I gather from some postings on this list that there is at least some interest out there in learning to teach from a perspective of helping students become internally motivated and SELF-disciplined. If you are interested, read on... If not, please skip to the next thread.
My teaching partner and I often mentor teachers in our area who want to switch over to teaching through internal motivation. It's a relatively new direction in education and there's increasing interest in it. One question that commonly comes up is the following one about how a teacher, who didn't feel comfortable in using rewards and punishments, might deal with helping the majority of the class deal with one student who is misbehaving and so ruining the learning atmosphere for all the other students.
Although the misbehaving child discussed in the question below must have had very extreme behavior problems,(since he was actually removed from the room,) the general format of the answer could be used whenever one or two students in any class acted up to any degree.
I have a 3rd grade student who is demonstrating increasingly disruptive behaviors. I have all kinds of support with him - my principal, school counselor, behavioral specialist - we’re all involved, every day. This boy can work elsewhere when he can’t manage in the classroom. My question is this: How do I teach the other students that it’s better for them to ignore this student’s behavior than to be an audience or worse yet, play along? I need some “choice words” to really explain it and underscore the importance of this.
They did a great job today and I complimented them on doing so after the student had been removed from the room. A couple of them asked me individually why that student wasn’t with us and I told them that when behaviors interrupt everyone’s learning time, it can’t be permitted to go on and that the student was with the principal. Any advice/good words to use?
For situations like this, I find a discussion centered around the understandings of Marvin Marshall’s Discipline Without Stress HIERARCHY to be invaluable. Even though you may not be familiar with Marshall’s approach, I think I could explain the basics of it enough for you to be able to use it in your current situation. You wanted some “choice” words to use. One of the principles that forms the basis of this approach is helping kids understand that all personal behavior is a choice.
In a nutshell, Marshall’s approach fosters SELF-discipline. This is exactly what I imagine you are hoping your students will develop with respect to managing their own behavior when faced with a classmate who is displaying very little self-discipline.
Marshall’s Hierarchy has four levels of personal/social development: Levels A, B, C, D.
Levels A (Anarchy) and B (Bossing/Bullying) describe unacceptable behavior in any situation.
Just as an example, currently your disruptive student is often choosing to operate (either consciously or non-consciously,) at these lower levels of A and B. In other words, he is not in control of himself and relies on an adult to take control of his behavior most of the time. Just as you explained to students in your class, whenever a person can’t manage their own behavior in an acceptable manner, then the adult has to take over and manage their behavior for them. In your case, the adults in the school have sometimes found it necessary to remove this child from the room in order to preserve the learning environment for all the other students. It’s only fair that the other students have the opportunity to learn in an orderly, safe classroom.
Here’s an important point from Marshall’s program for students to understand:
All behavior is a personal CHOICE. If any of them were to follow along and misbehave–by copying a disruptive student or even by just giving encouragement as an appreciative audience–they too would be CHOOSING to operate at a lower level than acceptable.
In discussing the situation, you would also talk about the other two levels, C (Cooperation) and D (Democracy), which describe HIGHER levels of personal and social development. Level C is acceptable. But then there is Level D, which describes something even higher than acceptable. You might think of it as exceptional, although Marshall doesn’t use that exact description in his program.
DwStress teachers use the Hierarchy to help students understand self-discipline. The key to the approach is to explain ALL the levels to students but focus especially on some important understandings related to the highest two levels, C and D.
The difference between Level C and D (that is, between acceptable and exceptional behavior), can be explained in terms of motivation:
At Level C, a student is motivated EXTERNALLY to behave themselves by cooperating, and by willingly conforming to the expectations of the adult—AS LONG AS THE ADULT IS PRESENT. In your situation, this would describe students who can manage themselves appropriately in the classroom (even though one child is being incredibly disruptive in front of them,) whenever they notice the teacher is nearby or directly looking their way.
This level is higher than Level B because (at least when the teacher is present and is watching,) the child operating at Level C is self-disciplined enough to do the right thing. Their motivation is external however. They are motivated to do the right thing, perhaps to please their teacher or because they realize that to do anything disruptive would only lead to getting into trouble themselves.
Level C is the expected level of behaviour in the classroom in Marshall’s system of discipline. It is the level of obedience. In all other discipline systems that I’ve seen, this level is considered the highest level of behavior, but not so in Marshall’s approach. Having a higher-than-acceptable level is what makes Discipline Without Stress unique.
