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Effective Discipline Practices in Elementary School

by Katherine Bradley

An effective discipline plan that is clearly understood by students, teacher and parents can lead to student success. It is imperative that students fully understand behavioral expectations and consequences very early in their educational experience. Establishing an effective discipline plan will help ensure order and maintain the instructional integrity of the classroom. In the early stages, this plan focuses on guiding behavior, but if this proves unsuccessful, the focus may shift to punishment as a consequence and deterrent for future rule violations.

Non-Verbal Redirection

Non-verbal redirection includes strategies that are non-verbal in nature and help to guide the student toward the desirable behavior. For instance, making eye contact as the student is engaging in prohibited behavior, such as talking or passing notes, might help to halt the misbehavior. The use of proximity control -- simply moving closer to the student who is off task -- can be effectively accomplished without a break in instruction. If these subtle efforts do not produce results, seat relocation may correct the behavior.

Conferencing with the Student

When a student repeatedly engages in misbehavior despite attempts at non-verbal redirection, speaking privately with the student can prove successful. The conference must be geared at helping the student see what behavior needs to be corrected and why that behavior is prohibited. This is another strategy that focuses on guidance, not punishment. Getting buy-in to the classroom discipline plan by helping the student to see the value of the rule can be extremely effective.

Parent Contact

Parent support can be very helpful in guiding student behavior. Some school systems may actually require teachers to contact parents in the very early stages of a potential discipline problem. Many parents expect their children to obey the rules set forth by the school and will take disciplinary measures at home if those rules are violated. However, if the discipline plan at home is faulty, it is unlikely that contacting the parents will yield benefits.

Teacher Consequence

After using discipline strategies that are geared toward guidance have proved ineffective, a teacher may elect to use punishment as a deterrent to continued misbehavior. Teacher-imposed discipline consequences may include loss of privileges, detention, lunch isolation, additional academic work or repetitive writing. Teachers should be careful to be diligent and consistent in the application of consequences for all students. For instance, if the consequence for talking during instruction is loss of recess, then that consequence should always follow that misbehavior, no matter which student offends.

Administrative Referral

Once all other efforts have failed, an administrative referral becomes necessary. The school administrator has at her disposal more varied means of getting the student's attention. Sometimes an office referral that results in a warning or conference is enough to jolt the student into cooperation. However, an administrative referral may result in the assignment of administrative detention, Saturday school, in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension. Some school systems may even use corporal punishment for willful and persistent violations.

About the Author

Katherine Bradley began writing in 2006. Her education and leadership articles have been published on Education.com, Montessori Leadership Online and the Georgia Educational Researcher. Bradley completed a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mercer University in 2009.

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