When we apply classroom rules and procedures to students there should usually be both positive and negative consequences. It is important to establish these consequences at the start of the school year or semester with the student input. They should be addressed frequently and routinely to help direct learner behavior. Consequences both positive and negative are most effective when they are enforced quickly. However, they must be used in appropriate ways to be effective. (Behavior and reinforcement can always reverse from +/-)
(a) When and how will positive reinforcement to students who are following the rules be given?
As mentioned above it is best to give students feedback on their adherence to classroom rules and procedures immediately. This can be done in a number of ways.
- Verbal and non-verbal feedback: One of my classroom rules for my elementary school students is to “Be nice.” We practiced the rule by making small hearts with our forefingers and thumbs. So whenever I see a student doing something nice I send them a heart and say: “good job for being nice.” Another classroom rule is to raise your hand. When we do question and answer sessions, I only call on students with raised hands and say: “Thank you, for raising your hand.”
- Tangible recognition: When students are working hard and quietly I will usually go to their table look over their work and say: “Good job” accompanied by a high five. If they participate well in class, raise their hands to answer and then answer correctly, they are given a token to hold onto. This adds points to the group as a whole, at the end of the class these tokens are collected and added up for a reward like stamps that at the end of the semester counts as money.
- Home recognition: Due to the language barrier this is currently not really applicable to me. I do however tell the Korean teacher from time to time how students are behaving when she makes home phone calls or if I know the student’s parent and see them somewhere I make a note of saying how good he/she is in my class. I have memorized a few phrases to say like “Min Chan works really hard.” or ” Kwon So Dam is a good student.”
(b) When and how to respond when students are breaking the rules or not following procedures?
Similar to the positive reinforcements of rules and procedures, we have to punish learners when they are not following them. Similar strategies can be used to respond to pupils when they are breaking the rules accordingly.
- Verbal and non-verbal feedback: When students are asked a question and don’t raise their hands I will usually ignore them and call on someone who has their hand raised and praise that student for the correct response. Or when students are talking when they should be quiet I will raise my eyebrows or call on them by name to refocus their attention.
- Tangible recognition: If they continue to break the rules by talking I usually remove tokens they might have earned during the lesson or take away stamps. I will then give them opportunities to earn these back if their behavior improves.
- Use of office and home: It is very hard for me to contact parents as mentioned before. However, if a student is really disruptive or I need them to tell me why they’re behaving the way they are, I take them to our office where there is always someone available to translate the situation. If needed the Korean speaker there can follow up by making a phone call home.
These strategies are usually good to sort out most problems I might have during lessons. But I have also found that being pro-active during lessons is even more efficient.
- Whole space: During group work or individual work, I roam through the class. I also use a presenter so that I can move around the classroom while teaching them new work. I try to make sure that during a lesson I call on every student (keeping them on their toes) by using a pattern that varies each session.
- Seating charts: During the first few lessons I observe student behavior as closely as possible and then arrange a seating chart. Since I know most students from previous years, this makes it a lot easier, and I can keep troublemakers away from each other or close to my table to stop most misbehavior.
- Graduate responses: Different steps depending on the situation, but as an example, I will use a noisy class. When my class gets a little too loud, I will make a general statement to reduce the noise like “Quiet please!” If the noise continues I will make them stop what they are doing and refocus on me first; using a phrase, we practiced. Teacher: “Listen” students: Carefully!” This grabs most of their attention and makes it easy to see who is not paying attention. I will first wait and look at them directly, if that does not work I will start walking towards them. If they still don’t stop talking I place my hands on their table and ask them to be quiet, please. Once I have everybody’s attention I give a class warning. The next person that then makes noise is asked to stand up behind their chair. If they speak, again they stand by the door, and if that still doesn’t stop them, they go to the “scary” Korean teacher. If they refuse to go, I usually send a helpful student to call the Korean teacher to my classroom for assistance. Students are aware that they can move back these steps by correcting their behavior and participating in a meaningful way.
- Class contingency: On other occasions, I take away class points when some individuals don’t behave correctly. This affects the whole class, and they quickly correct their peer’s behavior. This is done by taking away tokens or keeping them after class time has ended. From time to time I have a student who is always tardy. This is usually because they forget, play a game or just plain drag their feet to my class. Once I establish the reason behind continued tardiness and have given a warning, I ask them to apologize to the whole class for wasting their learning time, when they do so again. In Korea, this is a very powerful due to their culture of “losing face.”
- Overcorrection: I sue this strategy when students damage things in my class, write on tables, kick the wall or don’t clean up their trash. In cases like these I ask them to stay after class and scold them in English, then I call in the Korean teacher, who scolds them in Korean. We hand them cleaning supplies and ask them to wash all the tables, or the whole wall or sweep the entire classroom floor.
I found that different strategies work for different situations and different students. At the end of the day, I don’t want them to be demoralized or feel personally attacked by punishment. I can still remember teachers who punished me severely when I was a student and how it felt. So after each incident, I take the time to explain to students why their behavior upsets me and why I have to punish them. I try to make sure and notice their improved behavior often afterward and encourage them when they are doing well. Using positive verbal and non-verbal feedback.
Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.