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Assertive Discipline: Positive Behavior Management for Today's Classroom

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This book contains the best concepts and teacher-tested strategies by the author plus new content. A special emphasis on the needs of new and struggling teachers includes practical actions for earning student respect and teaching them behavior management skills. The author also introduces a real-time coaching model and explains how to establish a schoolwide Assertive Discipline® program.

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Section One: Becoming an Effective Classroom Manager

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You can establish a classroom environment in which you teach and students learn free from the distraction of disruptive student behavior!

How can I make such a bold statement not knowing you or your students?

Over the last thirty years, my staff and I have worked with more than one million teachers at all grade levels and from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds, and we have learned firsthand that any motivated teacher can develop the skills and confidence needed to teach his or her students how to behave.

If you are ready to join this enormous contingent of educators who have learned to successfully manage their students’ behavior, then please continue reading.

If you are reading this book, you are either struggling with managing student behavior or concerned that you will soon be facing this issue.

Trust me, you are not alone.

Seventy-seven percent of teachers admit that their teaching would be more effective if they did not have to spend so much time dealing with disruptive students (Public Agenda, 2004).

 

Section Two: Developing Your Classroom Discipline Plan

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A classroom discipline plan is a cornerstone of just about any effective teacher’s classroom management efforts. A discipline plan allows you to clarify the behaviors you expect from students and what they can expect in return if they do or do not meet your expectations.

The goal of a classroom discipline plan is to have a fair and consistent structure that will enable you to establish a safe, orderly, positive classroom environment in which you can teach and students can learn.

A discipline plan consists of three parts:

1. Rules that students must follow at all times

2. Supportive feedback that students will receive consistently for following the rules

3. Corrective actions that you will use consistently when students choose not to follow the rules

1. Classroom Rules

Follow directions.

Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.

No teasing or name-calling.

2. Supportive Feedback

Verbal recognition

Individual rewards such as the following:

 

Section Three: Teaching Responsible Behavior

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The beginning of the school year is filled with “first times” for students in your classroom: first time to enter the classroom, first time to pay attention to your lesson, first time to work independently, first time to pass out and collect papers, first time to get ready to leave class, and so on.

How do you want students to behave the first time they engage in these or any other activities in your classroom? How are you going to teach the students how to do so?

Effective classroom managers have learned the following: the number one topic to teach at the beginning of the year is not the three Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic—it is teaching the “fourth R”: responsible behavior.

Why do effective teachers teach and reteach their behavioral expectations so that every student knows exactly how to handle every single classroom activity or procedure? Just look at the facts.

Teachers who systematically teach their students classroom policies and procedures at the beginning of the year:

 

Section Four: Utilizing the Behavior Management Cycle

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You teach your students the policies and procedures for how you expect them to behave at the beginning of the year. Now you face the question of how to ensure they meet these expectations so you can teach and they can learn in a classroom that is free from disruptive behavior.

The answer can be found, as usual, in examining the practices of effective teachers. Great classroom managers teach us that their singular focus at the beginning of the year or when turning around a disruptive class is to motivate students to quickly follow directions, get on task, and stay on task. The fundamental importance of all the students following your directions cannot be underestimated.

The foundation of managing classroom behavior comes down to your ability to motivate students to simply “follow your directions.”

If you give directions to the students, such as “everyone do the problems on page 28 without talking,” and some students start talking, while others start playing with their cell phones, do you have behavior problems? That is an obvious yes!

 

Section Five: Reducing Disruptive Behavior

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When it comes to managing student behavior, another key concept to always keep in mind is this: the more your students are engaged in your lesson, the less problem behavior you will have.

The reality is that if you talk or lecture for too long, you will lose your students. Rather than pay attention, odds are they will start to disrupt. The name of the game is to give your students constant opportunities to respond during your lessons in order to increase their engagement (Burden, 2000; Lewis & Sugai, 1999; Sprick et al., 2006).

An opportunity to respond is any instructional question or statement made by you that is designed to seek a verbal or nonverbal response from one or more of your students.

Let’s read the next sentence together.

I want you to all think about the answer to this question.

If you agree with what I just said, thumbs up; if you don’t, thumbs down; and if you’re not sure, thumbs sideways.

Increasing the opportunities you provide students to be engaged in your lessons is one of the biggest bang for your buck strategies you can utilize to improve student behavior during instructional activities.

 

Section Six: Working With Difficult Students

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There is no question that if you, the teacher, want a disruption-free classroom, you need to go out of your way to build positive relationships with all of your students, especially those who are difficult. Ask any teacher who demonstrates a high level of proficiency in motivating students to be successful, and they will validate this point—and so does the literature.

Establishing positive relationships with students can reduce disruptive behavior by up to 50 percent. A positive relationship with students reduces disruptive behavior at all grade levels (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003).

For numerous reasons, too many teachers are not taking the steps needed to convince their students that they are on their side. One recent study sums up the current perceptions of many of our students.

Forty-eight percent of students report they don’t believe teachers care about them (Quaglia, 2008).

Let’s examine why so many teachers have such difficulty building the positive relationships with their students that are critical to everyone’s success.

 

Appendix

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Teachers’ knowledge of best practices in classroom management is obviously a necessary first step in enabling them to create a safe, orderly classroom environment. The reality is though, that there are more steps needed to ensure teachers have the supports needed to maximize their ability to help students learn to behave appropriately in the classroom.

In this addendum we will provide an introduction to two important steps to increase teachers’ success:

1. The Real Time Classroom Coaching Model—A new model of coaching to enable mentors, coaches, and others to assist teachers with raising their level of mastery in the use of classroom management skills

2. Establishing a schoolwide Assertive Discipline program—A model for school leadership teams to utilize to establish a schoolwide behavior management program that supports teachers’ classroom efforts

Having teachers receive training in classroom management, be it reading books, watching videos, or attending live or online training, is an important first step to improve their classroom management skills. But experience and research teach us this step is often woefully insufficient.

 

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