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Classroom Management: Fifteen Ways to Correct Student Misbehavior without Writing an Office Referral

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Classroom Management:  Fifteen Ways to Correct Student Misbehavior without Writing an Office Referral

First, let me say, there is nothing wrong with sending students to the principal’s office. I do this myself from time to time, and certain student actions require an office referral immediately. However, minor misbehaviors can be easily corrected by classroom management. You can create the best lesson in the world, but students need to be on-task before that lesson can engage them. Expecting anything less than 100% engagement is a disservice to your students.

Former teachers often cite student behavior as a key factor in their departure from the classroom. So here are 15 ways to correct student behavior without an office referral:

  1.  When you give students instructions, give them firmly, but respectfully. End commands with “please” to indicate respect. “Bobby, put your head up please” or “Aubrey, can you face forward and do some work please?” This little add-on softens the command a bit and makes the students much more likely to comply.
  2. Use a seating chart that the students do not choose themselves. This will eliminate so many problems. Later in the year, you can always allow students to move their seats or choose a new seat as a perk.
  3. When students ask an off-topic question, tell them, “I can give you the answer to that question right after class is over.” For example, in the middle of a lesson, a student will ask me, “Mr. Hamby, how old are you?” I respond, “I can tell you that right after class.” Guess how many students will stick around to hear the answer? Not many.
  4. When students are misbehaving, ask them, “Can you stop (the misbehavior), or do you need to stay after class?” Nine out of ten times this will solve the problem.
  5. Do not conference with misbehaving students during class time. When you need to conference with individual students about their behavior, say, “I need you to stay after class.” This usually stops the behavior immediately. It also keeps you from having the behavior conference when other students are watching and removes attention from the misbehaving student. Finally, it inconveniences misbehaving students by making them stay after class. Note:  Keeping a student after class often works, but I would not do it more than once. Next time, you can send the student to the office.
  6. Frame your corrections as a choice:  “You can put away your cell phone, or I can take it away.” Any student who chooses the second option appears illogical. When you frame it this way, you are not making a threat; you are giving them a choice.
  7. When you are leading a group activity and students are off-task, loop them into the discussion by asking them a question or simply add their name to what you are going to say next. For example, “Devon, did you know that the Vikings invaded a monastery in Lindisfarne in 793?” Hearing their name catches the students off guard and brings them back to attention.
  8. When students have their heads down during an activity and you don’t want to stop what you are doing and verbally address the problem, walk by their desk and knock on the desk first. If this does not alert them to the problem, then you can address it verbally.
  9. Move near students who are off-task. Sometimes proximity is enough to get them back on task.
  10. When students tell you they are too sleepy to keep their eyes open, let them stand by their desks. Increasing blood flow is a great way to wake up. You can also frame this as a choice: “I need you awake. Would you like to stand by your desk to help you wake up?”
  11. If a whole class misbehaves, give them a 1-minute lecture after the dismissal bell. Take away a bit of their free time as a consequence for their bad behavior.
  12. Do not let students have cell phones out during class. You will never capture their attention with this much of a distraction.
  13. Do not let students have earbuds in during learning time. If the students are working independently, this might change. However, they should not be listening to music with lyrics while they are trying to read, and there is no way to monitor this. My rule is no earbuds, and I play quiet instrumental music while my students are reading.
  14. Make sure you can see students’ eyes (they need to be awake) and their ears (they need to be listening).
  15. Start with high expectations. My dad, who spent 35 years in education, said this: “Students will always rise to the level of expectation.” If you set a high bar for students’ behavior at the beginning of the year and stick to it, they can achieve great things!

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