Level D is the level of taking responsibility for yourself. It is the level of SELF- discipline. It is the level of doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. In other words, students operating at Level D think for themselves. They consciously make CHOICES for themselves with the understanding that all behavior is a personal choice.
You might think of Level D as the level of following your own conscience. When operating from this highest level, a student does the right thing regardless of whether or not an adult is present. In your situation, this describes a student who notices that a fellow student has chosen to behave in inappropriate ways and yet is not influenced to follow along–whether the teacher is watching or not.
They decide for themselves that following along or giving encouragement to the disruptive student would only mean that their own behaviour was no better off than that of the disruptive student–they would no longer be in control of themselves – in fact, they would be ALLOWING THE DISRUPTIVE STUDENT TO BE IN CONTROL OF THEM.
When you complimented your class on being able to manage themselves when one student was losing control, you were actually acknowledging that they were either on Level C or D of Marshall’s Hierarchy. The interesting thing is that Level C and D behaviour usually looks identical to anyone watching. The only difference between these two levels is in WHY the person is MOTIVATED to act correctly.
Some of your students would have been on Level C—they were motivated to act appropriately because your presence motivated them (externally) to behave themselves. This is acceptable but it’s not the highest level of behaviour.
Some would likely have been operating on the higher level, Level D. They simply knew inside themselves that to follow or encourage the disruptive student would be inappropriate. In other words they were INTERNALLY motivated.They wouldn’t have followed along with or acted inappropriately–even if they were all alone in the room with him.
Here’s the conversation I have had with my own previous classes in similar situations.
Just as you did, when it came up, I would be quite candid in discussing that ____ is sometimes working elsewhere in the school. Just as you did, I would explain that his behavior is out of control at the moment and that he is showing little self-discipline. I would ask someone in the class to identify the Hierarchy level of this type of disruptive behavior. Any child in the class would be able to correctly identify it as either Level A or B. Then I would ask them to tell me what happens when someone chooses to operate at an unacceptable level–to the point where it interferes with other people’s learning. Someone would say that when a student continually operates at Level B, a teacher has to take over. A teacher has to be the boss and tell the person what to do.
I would agree and say that yes, that is what the current situation is. ____ has such little self-discipline at the moment, that the adults have decided that he needs to work somewhere else in the school so that others can still learn and he can be helped to learn some self-discipline. Hopefully, with some help, ____ will soon learn to control himself enough to be able to rejoin the class in an acceptable manner. Then he too, will be able to move forward in his schooling.
Then I would initiate a discussion about the behavior of EVERYONE ELSE in this situation. I would talk about how we all have a personal choice in how we respond to ____ and his lack of self-discipline. I would ask them to imagine some scenarios.
For example, I would say:
What if someone chose to follow along and copy ____? What level would that be? (B)
What if someone chose to encourage ____ by laughing or making other comments (B)
Would a person who chose to encourage ____, or be influenced into following ____, be self-disciplinedthemselves?
I would talk about how some people in this situation might follow or encourage ____, thinking that it was ____’S FAULT that they were misbehaving. I would make sure that everyone understood that ____’s behaviour can only influence our own, If we allow that, we have no self-disicpline ourselves.
Then I would move to discussing higher level behavior, Level C and D. I would first get them to describe behavior at each of these levels. They would explain that at Level C, a student watching ____ and his antics, wouldn’t follow or encourage ____ because they see the teacher in the room and know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to act like ____ because then they’d be in trouble too.
I’d say, yes, that’s true. Level C is acceptable behaviour. They would be able to manage their own response to ____ because they’d be smart enough not to do something inappropriate themselves WITH A TEACHER WATCHING. We’d talk about how they were doing the right thing, but that they were relying on the presence of the teacher to influence them in how they chose to behave. The result would be that classroom atmosphere would remain fairly calm and we’d be helping ____ too because he would see what self-discipline looks like in the rest of us.
Then I’d remind them that both Level C and D are acceptable and I would ask them this:
If Level C is acceptable, how is Level D higher?
Then some child would be able to explain in their own words that Level D is higher because the person at Level D wouldn’t be influenced by ____’s antics– EVEN IF THE TEACHER WASN’T WATCHING or even if the teacher wasn’t in the room at all. Regardless of whether the teacher was in the room or not, they wouldn’t follow or encourage misbehavior, simply because they know that that’s the right thing to do. They wouldn’t want to encourage ____ to act up because they would know that wasn’t helping ____. They wouldn’t follow ____because they wouldn’t want to sink to Level B behavior themselves.
