Classroom Discipline Best Practices

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Discipline is one of the most pressing issues in our schools today, and in order for learning to take place, teachers must control and minimize time off task due to discipline problems.  Choosing an effective approach and using it correctly can make a big difference in whether a child feels safe or threatened and whether a child learns more appropriate behaviors or not once the discipline has been administered. 

Instead of waiting until bad behavior rears its ugly head, it is best practice for teachers to proactively teach discipline just like any other subject.  Lessons should include teaching positive behavior skills and how to achieve them during various situations.   As students’ knowledge, skill, and practice of good behavior grows, so does the chance of them having a lasting impact.  The goal is to help students develop self-control and begin to understand socially responsible behavior.

Usually, teachers discuss classroom rules on the first day of school and post them in the room as a visual reminder.  While this approach to rule setting can be quite effective in establishing a sense of order in a classroom (which we very much need), it does little to help children develop self-discipline, ethical thinking, or an understanding of how to be contributing members of a democratic community.  At its worst, it invites tension, blind obedience, or a constant battle of wills between adults and children in school. (Thorton, Mary Beth. Rules in School. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. 2011)

Research suggests that when students and teachers work collaboratively during the early weeks of school to develop classroom rules, students generally view the rules in a more positive light.  They must understand that the rules are there to keep them safe and help them achieve their goals in school.  As a suggestion, you might start with a list of basic rules and then collaboratively work with students to rewrite and/or add to them.

When it comes to discipline, a teacher’s approach is extremely important.   Since all discipline problems are not alike, an effective teacher learns to match different approaches to different problems.  The key is to be aware of the various discipline approaches that have been developed, so here are some that you might want to use from Inspiring Discipline by Merrill Harmin (NEA Professional Library 1995). 

The Simple Authority Statement: With a simple authority statement, teachers can exercise authority with minimum distress and emotion. By employing this strategy, you also show students how a person can use authority respectfully and reasonably. The strategy calls for the teacher to voice disapproval authoritatively, promptly, and as unemotionally as possible.

Redirect Student Energy: By redirecting student energy, a teacher can end misbehavior without creating negative feelings. Instead of focusing on the misbehavior, this strategy calls on the teacher to turn student attention to something else, preferably something worth attending to. This is a useful approach when direct confrontation is either unnecessary or imprudent.

The Calm Reminder: A calm reminder can help students understand what they are supposed to do, in a way that does not communicate negative emotions.

The Next-Time Message: A next-time message can correct students' behavior without making them feel discouraged. The strategy calls for the teacher to tell students what to do next time, without focusing on what was done this time.

The Check-Yourself Message: A check-yourself message can remind students to manage themselves responsibly. The strategy involves the teacher telling students to check what they have done, implying that when they do so, they will see what corrections are necessary. This strategy can be used whenever students become careless.

The Silent Response: A silent response strategy gives students room to solve their own problems. This strategy also provides a way of avoiding hasty, inappropriate responses. A teacher using this strategy reacts to an act of misbehavior by making a mental note only and considering later what, if any, action is appropriate.

Clock Focus: A clock focus strategy can settle student restlessness and increase student powers of concentration. The strategy calls for the teacher to announce "clock focus," a cue to students to stand and watch the second hand of a clock make full circles, as many rotations as they choose, and then to sit and resume their individual work. The strategy can be used whenever students need to be settled down, particularly young students working at individual tasks.

The Visitor's Chair: By using the visitor's chair strategy, a teacher can position a student close-by without communicating disapproval. The teacher using this strategy asks a student to sit in a "visitor's chair" close to where the teacher is sitting or standing. Students know they can return to their own seats whenever they feel ready for responsible self-management.

Honest "I" Statements: "I" statements can help teachers communicate honestly without generating defensiveness or guilt. Honest "I" statements also help teachers model a valuable interpersonal skill. The strategy calls for the teacher to talk honestly about personal needs and feelings, making "I" statements, avoiding comments about what "you" did or "you" said. This approach is especially useful when upsetting feelings emerge.

The Undone-Work Response: An undone-work response is a useful approach when students fail to do required work. A teacher using this strategy avoids a blaming response and instead aims to create a growth-producing response. This approach can be used whenever a student has not completed work on time. 

In conclusion, teachers must always be mindful of their own role when it comes to disciplining a child. They must:  

  1. establish clear expectations,

  2. teach students how their actions can bring positive or negative consequences to themselves and others,

  3. use respectful strategies to stop misbehavior and restore positive behavior as quickly as possible,

  4. be kind, fair, and consistent,

  5. aim to create a calm, safe, and orderly classroom while preserving the dignity of each child.

