Effective classroom discipline means knowing your kids: What motivates them, what makes them tick, what will set them off.
It won't take long in this profession to learn that certain situations will inevitably lead to classroom discipline issues. In general, for all students, the less structured the activity the more discipline issues will arise (think recess vs. silent reading).
Students also demonstrate less self-control when there is an impending exciting event or holiday, such as Halloween or winter break. After such an event, it can take a couple days for kids to get back into "school mode" and the mindset that classroom discipline matters. Arm yourself with patience and be ready for anything.
"I'm a one-of-a-kind kid!"
Knowing your kids also means knowing how individual students will react in certain situations. Some personalities will conflict if seated next to each other; some kids have particular trouble walking in line or playing fair at recess; etc. A large part of managing behaviors is structuring situations so as to avoid generating them in the first place.
This is not to say that you should go to extraordinary lengths to create the perfect situation to please every student who may potentially misbehave; that's impossible, and kids need to learn to control themselves (with your help) in a variety of situations anyway.
However, there is no point in waving a red flag in front of a bull, so to speak - if a fight ensues every time Alleedra lines up behind Kelly, then you need to stop that situation before it ever gets started. Discipline in the classroom really demands that you make the effort.
Always keep your diagnosed, behaviorally-challenged kids in mind. Once you've experienced Sam when his parents forgot to give him his prescription medication, you should be able to quickly redirect him to a more successful path when it occurs in the future. Likewise, if you are working with Aspergers or Autistic students, understanding the triggers that upset them will go a long way toward making their school experience calm and enjoyable even on difficult days.
Classroom behavior management works best when it is subtle and proactive rather reactive.
Some kids have to move. The kids who are on what I would call the "ADHD spectrum," meaning they may or may not be medicated, may have a need to physically move their bodies that they simply cannot suppress - nor should they or they won't be able to focus. Work with them to express this need without endangering themselves or disturbing the learning of other students.
Samantha simply could not sit still and was constantly tipping her chair back and falling over. My solution was to give her a very low desk (from 1st grade) to sit on. This allowed her to fidget or sit curled up without the danger of tipping.
Cyril needed to pace. I worked out an acceptable short path for him to follow that minimized distractions to other students. After the rest of the class got used to it, they barely noticed his movement.
It is a good idea to establish some methods for helping Aspergers or Autistic kids calm down if they are becoming agitated. I once worked with a boy who found it very soothing to rub in some scented hand lotion when he became upset; the lotion provided a unique tactile sensation as well as a distinct smell that he found intriguing...and therefore distracting and calming.
Ask the parents for input at the beginning of the year...you'll likely need the information right away since the stress of starting school creates a difficult time for these kids.
Somewhere deep down inside, nearly all students crave predictable structure, whether they would acknowledge that fact or not. A set daily / weekly classroom routine helps them feel stable. Much of a school day is already structured for you, by recess, lunch, etc. Do your part to keep your instructional blocks regular.
I post my daily schedule on the whiteboard. Just like adult attendees at a day-long seminar, kids like to know what is coming up next. Subconsciously, they can mentally prepare for transitions between events (and they can remind you when you forget the time!).
Classroom discipline always improves when a teacher anticipates classroom behavior management problem areas and sets his class up to be successful with a consistent classroom routine.
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