Effective Classroom Management & Discipline
WORKSHOP BY RONALD MORRISH
1. Think prevention:
• Basic classroom management focuses on dealing with incidents.
• Effective classroom management focuses on preventing incidents.
2. Think about how your expectations will be enforced, not how your consequences will be enforced.
3. Engineer the classroom environment:
• Make the environment invitational.
• Account for different learning styles. (Quiet places to work, CAP/ADD issues, etc.)
• Consider traffic patterns, etc.
• Plan to work from more structure to less structure.
• Design a structure of rules and procedures to support your expectations. Ensure these rules and
procedures are consistent with those of the school.
4. Design lessons which are engaging:
• Meaningful applications whenever possible.
• Designed to challenge students - require them to problem-solve, relate, use critical analysis skills.
• Avoid “make work” lessons - copying notes; extended pencil and paper activities; etc.
• Build lessons around student interests where possible.
5. Run your classroom efficiently:
• Take charge with authority, not power:
o Be assertive and confident (business-like);
o Lower your voice and direct (don’t raise your voice and threaten);
o Follow through on your expectations - mean what you say;
o Maintain ownership - use administrators to support your authority, not replace it.
• Communicate your expectations.
• Train procedures & compliance so they will be routine.
• If possible, run a two week “training camp” to start the new school year.
• Have extra equipment available (pens, pencils, paper, etc.).
• Provide “sponge” activities (designed to “soak up” idle time for students who finish early).
• Employ active supervision: on entry, in hallways, etc. Be at the doorway when students enter.
• Use the entry and greeting to establish expectations.
• Run quick, smooth, efficient transitions. (Make them into routines.)
6. During lessons:
• Maintain the integrity of the lesson; Use non-verbal cues & prompts;
• Remove seductive objects in advance; Pace lessons to keep interest high;
• Ensure directions are well-understood; Show personal interest in lessons;
• Use motivators (challenges & incentives); Use humour where appropriate;
• Provide “sponge” activities; Proximity;
• Use questioning techniques which maintain engagement;
• Employ active supervision throughout lessons to keep students on task;
• Be passionate about your teaching (Remember that no student gets excited about learning something if
the teacher is not excited about teaching it);
• Develop rapport (It helps students interpret teacher actions as being productive and supportive).
7. Respond to incidents productively - use correction; compensation; delayed discussions; time-outs
which reject behaviours but not students; practice and follow-through; have students plan for next
day’s behaviour, apply learning methodology. Consider changes in structure & supervision
required to prevent repetitious misconduct.
8. Develop individual intervention plans for difficult students. Involve administrators and parents as
partners in the process. Stress prevention as much as possible. Change methodology instead of
9. Remember that classroom management works best when combined with effective school
discipline which develops a culture of the learning environment. Students are taught expectations
and behaviours specifically related to the school environment, behaviours which meet high
expectations set by the staff of the school.
Specific Behavioural Issues
< They attend to everything (not nothing) - multi-tasking.
< Note confusion with agitation, spirited children, and new learning styles.
< Not everyone has a disorder; for many, it=s a set of traits.
< Need to be protected from the need to think about every situation - apply structure, adult direction,
routines, and preplanning.
< Have student repeat directions.
< Provide a quiet place to work in addition to regular desk.
< Chunk work and provide frequent changes.
< Have student work with non-ADD person.
< Learning from consequences requires reflection and abstract reasoning which is a problem for many
LD children. (They interpret their world literally.)
< They are no more capable of teaching themselves to be responsible than they can teach themselves to
< As with reading, they require direct instruction and positive practice.
< Practice specific social skills, since they do not learn them from watching others.
Dealing with Defiance
< Lower your voice and become more assertive, not more confrontational. Stay calm. Becoming
agitated suggests the defiant student is winning.
< Do not allow the student to draw you into conflict. Avoid unnecessary confrontation; if necessary,
deal with the defiance later.
< Defuse the situation. Humour is often a powerful tool to use in these circumstances.
< Do not challenge a defiant student, particularly in front of his peers. This would force the student to
save face by doing something dramatic. When possible, deal with the student in private.
< Distinguish between “deliberate” defiance and “spontaneous” defiance. Only punish deliberate
defiance. Choose a punishment which makes it absolutely clear that this behaviour is unacceptable.
< When adults deal with students who engage in serious acts of defiance, there is a very natural
tendency to overlook minor issues in an effort to avoid additional incidents. This is the human nature
tendency to “let sleeping dogs lie”. Unfortunately, this limits the ability of adults to create significant
improvement in the behaviour of defiant students because compliance must be built by correcting and
governing small behaviours. Therefore, when dealing with these students, it is important for teachers
to insist on compliance with minor behaviours such as greetings, please, thank you, pick this up, put
this away, and so on.
< Keep in mind that the biggest issue in dealing with an incident is what will be done to ensure the
behaviour doesn’t occur again.