When bad behavior occurs, teachers should take the necessary steps to get students back on track.  If the behavior is new, stop and talk to the student about it, using the list above to address the behavior.  If it happens again, chances are that the student has developed a pattern of this misbehavior.  The teacher should address the behavior problem as a pattern and use the list above to deal with the pattern of misbehavior.  Now, if the behavior happens again, it’s time for the teacher to involve the parent(s) and possibly the principal. 

Students will have many opportunities at school to learn from their mistakes, and the teacher plays a huge role in guiding them toward success both academically and socially.  Haim Ginnot, a school teacher, child psychologist, psychotherapist, and parent educator, wrote one of the best quotes I’ve ever read, and I think it makes a great conclusion to this topic.  He wrote:


“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

The Importance of Teaching with Enthusiasm

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As a certified elementary teacher, I came to realize the tremendous amount of power and influence I had on my students very early in my career.  It was clear that my energy and delivery during certain lessons (either high or low) made an impression and greatly affected the outcome of “how” and “what” my students learned.  Since my goal was to be an effective teacher, I purposefully taught every subject with enthusiasm in an attempt to influence my students in the most positive, productive ways possible to increase learning.

Teaching with enthusiasm became my mantra!  I actually incorporated the words “with enthusiasm” into my daily lesson plans as I prepared for every single lesson.  I focused my attention on teaching with as much knowledge, positivity, and energy as I could.  By doing so, I noticed that my students’ attention, interactions, and test scores followed.  The enthusiasm was contagious!

There are many characteristics that effective teachers display, and it’s important to know that showing enthusiasm is one of them.  An enthusiastic teacher can be described as:

Source: unknow


-Seems to enjoy teaching

-Conveys a love of the field

-Has an aura of self-confidence

Engaging students in the learning process can be a challenge, but demonstrating a high level of knowledge and enthusiasm can increase student learning.  

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Vitality in Veteran Shurley English Teachers

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Visualize this scenario:  It’s early August, and as you scroll through your inbox you see the first of many emails from your school administrator.  “Already!?!” you say to yourself as you hesitate to open it.   You guessed it!   It’s your new school year Welcome Letter and Professional Development Schedule. On the agenda, you notice a full-day training scheduled for Shurley English! Your next few thoughts go something like this: “I’ve taught Shurley English for 5 years now!  I don’t need training!  Maybe I can get out of it this year!”  

Warning:  Thoughts like these are exactly why veteran teaches still need our support!  Take these thoughts as a sign! I know because I’ve been there!

Certified Shurley English consultants typically train new and seasoned teachers from all grade levels at the same time…WHY?  Well, I would say from my experience, we do this because it is an excellent way to ensure consistency across all grade levels.  It also gives us the opportunity to re-motivate and re-inspire teachers who have been instructing Shurley English for many years.  Veteran teachers, me included, tend to develop habits of comfort that can lead to getting stuck-in-a-rut, or so to speak.  We want to make sure all Shurley English teachers understand the BIG PICTURE of what the curriculum was designed to do in order to successfully teach it with confidence and enthusiasm.  A Shurley English-Full Day Training can energize and inspire a veteran Shurley English teacher with what I like to call the “Vital V’s!”

The Four “VITAL -V’s” of a Veteran Shurley English Teacher:

1. Know that YOU ARE VALUABLE!  YOU are the best RESOURCE for new Shurley English teachers. (Never forget what it was like your first year.)  You have a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer the newbies…SHARE IT!  Take the LEAD & step up to the next level, especially if Shurley is your “thing!”

2. Add VARIETY to your lessons! Keep challenging yourself to stay in alignment with the curriculum (teach with fidelity), but add your flare of creativeness to Shurley English; this gets easier the longer you teach Shurley.  Get more engaged in the Enrichment Activities, Discovery Time Activities, or try creating Learning Centers.

3. BE VIEWABLE & VISIBLE! YOU ARE A LEADER & A MODEL TO NEW TEACHERS! Make sure you’re a part of the professional development opportunities no matter how long you’ve been teaching-never stop learning!  With grace, show them how it’s done…because they ARE watching you-observing how you make it work.  INVITE them into your classroom for a Shurley English demonstration.  Mentor them.  Collaborate with them.  Lead them.  Help mold them into a successful Shurley teacher like you are!

4. VOCALIZE with AUTHENTICITY & SINCERITY!  Your thoughts, questions, and concerns need to be heard and can be validating to teachers not willing to speak-up.  When you do speak-up, be genuine, honest, and tactful.  If you see teachers not staying in alignment with the curriculum, I encourage you to say something.  A broken cog in the wheel makes it difficult for the wheel to roll, and the Shurley wheel needs all cogs in place.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.” -Martha Graham

Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.


Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.