Appropriate Consequences for Student Misbehavior

Logical Responses for Student Behavior Problems

Schoolboy (11-13) sitting on chair in corridor, side view
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Students will misbehave in class. As teachers, we might not be able to stop all forms of misbehavior before they start. However, we have complete control over our own reactions to student behavioral issues. Therefore, we must choose our responses wisely, making sure that they are appropriate and logical. The old adage, "the punishment must fit the crime," is especially true in a classroom setting. If you choose something illogical, students will learn less than if your response directly relates to the situation, or they might miss out on important information being taught in class that day.

Following are a series of situations that have been chosen to illustrate appropriate responses in your classroom to help establish behavior management. Note that these are not the only appropriate responses, but instead chosen to show the difference between appropriate and inappropriate consequences.

A student uses a cell phone for non-academic purposes.

  • Appropriate: Tell the student to put the phone away.
  • Inappropriate: Confiscate the cell phone.
  • Explanation: A cell phone policy should be clearly stated in the student handbook and reviewed with students whenever there is an infraction. Teachers should record repeat offenders in order to share that the student is distracted in class with parents. Rules should be designed to meet the needs of students while addressing educators’ concerns. Some districts allow teachers a choice to make the decision by clearly posting if students can use their devices. Information on the webiste Common Sense Media can help teachers plan for device use that considers digital citizenship and student safety. Regardless, digital devices like cell phones should only be used in class when there are specific goals in mind, critical thinking, collaboration, advancement, and equity.

A student is late to class.

  • Appropriate - The student misses the daily starter or "do-now" activity and could lose any points associated with this activity.
  • Inappropriate - The teacher ignores the situation, and the student has no consequences for their tardiness.
  • Explanation - Tardiness is a big deal, especially if left unchecked. Teachers should have a tardy policy in place to deal with problem tardies. Having a daily do now or warm up is one way to give students an immediate benefit for being to class on time. One note of caution, a student who is frequently tardy could build up a large number of zeros for not completing the warm-up activity. In this case, the warm-up activity could be used for extra credit points. There is a differemce between grading for ability and grading for behavior.

A student does not bring in his or her homework.

  • Appropriate - Depending on the school policy, the student could lose points off their homework assignment. The student could also receive a lower rating in academic behavior.
  • Inappropriate - A lack of homework results in the student failing the class.
  • Explanation -Homework is done outside of the control of the classroom. For this reason, many schools are deciding not to penalize missing homework. If teachers grade only in-class or summative assessments, then the grade accurately reflects what students know. However, keeping track of homework for completion can be valuable information to share with parents. National Education Association (NEA) suggests that all stakeholders (teachers, parents, and students) work together in any effort to set homework policies. A page on the NEA website states:
Policies should address the purposes of homework; amount and frequency; school and teacher responsibilities; student responsibilities; and, the role of parents or others who assist students with homework.

A student does not have materials (pen, calulator) needed for class.

  • Appropriate - The teacher provides the student with a pen or pencil in exchange for collateral. For example, the teacher might hold on to one of the student's shoes to ensure that the pen or pencil is returned at the end of the class.
  • Inappropriate - The student does not have materials and cannot participate.
  • Explanation - Students who can not finish any classwork without materials. Extrae quipment (calculators) orsupplies should be available in class.

A student does not have their book in class.

  • Appropriate - The student does not have a textbook during the lesson for the day.
  • Inappropriate - The teacher gives the student a textbook to use without comment.
  • Explanation - If textbooks are required in your day-to-day classroom, it is important for students to remember their texts. It is a rare situation where you have more than a couple of extra textbooks in your class. If students accidentally take an extra text with them, you will have most likely have lost that text forever.

A student does not raise their hand but calls out answers instead.

  • Appropriate - The teacher does not respond to the student who calls out and does not call on them.
  • Inappropriate - The teacher allows individuals to answer without having to raise their hands.
  • Explanation - Requiring students to raise their hands is an important part of wait time and effective questioning techniques. If you do not continuously uphold this rule, then students will no longer raise their hands in class.

A student uses a curse word in class.

  • Appropriate - The teacher reprimands the student saying, "Do not use that language."
  • Inappropriate - The teacher ignores the curse word.
  • Explanation - Profanity should have no place in the classroom. If you ignore it, students will take note and will continue to use it in class. Note: Realize that if the profanity was used against someone else in the class, a form of bullying or harrassment, the consequences should be greater than if a curse word just slips out. Record the event.