Then we’d talk about the benefits of being self-disciplined and being internally motivated to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do in the situation. We’d talk about HOW GOOD IT FEELS to be in control of yourself. We’d talk about how people who are self-disciplined can respect themselves. When people often operate at a high level, they understand that to sink down to a lower level and follow someone else’s misbehavior means that they would be part of the problem. What self-respecting person wants to think of themselves as a problem! It FEELS GOOD to respect yourself and think highly of your own behavior. Operating at Level D allows you to take great pride in yourself.
As I said, I have had this exact same discussion with my own class in previous years and I have many similar discussions EVERY DAY about the benefits of operating at a high level; about exactly what it looks like to operate on a high level in ordinary everyday situations.
Although this might sound as if it would be above the heads of primary students, it isn’t at all. I teach Kindergarten and grade one. I simply use vocabulary that young children will understand to get the points across.
Although this way of thinking about behavior and self-discipline is very new to most teachers, I sense from your question that you are already thinking along these same lines. I hope my own experiences with fostering self-discipline through Marvin Marshall’s Discipline Without Stress will be of value to you!
This is a very interesting approach. These are such important skills for children to have. I've also had success with teaching the children about multiple intelligences. I explain how we all have different strengths and challenges. They create a puzzle to show their different strengths and challenges. They create larger pieces for areas they have strengths in and smaller pieces for areas that are challenging. We then have other students write comments on classmate's strengths - giving examples of what their classmates do well in order to demonstrate that intelligence strength.
Then we talk about our challenges. This kind of makes everybody feel they are on the same page as far as everyone having strengths and everyone having differences. For the interpersonal intelligences - we spend weeks on these directly. We talk about how pathways in the brain can become disrupted and why some children react the way they do. I've had a lot of success with openly discussing disability-related emotional/behaviorial problems. We talk about what we see that a particular classmate might do that is inappropriate - then we talk about how we can help that classmate change. The children come up with wonderful methods and then really apply them. They love to see that they can make a difference!~
I work in a religious school so we equate the higher level thinking with being like Christ. I think that teachers also need to model consistently how do talk to and regard that one student. Our body gestures, for example, when that child comes in the room can immediately clue other children on to whether or not we are happy to see them or not - which in turn influences the other children.
Thank you both for your comments! The activity to go along with the Multiple Intelligence discussion sounds like a great one for developing empathy--and you are so right, Lara, about a teacher setting the tone in the class by their own actions and words.
As I said, I often help other teachers. Throughout this summer, I've been emailing back and forth with one teacher in my province who wanted to understand how the reading program my partner and I have developed works in our grade one classroom. She was also quite interested in a program our K-6 school has instituted called "The Whole School Read," in which every class reads for the first 30 minutes of the day and parents are encouraged to join us as helpers.
She asked me the question posted below and I'll share my response simply because it relates to this thread as another example of how a discipline approach can be used to help children take responsibility for their own behavior by understanding CHOICE-RESPONSE thinking. In other words, our own behavior is always a choice and so we always have a choice in how to respond to any situation or stimulus or other person.
Whereas most conventional discipline approaches based on external motivation rely on OVERPOWERING or DISEMPOWERING those who choose to misbehave, an approach based on internal motivation has a different goal--to EMPOWER a child to take charge of their own behavior. This makes discipline far more positive and over time, builds many valuable understandings for the students--understandings that are totally bypassed when a teacher is focussed mainly on stopping misbehavior immediately with either the quick promise of a reward or the threat of a slight punishment.
Here's that question I was asked ...
Do your parent volunteers bring babies, toddlers and preschoolers with them when they volunteer during your Whole School Read? If so, how do you deal with these little children in the room when your class is supposed to be reading?
Sometimes we do have preschoolers and even younger siblings join us when their parents come in to volunteer for the half hour of reading. When we do, we make toys available but it's the parent's job to get them out etc. Sometimes, it's a bonus if you have a preschooler or toddler who loves stories and will sit still and listen.It provides an audience for the grade ones -- then it works out really well! Sometimes an older baby is content to sit in a stroller with their own toys, near their mom who is helping.
Sometimes though, a younger child CAN BE a bit of a problem but we use our discipline system to deal with it. Just to be clear, we use our discipline approach to deal with our grade ones--not the disruptive toddlers who are simply doing what toddlers naturally do!
Such a situation gives us the perfect opportunity to talk about self-discipline. That's one of the first suggestions of this approach... view problems as opportunities to learn! We make use of Marvin Marshall's Hierarchy. The Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards approach that we use is all about building SELF-discipline. We really focus on this and it's woven into every subject and activity that we do. We think of this program as a gift really... what better gift could you give to a child than helping them start to become self-disciplined in their lives?
