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Helping Students Find
The 'Write' Way to Behave

Having students write about their misbehavior, why it occurred, and what they are going to do to correct it is valuable for students and teachers. Students get a chance to have their say, and teachers can review the write-ups with students and keep the documents in students' files. Included: Tips for helping students write about their behavior.

Looking for ways to help students reflect on disruptive behavior and learn to correct it? Let them write about their actions on contracts, questionnaires, and in journals, and then review the documents with them.

Contracts or questionnaires should be part of an overall classroom management strategy. Teachers should issue class rules at the beginning of the school year and ensure they are clear and consistent. Students should understand which infractions warrant discipline and the consequences for disruptive behaviors. Teachers also should make clear when students will receive forms: when the disruptive behavior occurs or right after class.

Slipping forms or instructions to students to write up the incident during class can decrease embarrassment for students and minimize class disruptions.


A student who writes himself or herself up can identify the behavior and its cause, explain why the behavior is a problem, and propose a way to correct the situation. That allows the student to express his or her viewpoint about the incident.

The teacher then can review the form with the student and decide whether a parent or guardian should sign it.

If having parents sign the form does not lead to improved behavior, the next time a student completes a form, consider having the student read it over the phone to a parent, in the presence of another adult.

Having students write themselves up doesn't mean teachers should give up, though. Writing short, on-the-spot notes -- pointing out positive and negative behavior -- also can be a good classroom management tool. While carrying around a pad of adhesive notes, jot down "good job," "excellent question," or "remember to raise your hand" and stick the notes on students' desks. Students get instant feedback and a reminder that the teacher is on top of things.

Not everyone favors writing as part of a punishment, though. Some schools do not want students to develop a negative attitude about writing, so they do not assign writing for misbehavior.

"I feel it is important to make the kids understand what they did wrong but not by punishing them with a skill in which we want them to excel," Dana Arhar, a teacher at Immokalee Middle School in Immokalee, Florida, told Education World.

One teacher from the Middle Level list serv came up with another kind of note. She sings (badly) to the recalcitrant youngster, mostly oldies. Tunes by the Monkees usually got the quickest response. After serenading some students with off-key verses, now she has only to threaten to sing, she wrote.


Other suggestions for managing your classroom:

  • When leaving the classroom as a group, tell the students you will be watching the behavior of two children, but don't say who they are. If the two you are watching behave, reward the entire class after returning to the room.


  • If a student interrupts another pupil and calls out an answer, tell him or her that the behavior "robs" the other student of a learning opportunity.


  • Remember the keys to successful management strategies: fairness and consistency.