Classroom discipline and management.
I'm using Doug Lemov's terminology here, which I agree with. "Discipline" is more of a behavioral expectation than a punishment. "Management" is what happens when a student is not meeting those expectations.
Either way, discipline is pretty much nonexistent, and management is therefore insufficient. With the new semester with almost all new students approaching, I have a chance to try to fix it. Here are the techniques a champion teacher uses:
- 100 Percent
- What to Do
- Strong Voice
- Do It Again
- Sweat the Details
- No Warnings
1. 100 Percent
There's one acceptable percentage of students following a direction: 100 percent. Less, and your authority is subject to interpretation, situation, and motivation.When you want it to be quiet before giving directions, you wait until it is absolutely quiet with every student's eyes on you. You don't start talking when it's just quiet enough to be heard. If you want students to be sitting up, you don't move on when 80 or 90 percent are doing it. The book then offers a number of interventions to aid in attaining 100 Percent, but I don't feel like reflecting on them, too.
2. What to Do
Part of the problem with behavior stems from not knowing what is expected. Therefore, directions should be (1) specific, (2) concrete, (3) sequential, and (4) observable. So much of this book contains techniques and ideas that seem like they should be obvious, but aren't easily followed. Rather than just say, "Jonny, pay attention," you say, "Jonny, sit up straight and write down what I write on the board." It's specific, it's concrete (meaning it's something they do), it's sequential (do this then that), and it's observable (I can see his sitting posture and look at his paper for the right notes).
3. Strong Voice
- Economy of Language: the more words you use to describe something, the less value each word has, and therefore the higher chance there is of students internalizing less value.
- Do Not Talk Over: similar to 100 Percent, you can't expect everyone to hear you if there's still talking happening. An easy technique is to start talking then stop, then wait for everyone to be quiet before moving on. It might be a little subtler than "Shut up!"
- Do Not Engage: anytime you ever ask someone to do something, or stop doing something, the student will protest, either making an excuse or blaming someone else. You Do Not Engage by ignoring their protest, and simply restating your command. You don't even say that you don't care about their excuse, you simply ignore it.
- When I first read this, I was thinking more along the lines of Do Not Confront. When I was observing other teachers while still in college, I noticed one teacher—who was otherwise a pretty good teacher—who confronted a student who walked in late. They got in a public argument over what he was doing that caused him to be so late. I think the more proactive and positive reaction would have been a standard tardy policy. Inform him of the existing consequences for X amount of tardies and then enforce it neither privately nor publicly.
- Square Up/Stand Still: get respectfully close when intervening and don't multitask when you're giving directions.
- Quiet Power: when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher (whom I greatly admire and respect) had a loud, booming voice. I don't have a booming voice, but at the least I feel I have a decent "teacher voice." Nevertheless, that was one of his harshest reviews of me, that my voice wasn't loud enough. Luckily my professor told me my voice was fine—better, in fact—because the louder your voice is, the more freedom kids have to talk while you're talking. Anyway, in essence, yelling shows you've lost control. Since you Do Not Talk Over, you will never need to yell to be heard.
4. Do It Again
Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. When a procedure doesn't happen the way it should—even if it's kinda close—you have them do it again, right then. I like the idea that it sets up an implied standard of excellence. If you expect even the simplest things to be done perfectly, they'll perform the more complex and important tasks more perfectly.
Doing it again and doing it right, or better, or perfect is often the best consequence.5. Sweat the Details
Apparently there's a "broken windows" theory of policing. You keep the city tidy, you eliminate crime because people will then act to preserve the city rather than degrade it. So, in class, you keep your desks all neat and tidy, you make students keep their paperwork organized in a binder, and other anal things and it will up the behavior in your class. This might be the same thing as choosing to dress nice as a way to encourage kids to take you seriously.
I have a student who moved here last year from a neighboring school. He recently commented on how at his old school, he could do whatever he wanted and never get in trouble because there was always worse stuff happening, but here he keeps getting in trouble because there is no worse stuff happening. He meant it as a jab at the school, but I took it as a compliment.
This might be the hardest thing in the book for me to attempt to do. Your door is the threshold, and students must shake your hand and look you in the eye before entering. But he offers alternatives to those who have a valid excuse for not doing it. Basically, there needs to be some sort of transition from outside to inside the classroom, one where it's clear they're in a different place and have refreshed expectations.
I think the closest I would get to a threshold ritual would be to expect students to be ready to start class right when the bell rings. They can chat quietly when they enter, but as soon as the bell starts ringing, I walk to the front of the classroom and that signals them to sit quietly and get started on the Do Now. I would quickly and quietly make sure everyone is working, then enter the roll into the computer.
7. No Warnings
Giving a warning is not taking action; it is threatening that you might take an action and therefore is counterproductive.Holy cow was there ever a technique that I need. I've even thought about how weak my warnings (really more like threats) are and how little weight they carry. Then when the real consequence hits, it doesn't do any good. Very little change happens. Sure, their behavior brought it upon themselves, but my failure to respond early, reliably, and proportionately is what caused the real trouble.
Teachers are in effect saying, "It's okay once. If you do it twice, I'm going to start to get annoyed. But the third time around, well then, you're at the limit." If you do this, you should expect students to take full advantage of their two free passes. If your expectations and rules are deliberately ignored and you don't take action (with an intervention that corrects it or a consequence), they are neither expectations nor rules.Maybe I'm not that bad. If by warning you mean reminder of the rules and expectations, then I might be alright about a third of the time. Nevertheless, no matter how similar they seem on my end, the unspoken ideas they present are far apart. "Keep writing through the entire 5 minutes," is a lot different than, "If I catch you off task one more time, you'll lose participation points," even though that might just be the consequence if, after my warning to keep writing, they continued to slack off. Or the consequence could be a Do It Again.
The book suggests creating a list of increasing consequences. Here I go: (1) do it again, (2) apologize to offended parties, (3) 5-10 minutes of busywork when the class goes to the lab, (4) a whole day of busywork on a lab day. This is a list that's long overdue (I have yet to invent busywork for my classes). Maybe I'll expand on it elsewhere, since this post is way too long.