Foundations of a Discipline Plan

I wrote this discipline plan as a component of my Understanding Classroom Management graduate class. This plan is a foundational document: it reflects my core beliefs about discipline and classroom management, but it is not designed to be put in place immediately on entering a classroom. This is because one’s concepts must shift based on the development age of the students – there’s no sense in writing a discipline plan with kindergartners in mind when one is actually teaching fourth grade!

That being said, I do think this plan accurately sums up my core attitude that positive behavioral interventions tend to be more successful. I recognize that it is incomplete and that there are MANY routines missing from it. I think of this plan as being a jumping-off point for me when I do end up in a classroom: my core values will stay the same no matter what age I teach, but I will certainly add to this document and revise it based on my circumstance.


Effective classroom management is the key to success in education. The American Psychological Association wrote that successful classroom management “increases meaningful academic learning and facilitates social and emotional growth” (Kratochwill et al., n.d.). Conversely, poor classroom management leads to conditions that stymie the growth of children – the complete opposite of a teacher’s goal.

Because positive classroom management is so key, many theories exist about how best to motivate students, and most schools require adherence to a form of management. Yet, as Johnson writes, “Good classroom management is more than just being strict or authoritarian, and it is more than simply being organized. If I want to have my classroom run smoothly as a well-oiled learning machine, I have to set up a structured learning environment in which certain behaviors are promoted and others are discouraged” (2016). The bigger question looms large: how does a teacher set up this structured learning environment, and which strategies support positive behaviors?

I believe the answer can be found through a combination of several different theories. First, a teacher must have deep knowledge of Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s philosophies and be able to apply these to lesson planning and classroom expectations to ensure that the learning environment appropriately fits students’ needs. A teacher must be aware of human growth and development stages for the same reason. This background knowledge pairs nicely with positive behavioral interventions and tiered levels of support.

 

Implementing, Maintaining, and Revising The Plan

 

Implementing and maintaining a discipline plan takes – indeed – a great deal of discipline on the part of the teacher. The plan must be in place from the very first moment students step into a classroom, which means an educator must have thought very deeply about how they want their plan to work. Wong and Wong argue that classrooms are made or broken in the first days of school (1991). This begins with the rules, expectations, and routines that are taught to the students. Implementing these plans must begin with the teacher’s clear explanation of rules, procedures, and expectations; after all, students cannot be held to a standard of which they are unaware. Teachers should use kinesthetic (allowing students to model), auditory (saying the procedure), and visual (showing the procedure) modes to allow the most students to learn.

 

While gimmicky games might work in some cases, the true way to implement a discipline plan is much less glamorous: through practice and communication. Classes must practice, practice, and practice some more with the procedures in order to know them seamlessly (Wong and Wong, 1991). Before a fire drill, for example, a class should line up and practice evacuating so that they’ll be successful and know the expectations during an actual fire drill. A teacher must have high expectations, too, and not accept less than a student’s best when it comes to procedures. If the procedure is to stand silently in line, then a talking line can’t be tolerated and a line that talks needs to start over…even if they’re almost to the destination. This shows students that you are serious and have high expectations when it comes to discipline.

 

Maintenance of the discipline plan is also vital. Indeed, “classroom management systems should be applied throughout the year and across the grades so that students receive constant and consistent messages about classroom expectations, rules and procedures. This strategy will ensure positive student behavior is supported and reinforced throughout the year”  (Kratochwill et al., n.d.). In other words, a teacher should be consistently reinforcing the expectations and procedures of a classroom. A teacher who works really hard to teach her students how to stand in line at the beginning of the year but doesn’t reinforce the procedure is likely to find a blob in January where she had a line in August. Consistency is key when it comes to classroom management.

 

While a teacher should always strive to be consistent, situations may arise that warrant revising the discipline plan. First and foremost, a teacher should be reflective and should think hard about why things are the way they are. A teacher should never be afraid to change procedures and plans from year to year as long as the changes are what’s best for the students. Indeed, if one’s management plan is the same in year 20 as it is in year 1, one probably isn’t staying up-to-date on professional development or reflecting on improvements in the classroom. Of course, a teacher absolutely might need to change elements of the discipline hierarchy during the course of a school year. Consistency is important, but if a teacher finds that consistent application of a consequence doesn’t work, she should revise the plan and find a solution. Each year is different; each class is different; each child is different. A teacher needs to reflect daily on what worked and what didn’t, and when something continually doesn’t work, that teacher must revise for the good of the student(s).

 

Discipline Hierarchy and Management Plan

 

My discipline hierarchy starts with the first level of behavioral intervention: the whole group or classroom level, where these important things are taught.