< Teach defiant students ways of dealing with any frustration or anger which may have prompted their
< After an incident, watch for occasions when the student handles similar situations appropriately.
Acknowledge the student’s efforts in this regard.
Dealing with Aggression & Violence
< As a staff, address the need to deal with contributing behaviours including put-downs, aggressive
teasing, and general disrespect. These behaviours frequently escalate into physical confrontations and
aggression. Do not overlook “small” incidents - students interpret lack of teacher intervention as tacit
< For students who consistently bully others restructure their school day to eliminate the opportunities
for aggression. Upon their arrival at school, they should be escorted into the building and supervised
from that moment on. Do not permit them out onto school grounds without direct supervision. Provide
an alternative recess by allowing them to read, catch up on unfinished work, or work on a computer.
(You can provide desirable activities because they haven’t lost recess. They simply have an
alternative recess.) Be particularly careful about structuring and supervising their lunch hour. Also
structure visits to the rest room and their travel home at the end of the school day.
< Stress prevention. Once aggression begins, a situation can quickly spiral out of control. One minute of
prevention can save an hour of intervention.
< Consequences may be necessary to ensure students get the message that aggression is forbidden.
Remember to use consequences to support your interventions, not replace your interventions.
< Involve parents when students engage in serious or repetitive aggression. Focus on planning for the
future. Discussions of past incidents often forces parents to defend their children, thereby justifying
< When you are called upon to break up a fight, resist the temptation to resolve the issues immediately.
Emotions are usually much too intense and the students will simply continue to bicker. Separate them
and allow some cooling-off time. It is often possible for the participants to resolve the issues that led
to their fight. However, you may need to supervise the discussion to ensure that they know how to
< Note that most fights begin with verbal hits. In the future, watch for these and attempt to stop violence
at this early level. As verbal sparring begins, consider using the words, “Don=t hit.” Children are
often surprised at this choice of words and will respond with, “I didn’t touch him.” You are then in a
position to make the concept of verbal hits clear and to disallow them. It is a much more powerful
way of dealing with the issue.
< When you break up a fight, deal seriously with any spectators who eagerly supported the conflict.
They are involved in the fight just as much as the actual participants. Peer pressure is very important.
Spectators should be stopping a fight, not aggravating the situation.
< Serious violence in the school environment can quickly destroy years of effort in building positive
school culture. When teachers undertake a major initiative aimed at improving discipline across a
school, it is essential that they deal with the issue of violence.
< Unfortunately, many teachers misidentify violence as being physical aggression alone when, in
reality, most violence is verbal, emotional, and psychological. Hence, teachers should not rely on
simplistic school rules such as “no body contact”. These rules cause teachers to overlook other
important issues including “put-downs” which are verbal hits. If teachers truly want to stop fighting,
they must stop put-downs because verbal hits almost invariably precede physical hits. Also note that a
“no body contact” rule is senseless, in that it presumably disallows: holding hands (which is a safety
tool on Kindergarten trips); games of tag; helping another child on a swing by giving him a push; and
so on. Teachers will claim this was not the intention. If this is true, then they should say what they
really do mean which is usually “no rough play”, etc. To rule out all body contact is equivalent to
ruling out teasing. You lose the good with the bad.
< To actually say “no” to violence, every teacher on staff must be prepared to enforce certain rules. If
just one staff member declines to do their job, the “no” becomes a “maybe”.
They learn to reverse consequences, manipulate point systems, and use their misbehaviour to trigger
predictable sequences of events. Predictable reactive systems make these kids stronger, not weaker. Do
not attempt to out-manipulate manipulators. Note that most behavioural classes design programs that feed
the students’ selfish value systems. It amounts to giving the kids more of what got them into the program
in the first place.
< Focus on preventative and proactive strategies.
< Apply higher levels of supervision.
< Train small behaviours including courtesy skills, entry routines, etc. Almost invariably, small
behaviours are ignored for behavioural kids. As a result, they have few routines or habits, especially
compliance. Hence, everything is an event.
< Restructure and re-timetable to ensure that the student’s behaviour and presence do not violate the
rights and needs of others, and do not interfere unduly with the teacher’s ability to provide appropriate
learning for other students in the class.
< If rewards are used, ensure that they are shared rewards so everyone benefits from good behaviour.
After all, everyone loses as a result of misbehaviour.
< These students tend to be extraordinarily self-centred and selfish. Insist that they do things for others,
including the community at large.
< Identify a skill area that the student would be particularly proud of if it were sufficiently developed.
Create an opportunity for that skill to be improved and used.
< If several students “gang up” and become mutually supportive of each other’s misbehaviour, it is
almost always necessary to change group dynamics in order to create the opening to change individual
behaviour patterns: separate the students physically in the classroom; change their timetables to limit
the amount of time they spend together; involve them in different activities; etc.