What do I do when they won’t do what I ask?
How to have a hierarchy of consequences
Threats of punishment do not work for 20-25% of students.
Many schools have a hierarchy of consequences that increase the level of punishment as the behaviour escalates. While that approach works with 75-80% of the population, a student with behaviour issues will not respond to increasingly negative penalties.
Some students require more support to be on-task and focused on the learning, and the role of the teacher is to provide what individuals need to be able to access education.
You could design a series of appropriate responses to behaviour in collaboration with your students and then make sure they all understand how the process works by role playing and simulating the classroom situation.
I have provided a sample hierarchy below. Since every classroom situation is different and every teacher has their own style, you must find a process that suits you, and also complements your whole school behaviour management procedures.
You will notice that the response from the teacher moves from very subtle reminders, to a more focused approach about the behaviour.
Sample Hierarchy of Consequences
IMPORTANT: The success of any corrective feedback is in the delivery. You must keep the tone of your voice friendly and calm. Avoid sounding threatening, sarcastic or whiny.
If you have a positive relationship with the student you can use genuinely encouraging statements such as, ‘I know you will make a good choice’ or ‘I know how well you can work’.
- When you notice a student is off-task, use proximity, move in closer.
- If the student does not respond, give a whole class reminder of expected behaviour.
- Give a quiet individual redirection to the task, “What question are you up to Jo?’
- Give a binary choice in a calm tone e.g. ‘ Jo, you can stay here and work here with your friends or you can work at the desk near the window.’
- Walk away and allow take up time.
- If they get on with the work, make a positive feedback comment e.g. ‘Thanks for starting your work, Jo’.
- If they do not start work or move, speak to them quietly and give the direction to comply with what you think will get them back on task e.g. ‘You have not started work here, so you need to move to the desk near the window’.
- If they comply and get on with the work, give positive feedback, ‘Thank you for starting your work, Jo’.
- If they will not follow your direction to move say in a calm, matter of fact tone of voice, ‘Jo you will need to stay behind after class to discuss your [lack of work] with me’
- Ignore secondary behaviours such as muttering under the breath, rolling eyes, muttering to other students.
- Follow through by keeping the student back and discussing what occurred. State why the behaviour is an issue and work out how to move forward.
- Contact parents if the behaviour is an ongoing issue or if the behaviour is unusual for the student.
- Contact your executive teacher to discuss ongoing behaviour issues and decide when it is appropriate to enlist their support.
While no plan is fool proof, knowing how you are going to respond will help you feel more calm and confident, increasing the likelihood that you will deal with student behaviour in a positive, caring and productive way.