 

Tier One

Success at the classroom level starts with explicitly taught, modeled, and discussed procedures. After all, students cannot be held responsible for what they do not know. Even more importantly, a classroom with students who know procedure is a classroom that has maximized instructional time (Wong and Wong, 1991). A sample of some of my procedures can be found in the appendix.

 

In addition to explicitly taught procedures, students must be engaged. A student-centered classroom is one where the focus of activity is on the students, not the teacher, and this has been shown to dramatically increase students’ depth of understanding, content mastery, and long-term understanding (Felder, n.d.). In a student-centered classroom, academic achievement soars and discipline problems are greatly reduced (Chenoweth, 2014). Additionally, differentiating classwork to meet the needs of individual learners and allowing student choice whenever possible has been shown to increase student focus and achievement (Kratochwill et al., n.d.).

 

As a class, we have five general rules to abide by. These rules will be developed as a class, and each member of the class will sign our Class Constitution to show their agreement. These rules, and their rationales, follow.

 

  1.     We are kind and respectful school citizens. This is a school-wide expectation and goes along with our character education. This rule covers ways to speak to friends and adults as well as conduct.
  2.     We try our best at all times. I want my students to have perseverance and to complete their work to their best of their ability.
  3.     We learn from our mistakes and stay positive. I am a big believer in growth mindset and want to instill that in my students.
  4.     We follow directions quickly, listen attentively, and use good manners. This is essential to a classroom running smoothly and has a lot of carryover into the real world!
  5.     We act in ways that keep us safe. Students have a right to be safe and happy at school.

 

Positive, supportive feedback is one of the best ways to support student behavior (Kratochwill et al., n.d.). As a teacher, one of my goals is to acknowledge and celebrate positive behaviors so that students feel empowered when they make desired choices. This could be through verbal praise, incentives such as stickers, or whole-group incentives (e.g., a class compliment jar that, when filled, allows students a prize). This looks different with each child because what motivates each child is different. I will work to build rapport with my students and know them as individuals, then target incentives to students. However, most students blossom when positive feedback is sent home; indeed, this is a powerful way to make parents and guardians your ally. Below is the form I will use to communicate positivity to parents. A copy of this note will be made and placed in the teacher’s behavior notebook.

 

I had an awesome day today!!!
A note from my teacher about my…          My teacher is so proud that I:

  • Listening
  • Participation
  • Following directions
  • Hard work
  • Growth mindset
  • Leadership
  • Not giving up
  • Willingness to be a friend
  • Learning

 

Additionally, student praise might also be shared with parents through email or verbally at pick up. These communications will also be recorded and placed in the behavior notebook. Praise can also be shared with other teachers and administrators in the building, encouraging students to feel pride at school as well. When appropriate, students might receive a positive office referral or be sent to show another teacher their phenomenal work.

 

However, sometimes this proactive praise isn’t enough, and students must face consequences for their choices in order to allow students to have an optimal learning environment and to be safe while doing so. I believe in logical consequences handled in a kind way. Fay and Fay have shown that consequences handled with empathy are more likely to modify a child’s behavior than yelling or punishment (n.d.). Logical consequences work best when the consequence has a direct correlation with the undesired behavior. For example, if a child is touching others on the shared carpet and is interfering with their learning, the consequence might be to go sit at their desk or to sit away from the group and continue participating rather than to have the child “change their color” or miss recess. If a child is having trouble meeting line expectations, the child can attend Line Academy during recess and spend a few minutes practicing the desired behavior. Instances of serious behavior problems (without a pattern) will be reported to parents through written communication to keep them aware of the problem; like positive notes, these more negative notes will also be recorded to ensure the student is not developing more serious problems.

 

Tier Two

When a student’s behavior is inappropriate and a pattern is sensed, the teacher must intervene early so the student’s learning experiences the least disruption. This leads into Tier Two behavioral intervention, where a student has a personalized behavioral plan. This tier looks different for each student, but might involve a behavior contract between the teacher and student, daily check-ins with the student, or the student’s involvement in one of the counselor’s skills-building groups (Kratochwill et al., n.d.). These students might also benefit from formal Response to Intervention (RtI) meetings, dependent on the behavior.

