Classroom management

Ah, the age-old question. How should I manage the behavior of my students? Everyone gets pretty heated about this issue, because there are such differing opinions on what works, what doesn’t, and why. Being new to this, I have my opinions, and what I’ve been told to avoid, but I really haven’t been able to find a system that seems to work for me and my class. Of course, right now I have to follow the school-wide policy, and stay pretty much in sync with what my cooperating teacher was doing before I took over, but I can still tweak things a little.

Some background:

My school follows the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system. Because I’m a student teacher, I have very little clue what that is, except to know that it tries to redirect negative behavior, and encourage positive behavior, by offering more intrinsic rewards (certificates and recognition instead of candy or toys).

This is used in combination with a school-wide color system. Everyone starts on two green, and moves down to one green (verbal warning), yellow (note home), and then red (go to the office). They can move up for outstanding behavior or if they are able to significantly improve their behavior; purple is the highest, after two green. (They get a good note home if they get purple.) Three purples means they move up to blue, which means they get a special breakfast sometime in the year. Every teacher uses this, and the school recognizes the system. This means that if my students are in music, the music teacher can give my kids purple notes for good behavior, or punish them in the same way we do in our class.

While I appreciate the consistency, it really doesn’t work very well for such a diverse group, especially since the punishments aren’t logical. You talk in line or play in the bathroom, you go down a color. Big deal. This is great for catching the semi-repetitive bad behavior in kids with involved parents, but what about the kids who talk constantly? Or the kids who never do anything bad, but don’t really do anything outstandingly good, either? And what about the kids who are really doing the best they can, but keep getting yellow notes sent home? They have no motivation to try, if they are always getting in trouble.

So, while it’s supposed to be consistent, it’s often tailored to each student, which the others see as “unfair.” I’m trying to teach my kids that “fair” and “the same” are two different things, but first graders only know somebody else is getting away with things they aren’t. I’d be mad if I were 7, too.

My approach to this has been to use my better judgement, and try to use it as a reminder, rather than a punishment. That seems to be working fairly well. My hope is to send home more purple notes than yellow notes, but only if they’re deserving, of course.

What I really want to know is how can I incorporate logical consequences into my classroom? As adults, logical consequences are what motivate us. We don’t touch a hot stove because we know we will get burned. We don’t drive on the wrong side of the street because we will crash. Some of us are careful not to say hurtful things to people because we don’t want to hurt their feelings (or get sued…). I feel like that is what my kids need, too – consequences that make sense and fit the behavior that should change. Yeah, none of them want to get a yellow note, but they get the same punishment for every behavior.

I feel as though they would be more inclined to follow the rules if the punishment fit the crime, you know? Like, if they can’t walk quietly down the hall, I’ll have them walk with me. They hate that, but when half my line is talking and dancing past the principal, what do I do then? I thought about telling the kids who play and yell in the bathroom that they have to go alone in the classroom until they can prove to me that they can behave, but I don’t want bottlenecking at the bathroom or accidents. So, what works?

I hate candy as an incentive. I know the sugar doesn’t make them hyper, but they get enough candy. Besides, I like candy, too. I’d have to refill the reward jar every day. 😉 I don’t really like stickers or other prizes, either. Besides, I think the purple notes are a great motivator, and they have something to show their parents. I need a method of punishment that is consistent, logical, and easy to implement and remember.

Any ideas?

5 thoughts on “Classroom management

  1. karim says:

    You’re on the right track when you say that the punishment must fit the crime. Using your examples, if your students cannot walk down the hallway quietly, have them practice over and over again during recess. You’ll see that it won’t take long for students to walk quietly. You see, discipline issues are really motivational issues at heart. What motivations do your students have to walk quietly in the hallways or use their inside voices in the bathrooms? Once they understand that EVERY time they break the rules they will have a negative consequence, then and only then will your students be discipline. Having said that, although I said that discipline issues are motivational issues, motivation comes from values. When you choose to motivate students to follow one or another rule of discipline you are implicitly sharing your values with them. If they do not share the same values as you, you’ve got a motivational issue again (i.e. a discipline issue!). Therefore, it all comes down to motivating your students to share your values. Once they share your values, they will be motivated to follow the rules associated with them. All this begs the question, are your values reasonable and are they valuable to your students? When you ask your students to be quiet in the hallway, what are you really asking of them? Why do you want them to be quiet? What value lies behind that request? Once you can answer that, you will truly understand what it discipline means. To read more, go to

  2. Miss Fox says:

    Thanks for the encouragement and the ideas. While I disagree with much of what you say on your website, I can certainly appreciate another point of view.

  3. PDonaghy says:

    Very interesting post and blog!
    You might be interested in adding your blog details to the International Edubloggers Directory at

  4. rita says:

    hey love the blog on first graders coughing. they do use the sanitizer stuff in our first grades and parents even send it to us (requested). also clorox wipes and spray from the cusotdian.
    anyway, i too am teaching first grade, taking a web based tech course online with another colleague. we are way over our heads, having no real source of technology beyond email at our level. haha
    so look forward to seeing more from you. hope you got the dr to give you something to hlep you feel better.

  5. Ben says:

    Ah, classroom management…my favorite. Right. I’ve actually found several ebooks at on classroom management and behavior that have been a big help to me. The site has thousands of teacher resources on other topics, too, that I’ve found very useful. Good luck in the future!

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