DWS has a Hierarchy of four levels that you can use to discuss personal and social responsibility. It's too much to explain it all here but I could give you a link to an article that would outline the four levels and describe the program.
In this situation, we would have a discussion with our grade ones using the four levels of Marshall's Hierarchy. We focus on the two highest levels which are both acceptable.
We talk about the need for SELF-control when someone younger can't manage (or appears to be having a great time playing with toys during our work time!)
In other words, regardless of the fact that there is:
- someone having a playtime while WE're reading,
- baby "babble" in the room,
- a younger child is moving around a bit too quickly or;
- a toddler is eating a snack that looks quite good! etc.,
WE can still be in control and make good use of our reading practice time ANYWAY. Our Whole School Read is one of the most important learning times of our day and so it's important to stay focused and use our time wisely--in fact, it's our job to learn at school. OUR playtimes, snack times and free times come later in the day--not first thing in the morning!
Referring to the four levels of the Hierarchy, we help our students to understand that a person who lowers their own behaviour when young children and babies are in the room, is in effect deciding to choose a very young level of maturity themselves.
Viewed in this light, misbehavior doesn't look so attractive! Students are keen to raise their own level of maturity because all of us (at any age,) want to feel capable and in control of ourselves. Even someone as young as grade one would like to consider themselves grown-up--certainly grown up enough to manage better than a cranky baby or slightly out-of-control two year old.
We finish the conversation by reviewing that all behaviour is a CHOICE. We can CHOOSE to show self-discipline--even in situations that aren't perfect. We can CHOOSE not to be distracted by small things. We can CHOOSE to "do the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do" which, in a nutshell, describes the focus of Marvin Marshall's discipline program.
Once again, I hope this might be helpful to others who are interested in moving in the direction of fostering self-discipline, which is a very calming and rewarding way to teach.
I'd be happy, Lara, to give more examples of using Discipline without Stress in my own teaching--I'm a very big fan of this approach. I love writing about the results I see in my own classroom and school. I always hope that my experiences encourage other teachers to learn more about motivating intrinsically. Many people aspire to teach without rewardsm but aren't sure exactly how they might go about it. DWS can provide a starting point for teachers wanting to go forward in this direction.
Motivating students to WANT to do their math corrections!
I often use Marvin Marshall's DWS Hierarchy to talk with my grade one students about things that are connected directly to our lives in the classroom. For example, every year I initiate a few conversations to connect math corrections to the Hierarchy. I feel it’s important for my students to correct any math errors that they might have made on previous days, before we move on to new learning.
I find that the fifteen minute discussion outlined below always has a large positive impact on the choices my students make during math time for the rest of the year. Naturally, when I have such a discussion I choose words to explain these ideas that six year olds will understand.
In keeping with the DWS Principle of Reflection, I usually begin the discussion by ELICITING from the students, what operation at each of the four levels might look like with regard to the situation at hand. I guide the discussion and the students participate by sharing their thoughts. At the same time, we also talk about the results a person can expect from consistent operation at each of the levels. I always begin at the lowest level and build up to the highest level, in order to end on a positive and inspiring note.
Here’s a synopsis of what we discuss with regard to math corrections:
Operation at Levels A/B:
People operating at these levels don’t bother doing many math corrections at all–unless the teacher forces them.
A person at this level might feel badly that their book has lots of errors in it but they don’t do anything to help the situation–so they continue to feel badly.
During Math time, they might just sit there or goof off, play little games by themselves or with others. They might even have a lot of fun.
People operating at this level often take pleasure in the thought that they are “getting away” with something. They notice that while everyone around them is doing math corrections, they are NOT—they’re having free time.
Eventually the decision NOT to do math corrections during class time catches up with them and the teacher responds by taking control. After all, individuals at Levels A/B are not displaying SELF-control. Whether they consciously know it or not, they are ensuring that the teacher must take over.
Once class time allocated for doing corrections is over, the person has lost the opportunity to use school time to finish their work. When are some other times to complete the required corrections? (At recess? At free choice center time? At lunch time? After school? At home?)
In the end, did this person “get away” with anything at all? In actuality, they’ve lost out. For one thing, a person who doesn’t consistently attempt to understand and correct their math errors is less likely to understand the math concepts at their grade level—their learning suffers.
In addition, a person operating at Levels A/B, often feels discouraged whenever they look at their notebook. Even though they have tried to ignore the situation, they KNOW that their notebook is full of errors. Despite the fact that outwardly they may appear not to care, inwardly they feel uncomfortable.