 

Tier Two behaviors must be logged by the teacher, so she can make better, data-driven observations about the student for their benefit. For example, this data might show that a student has disciplinary problems shortly before transitioning to special areas. A log allows the teacher to see these patterns and to provide targeted intervention to relieve the problem. This data is also useful if the behavior warrants a parent conference, RtI, or other formal follow up. Below is a copy of the parent contact/behavior log:

 

Behavioral Log
Student Name:

Parent Contact Information:

 

Date:

Time:

Parent Contact:

  • None
  • Note
  • Call
  • Email
Behavior: Other Notes/Outcome:
Date:

Time:

Parent Contact:

  • None
  • Note
  • Call
  • Email
Behavior: Other Notes/Outcome:
Date:

Time:

Parent Contact:

  • None
  • Note
  • Call
  • Email
Behavior: Other Notes/Outcome:
Date:

Time:

Parent Contact:

  • None
  • Note
  • Call
  • Email
Behavior: Other Notes/Outcome:
Date:

Time:

Parent Contact:

  • None
  • Note
  • Call
  • Email
Behavior: Other Notes/Outcome:

 

Tier Three

Occasionally, a student may need “individualized, intensive interventions” (Kratochwill et al., n.d.). These behaviors will likely involve a team across the school, and records will need to be kept by all teachers the students comes into contact with (e.g., special areas teachers, librarian). This form allows each teacher to easily write down notes so that data can be tracked about what behaviors are happening and when. The student gets a sticker for every activity completed successfully, and five stickers equals an incentive – a modification of Greene’s original behavior chart (2014).

 

Student’s Behavior Chart

7:50-8:30 Morning Work & Calendar______

8:30-9:15 Journals/CAFE______

9:15-9:40 Morning Break/Drinks _____

9:40-10:00 Language Arts______

10:00-10:30 Daily 5______

10:35-11:20 Special Areas ______

11:30-11:55 Shared Reading/Big Book ______

12:00-12:30 Lunch______

12:30-1:05 Restroom/Recess ______

1:05-1:20 Restrooms/Rest/packup______

1:20-2:00 Math ______

2:00-2:50 Social Studies/Science/dismissal______

 

These students may also need other interventions. Because Tier 3 is so specialized, it’s more important to have tools in one’s toolbox than to have a particular plan; each child is going to need his or her own set of strategies to help with success. Each of these tools must be used in conjunction with administrative and special area support in order to provide a consistent behavioral expectation for the student (Greene, 2014). Administration will likely be involved formally through ARD meetings, 504 support meetings, or RtI meetings, but they should also be included in other ways to ensure consistency for the student.

 

Parents should also be kept in the loop through conferences and constant communication; this communication is so vital that a teacher must be sure to remove any potential barriers by providing a translation or translator, explanation, and plenty of opportunities to build trust from parents. It’s important always for parents to be involved, but it’s particularly crucial in these Tier 3 situations to ensure that parents and educators are on the same page so messages are emphasized both at home and at school.

 

Appendix I: A Sample Of Procedures and Routines

 

Arrival: Students who arrive before 7:35 eat breakfast in the cafeteria or wait in the gym. After the bell rings and they are dismissed, they walk quietly into the classroom. Students stop at the classroom door where they are greeted by the teacher and read the morning’s password (a sight word, spelling word, vocabulary, or math solution). They then enter the classroom and pause to move their name on the velcro lunch choice chart. Once selecting how they’ll eat lunch, students will take their homework folders and reading books out of their backpacks and store their backpack on a hook inside the backpack closet.

 

Morning procedures: Once students have unpacked their backpack and stored it, they sit at their desk and complete their morning work. Morning work is projected on the whiteboard, and students will be taught where to store various items.

 

Bathroom: Students will hold up two fingers silently to indicate they need a bathroom break. The teacher will silently signal either yes or no.

 

Water: Students will hold up three fingers silently to indicate they need a water break. The teacher will silently signal either yes or no.

 

Pencil sharpening: Every morning, the students will ensure they have two freshly sharpened pencils in their desk. If they both break, the student may place one in the “broken” bucket and grab one fresh one. Any pencils that need to be sharpened will be placed in the “broken” bucket at the end of every day, and students can select new ones every morning.

 

Attention: When I say, “Hold up!”, the class will immediately respond with, “Wait a minute!” and freeze with their hands on their faces. All talking will stop immediately, and all eyes will be on the teacher, awaiting further directions.

 

References:

 

Chenoweth, K. (2015, Feb.). How do we get there from here? Educational Leadership, 72. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb15/vol72/num05/How-Do-We-Get-There-from-Here%C2%A2.aspx

 

Fay, J. and Fay, C. (n.d.) Parenting with love and logic. Retrieved from http://www.lewiscenter.org/documents/AAE/Love%20and%20Logic/Parenting/Parentingwithlandl.pdf

 

Felder, R. (n.d.) Student-centered teaching and learning. Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Student-Centered.html

 

Greene, R. (2014). Lost at school: Why our kids with behavioral challenges are falling through the cracks and how we can help them. New York: Scribner.

 

Johnson, B. (2016, Sept. 2). The 5 priorities of classroom management. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-priorities-classroom-management-ben-johnson

 

Kratochwill, T., DeRoss, R. and Blair, S. (n.d.). Classroom Management. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/classroom-mgmt.aspx

 

Wong, H. and Wong, R. (1991). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View: Harry K. Wong Publications.

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