Need a new strategy to get your students to stay quiet and focus on their work? Try Secret Workers. Secretly pick two people and write their names down. Announce to the class that the teacher has picked two Secret Workers. If the two Secret Workers are quiet, follow the directions, and stay on task, they will earn a reward for the entire class. If the two do not behave properly, the class will not receive the reward. Since no one knows who the Secret Workers are, everyone is forced to behave as the teacher has asked. This behavior system works well for shorter lengths of time—about half-hour to 40-minute time frames.
Rewards can be anything the teacher chooses, such as five extra minutes of recess, free time, stickers, etc. Extra recess is a logical reward. The teacher can always say, “Since you used the class time so well and stayed on task, we will have extra time to get in more recess.” Or the teacher might say, “Since you have worked so hard, you have earned an extra five minutes of break time.”
There can be variations to the Secret Workers. One variation is to tell the class that the teacher will be picking one boy and one girl. Another variation is to divide the class in half, and tell the class that one person will be picked from the left side of the room and one from the right side. After using this technique several times, the teacher can then have a competition between the two groups.
Tips: If the Secret Workers are successful, be sure to announce their names and have the class thank them. If the Secret Workers are unsuccessful, talk to them personally and do not reveal the names to the class.
It is a good idea to announce aloud how the Secret Workers are doing. For example, a teacher might say, “Wow, the Secret Workers are doing really well” or “Uh-oh, our Secret Workers need to be careful.”
Red Pen Reversal
Teachers often use a red pen to mark answers that are incorrect. Instead of using a red pen to check all wrong answers, use a red pen to check all right answers! Write “okay” on all correct answers. Leave answers that are wrong untouched. This is another silent message to students to go back and correct the wrong answers. They know, without you saying, that the problems are wrong, and they know which problems to correct. Be sure to use a red pen or pencil. Students have learned to associate red marks with the word, “wrong.” Using a red mark for the right answers is a way of using reverse psychology on them.
Tattling can be a big problem in a classroom. This type of behavior usually occurs when a student is trying to gain teacher attention. Students can tattle for the following reasons:
- to get others in trouble
- to hopefully get an award
- to gain attention
- to feel superior over others
Try using a tattle box. Cover a shoebox with paper. Label it, “The Tattle Box.” When a student tries to tattle, have the students write the problem down on paper and drop it in the box. Be sure to keep paper and pencil handy beside the box and be sure to read the papers!
Another tactic to curb tattling is when a student comes to tattle, ask a question: “Is it in or out?” In other words, you are asking the student “Are you tattling to get someone in trouble or out of trouble?” Only listen to those who say “out of trouble.” Students catch on quickly that you are not going to listen to their negative tattling.
Mark extra good work with a smiley sticker and watch the smiles on students’ faces. It is simple, but it works. Stickers with words of encouragement are also great for rewarding and motivating good work.
Any experienced teacher will know good discipline does not just happen all at once. Managing student behavior is a learned skill, but classroom control will begin before the students even enter the classroom. Managing student behavior is no easy task. Each teacher will develop his or her own form of discipline. Remember that students need to feel valued and welcomed. They need to know that you have an honest interest in each one of them, not only as a class, but also as individuals. For good discipline, certain behaviors are necessary on the part of the teacher:
- Be consistent; establish the rules and stick to them.
- Consequences should be fair and consistently applied.
- Be prepared for the students who will test the rules.
- Do not threaten students with a consequence unless you are ready to carry it out. Students will view you as inconsistent if you fail to do what you say.
- Do not be judgmental; look at each situation from all angles before you designate a consequence.
- Never put off discipline. Handle any behavioral problem when it occurs.
- Make sure students understand the rules and the consequences. Students need to know how to behave in any given situation. With some students, you may want to do role-playing at the beginning of the school year. In this way, students will see what is expected of them and see the consequences being applied.
- Show a true interest in all of the students. Each one needs to be treated as an individual and with respect, not just another student. When giving praise to any student, use his or her name with the praise. Nothing pleases students more than to hear their names used in a good light.
- Implement well-planned lessons. Know what you are going to teach and be well prepared.
- Allow for flexibility. There will be many interruptions in a school year; you will not accomplish everything that is planned on a particular day.
For more tips on managing student behavior, check out the book, Year-Round Classroom Tips.