When the majority of their classmates are ready for recess, the person who decided to use their class time to play, must then BEGIN to work.
Sure, they got away with not doing their corrections in Math lesson time. But was it worth it?
Operation at Level C:
A person at Level C is cooperative and so doesn’t misbehave in Math time. They comply with the teacher’s expectation that math corrections should be completed first thing, during math class time.
This is an acceptable level of operation because the student completes their corrections–as expected by the teacher.
At Level C, a person is complying but not exhibiting true SELF-control. They wait for the teacher to say that it’s time to do their corrections before they begin. In other words, they depend on the presence of the teacher to start and keep them working.
Operation at Level D:
At the highest level of operation, people take charge of their own behavior and feel competent because of that. It’s personally satisfying to know that you are SELF-disciplined.
People operating at this level take initiative – they don’t wait for the person in charge to tell them what to do when they know they need to do something.
As soon as they get their notebook back, they look to see if they have any corrections to do and they get started.
They take pride in the fact that they are keeping up and acting responsibly.
Often they can correct one or two errors while other classmates simply sit–waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do. Because they have made good use of their time, they often have a few free minutes later, to do something of their own choice, while they wait for others to complete the required work.
People who make an effort to understand errors have a greater chance of understanding math concepts at their grade level. If the teacher has written, “See me” on a page, students operating on Level D, take the initiative to ask for teacher help – they don’t wait until the teacher finally catches up with them. While they are waiting for the teacher to come to their desk, they go on to any other corrections that they might be able to complete independently.
When they get their work back each day, they know they will only have one day’s corrections to do - not days and days’ worth. They look at their notebook and take satisfaction in the fact that all the pages are clipped and up to date.
Every year I find that this type of discussion about math corrections is very effective in motivating kids to WANT to look after their errors promptly and without nagging by me. Once we have discussed what autonomous behaviour looks like in this situation, they WANT to see themselves as operating autonomously. That’s not to say that EVERY child has aimed for, or achieved Level D in this regard, but I could honestly say that a very large majority have, after this type of a discussion.
I find that as the year goes on, my students become increasingly more responsible about completing corrections independently. One year, when our regular Math time followed recess, I would typically return to the classroom, always to find a large number of students with their math books out – by choice – working independently to get their corrections up to date for the day. On seeing this, the remainder of the class would often follow suit… peer influence at it’s best!
Thanks for sharing your insight to DWS. I am just discovering this approach and you provide a lot of good information. You mentioned that you teach grade 1...could you do a quick walk through with how you introduce this at the beginning of the year and some of the language you use for this grade. I will be teaching grade 1 and I have been told I will have a few 'strong personalities' this year. BTW, what province are you in? Thanks for your input!
Welcome to the world of DWS! It's an exciting path to follow!
You asked my province--it's B.C. Do you live in Canada too?
I have written A LOT about my experiences with teaching and DWS. I have blog that would give a beginner to this approach a lot to think about and much help.
I understand that we are not permitted to post actually links on this group but I think you could easily find the information you were looking for by going to google and searching for "discipline answers." Don't forget to use quotation marks around the phrase.
On my blog I have many categories of questions/responses related to the specifics of this approach. To find suggestions for introducing the approach initially, look under "Teaching the Hierarchy" on the side bar.
Right now I'm off to a Smartboard workshop for the day. If you needed more help with the wording for grade ones in particular, I can get back to you later.
I checked out those websites (www.marvinmarshall.com, www.disciplineanswers.com) and I LOVED them. There is even a section for how to apply the principles as a substitute teacher, which is really cool for me. DWS also seems to fit with Love and Logic and Responsive Classroom extremely well, which is good because those are two other philosophies that I already like and want to use in my classroom when I have one.
It is not appropriate, however, to point fingers at students and talk about them behind their back. Setting an example is best done by being the model. Advising a student anything about a child specifically is not setting a great example. "Some people", "some individuals", "some folks" require different tools to be successful is much better than "Johnny was disrupting the class" or "Johnny sets a bad example". Talking badly about a student only furthers what we must not do by directly humiliating them and causing them more stress if they hear about it. Just as we scold girls for talking about others behind their backs and wispering ugly tails. This also rides the slippery slope of bullying. We cannot presume that instructing 30 kids in a classroom that Johnny is bad won't somehow get back to Johnny. I think this is a key element that is missing here. I get respect you MUST show it and discretion is important.