Talk about Whole Class Consequences: Plan B
I have to be honest. I’m a bit concerned that this post will be misunderstood by some, but I’m going to discuss a strategy that I used in my classroom that worked very well for me. However, I have to give you a disclaimer: I’ve also seen this strategy totally flop when it’s used the wrong way.
As a rule of thumb, if many students in a teacher’s class are misbehaving, it may not be a student problem. It may be a problem with the management and the discipline of the students.
However, even the best teachers must teach on Halloween, with a full moon during sixth block on Friday. (I had an observation on Halloween one time!)
So, when your students are getting rambunctious, and are not listening and following directions well enough, despite your air-tight procedures, you need a back up plan. You can call it Plan B.
At the beginning of the year, I explain to my students that each week, I write two sets of lesson plans. Plan A is my first choice. I explain that I like it when they collaborate, challenge on another, and think deeply. This is Plan A.
However, I also explain what my junior high English Language Arts class was like. We sat in rows, facing the teacher who lectured the entire time. We were expected to write and take tests silently. I remind them that I still learned in that manner. This is Plan B. (In my class, Plan B consisted of pulling out the textbook and working on the same skill, but using the textbook. Students sat without talking or moving around the room. They didn’t really even talk to me. It was completely silent.)
I discuss that, although my preference is not to teach in that manner, we can always do Plan B if they can’t handle Plan A.
A couple of norms for Plan A/Plan B:
The last year that I taught, I think I used Plan B only once. If you content is relevant and rigorous, the students will be engaged. They wanted to talk about literature and life. They wanted to write and debate. They wanted to create videos. So if they got close to Plan B, they quickly straightened up.
If they are engaged, then Plan B is something they absolutely do not want. If they are never engaged in your classroom, Plan B is not going to work.
I had one class period that had 31 students and the majority of them were football players. That was a fun year. It really was. But on game days, they were hyped! I would try to do discussions, and they were constantly getting off topic. When I gave them the signal to listen to instructions as they were working in groups, they did not listen. In my class, the first time they did not get quiet 5 seconds after the signal, it was automatic Plan B. Sounds harsh, but my kids always got silent as soon as they heard the signal. Well, that year during football season, they quickly found that they liked learning using my original lesson plan for the week--Plan A. It was not a problem the rest of the year.
Ironically, this was the class in which I was observed on Halloween--third block. I remember going to their PE class that morning (second block) and giving those big football players a pep talk about leadership. It’s funny what you’ll do when you know you are getting observed! ha!
Susan Dewees, Ed.D. is an administrator at a large middle school. She also served as a Turnaround Team Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has 20 years of experience in public school education, and special education is one of her specialties.
Erin Stokes, Ed.D. is a Title I Instructional Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has over 10 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. She is also an adjuct professor at Louisiana College. She loves students, teachers, and most of all--learning.
Becky Pippen, Ed.D. is currently serving as principal of a large middle school in Louisiana. She has over 20 years experience in educational leadership. She is passionate about improving the teacher workforce so that all students have the quality of instruction they deserve.