Are You Making This Big Mistake In Your Classroom?

Are You Making This Big Mistake In Your Classroom? Implementing Logical Consequences with A Word On Third

You’re circulating around the room while the kids are working independently on a math project when you see that Ben and Arnav are throwing papers at each other. You calmly walk over to them and tell them to stop throwing paper and get back to work. After a moment, you help some other students to use a math strategy more effectively. You're feeling good until you see a piece of paper fall to the ground a few feet away from you. You look over at Ben and Arnav and they quickly run to their desks and get back to work. They know they’ve been caught. You tell them that you mean it this time, and that they need to get back to work. 

You help a few more students who ask you a question until it becomes hard to hear them over Ben and Arnav’s giggles. You give them “the look” from the other side of the room and they quiet down. A few minutes later, you see another piece of paper fly across the room. That’s it! You’ve had ENOUGH. 

 “BEN, ARNAV. COME HERE,” you say in your seriously-aggravated voice. “You haven’t been working on your project and you’ve been wasting time. That’s it! You’re staying in at recess to finish your work. Now go back to work now or you’ll lose another day of recess!” Ben and Arnav moan and groan and go back to their work area. You’re still not seeing a whole lot of progress with them. It looks like they are no longer distracting others, but now they are probably complaining about losing their recess. 

Feel familiar? I am guessing that it probably does. I've been in this situation plenty of times. We all have! Dealing with students who are choosing to misbehave (and even those who are not making a choice to misbehave but are still misbehaving) is TOUGH. Each situation is different, so it’s hard to figure out what to do in these kinds of situations. Responsive Classroom teachers solve these kinds of situations by implementing logical consequences rather than punishment.

So what’s wrong with the above situation? Well, for one thing, you and your students are probably both feeling incredibly frustrated. Besides the obvious, there are two things that are tremendously important when it comes to consequences, and they are missing here.

Consequences need to be related and reasonable in order to be effective. 

For a consequence to be related, students need to see the connection between their action and the resulting consequence. If they spill paint… they should clean it up. It’s related to the undesired behavior. In the above scenario, Ben and Arnav weren’t completing their work. Giving them detention is not related to the misbehavior; it is just a waste of their (and your!) time. They won’t see the connection there. If Ben and Arnav had to complete their work (which may or not be during their recess time), then the consequence becomes related! If they lose the privilege to work with a partner because they are not staying on task, the consequence is related. There are many ways to make sure a consequence is related--there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

For a consequence to be reasonable, we need to think about what fits the offense and what makes sense in the context of our classroom. If someone has spilled paint, you might have him or her clean it up rather than losing the privilege of painting for 5 days. However, if that student has already cleaned up paint once a day for the past few days, maybe they will need to lose the paint for a little longer. You know your kids. Most often, when a child realizes that their lack of care during the spill results in a loss of time while cleaning it, they will be more motivated to be more careful. When consequences are reasonable, students know you are enforcing boundaries rather than punishing needlessly or coldly.

Logical consequences aim to stop the misbehavior and restore order to the classroom. There are 3 types of logical consequences that I use in my classroom, and luckily for me, they relieve my stress while creating a happier classroom. The Responsive Classroom philosophy is a warm one which holds high expectations for all students. I’ll share the three types of logical consequences I use to shape my students into self-directed, compassionate learners. 

1. Positive Time-Out

I wrote about this in my last post, which you can read here. Historically, time out has been a punitive, rigid tool used in classrooms to stop misbehavior. It usually carries a TON shame and guilt along with it. Instead, teach time-out in a positive way. Use it as a way to help students develop their self-monitoring skills. I’ve shown you step by step how to do this in the previous blog post I mentioned above! Plenty of my students CHOOSE to take a time out (which we refer to as “taking a break” in my classroom) on their own. They use it to regain self-control and a sense of calm, and then they move on. Now THAT is a logical consequence!

2. Reparation

This one is one of my favorite consequences, because it’s simple. If students break something or damage something, the logical consequence is to fix it. Think about your own life here. What does your upbringing tell you to do in a situation? I'm thinking back to a time I borrowed a friend’s book and accidentally ripped the cover. I was horrified! I rushed right to the book store to get them a new copy because I was taught to treat other people’s belongings with care. These kinds of consequences can be their own powerful teachers for students.

Sometimes broken things aren’t always easy to fix. When a student has hurt feelings, that can be tricky. In my class, we give apologies of action that are truly sincere and feel good for both parties (the apologizer and the apologizee). You can read more about those in my 2-part posts here and here.

3. Loss of a Privilege

I don’t give out stickers in my classroom or put marbles in a marble jar. There are no behavior charts. I believe students need to do the right thing for the right reason. I’m not going to reward them for doing what they should already be doing! Does your principal reward you for teaching well? Of course, not! You might have some positive consequences coming your way if you try your best, but they are natural consequences. The consequence of teaching well is holding onto your job.

I believe it’s important to prepare my kids for the real world by sticking with this mentality. Therefore, everything in my room is a privilege. Chairs, scissors, reading partners, books… they are all privileges (and they're all privileges that almost all of my students have all the time!). When students enter my room, they have access to all of these privileges, but they can be lost. If a child consistently use the scissors in an unsafe or inappropriate way despite my explicit teaching and reminders, then that child will lose the privilege of using scissors in my classroom. Remember, though--I am NOT rigid about this, My consequence is related and reasonable, so one possible (notice there are many options here) logical consequence in this scenario is that the student loses the scissors (related) for the rest of the day (reasonable) rather than the rest of the week/month (unreasonable). Students will learn quickly that they’d rather use the scissors in an appropriate, safe way than rip up their papers by hand.

As you can see, logical consequences can be used as powerful tools to address misbehavior. When you give the consequences, though, it’s so important to have a calm, respectful voice. This is not about punishing the student—it is about helping them to learn to make better choices for themselves. Isn't that what teaching is?

And coming up with a logical consequence is NOT ALWAYS EASY! Sometimes I have a hard time finding one in the moment—especially if I’m feeling flustered. I have been known to tell students that I will need to check in with them later so that I can come up with a logical consequence. That’s OK. You can’t know everything or always be expected to come up with the perfect answer right away. Give yourself permission to take time. Then, when you have been consistent, students will feel respected.

My last little tid-bit about logical consequences is that you MUST remember to check in with students and/or watch for follow-through! If you tell a student to take a positive time-out, make sure they’re actually walking over to take that time out. Look for the follow-through so your students know you are consistent.

What type of logical consequence are you ready to try in your classroom? What is tricky for you about giving logical consequences? Is there a situation in which you simply cannot figure out a logical consequence? Share below and let's brainstorm together!

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