in those cases, it may be best to contact home or seek help from administration depending on the severity of the behavior.

Lesson Summary

Discipline can feel like a negative chore every teacher must complete, but the goal of discipline is to ensure our students become respectful and successful members of society. Before we can discipline students, the students need to understand what is expected of them. Creating a set of rules or expectations and teaching routine are important parts of classroom management. For the students that act out, using body signals or verbal commands can help stop negative behavior while they occur.

In more severe cases, contacting home or administration is sometimes necessary to ensure a safe and positive learning environment.


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