Classroom consequences are the incentives and disincentives, rewards and punishments, put in in place by teachers in order to manage their classrooms and shape student behaviors.
The consequences you choose should be proportionate to the behavior, respectful of the student’s rights and needs, and consistent with the cultural norms and school rules.
Furthermore, be conscious of the possible reasons behind a student’s behavior, such as stress or difficulty in their home life, which may help you approach the situation with more contextual understanding and empathy.
Below are examples of classroom consequences that are utilized by teachers across grade ranges – from preschool all the way up to university level.
Negative Classroom Consequences
- Verbal Warning: To avoid escalation and disproportionality, the first consequence of a small misdemeanor is often a simple reminder of classroom expectations.
- Reflection Time: Another key strategy is to ask a student who is misbehaving to take time to think about their actions, sometimes in a designated “thinking” or “reflection” spot.
- Loss of Privileges: A student who misbehaves might lose their free time, computer time, or other activities that are considered fun, but are not compulsory curriculum content.
- Note Home: For continual misbehavior, a note home or a phone call to the parents informing them about the student’s behavior is often a step up on the ladder of consequences.
- Detention: This refers to having the student sit in a designated spot before or after school or during a break, representing a loss of time freedom.
- Apology: A student might be required to apologize verbally or in writing for their behavior. A downside of this is that a forced apology may not be genuine.
- Behavior Contract: Many schools create behavior contracts for misbehaving students, which are formal written agreements between the student and teacher detailing expected behaviors and consequences.
- Seat Change: Moving the student’s seat to a new location, such as right in front of the teacher or away from chatty friends, may minimize distractions and act as an avoidance condition to prevent negative behaviors.
- Restitution: This mode, based upon restorative justice theory, asks the student to make amends for what they’ve done, e.g., cleaning up a mess they’ve made.
- Time Out: Time out refers to a simple short break away from the activity or group, allowing the student to regain composure and reflect on their behavior.
- Peer Mediation: Enlisting peers to help resolve conflicts can be surprisingly effective.
- Parent-Teacher-Student Conference: A meeting with the student, teacher, and potentially other staff or administrators to discuss behavior, can ensure the student knows everyone has shared goals and expectations.
- Behavior Reflection Sheet: Having the student fill out a form that prompts them to reflect on their actions and ways to improve can help them to work on their self-reflection skills.
- Loss of Points: Reducing points from a behavior chart or classroom management system can be effective for competitive or motivated students. This is related to the token economy behavior management strategy.
- Classroom Service: A student may face the consequence of ‘community service’ if they misbehave. In the classroom context, this would involve assigning tasks like cleaning or organizing to the student.
- Guided Problem-Solving: Working with the student to find solutions to recurring behavior problems, empowering them to come up with their own solutions.
- Isolation: Temporarily isolating the student from their peers is a negative consequence, though this should be done with care and within institutional norms, such as ‘5 minute time-out’.
- Behavior Journal: In this approach for repeat offenders, the student maintains a daily or weekly log, reflecting on their behavior.
- Mentorship: This involves pairing the student with a positive role model, such as a student from an older grade, so they can observe modeled prosocial behaviors.
- Loss of Participation: The student is not allowed to participate in a specific activity or event, such as not being allowed to attend the school dance.
- Restorative Justice: This involves engaging the student in a process where they understand the impact of their behavior and take steps to mend the harm, such as by apologizing and working with the victim to support them.
- Check-In/Check-Out: The student checks in with a designated adult at the beginning and end of each session or day to review behavior goals until they have developed the self-regulation skills to have less supervision.
- Referral: This involves sending the student to the principal’s office or another higher authority, which may be seen by the students as a sign of the seriousness of the situation.
- Counseling: Referring the student to a counselor or therapist to address underlying issues is a useful way to address behavior holistically rather than punitively.
- Suspension: This involves removing the student from the school environment for a specified period. It is a step below expulsion, discussed below.
- Expulsion: The final step is to remove the child from the school altogether, which is easier in private or elective schools than state or public schools.
- Cool-down Walk: Sometimes, asking the student to take a short walk to cool down is enough to help them handle their emotions.
- Redirection: Great for preventing conflict, this method involves distracting the student with another task or activity to shift their focus from the antisocial behaviors.
- Silent Lunch: The student is required to sit silently or away from peers during lunchtime.
- Quiet Time: Similarly, students may have to spend 5 minutes without speaking to one another if they have been speaking too loudly and were unable to regulate their voices.
- Daily Behavior Report Card: Track the student’s behavior daily and share it with parents or guardians.
- Social Skills Training: Teach students the necessary social skills they may be lacking, which can be either a consequence or, ideally, a proactive strategy.
- Practice Correct Behavior: Have the student demonstrate the correct behavior or procedure to show that they know the right way to do it. A common example of this is asking a student to go back out the door and walk in quietly and politely.
- Alternative Assignment: Give the student a different assignment or task to the one they were doing. This is most effective if the original task was a privilege that they didn’t necessarily have to get.
- Limited Choices: Offer two acceptable choices for the student to choose from, e.g., “You can sit down quietly or work outside.”
- Behavior Buddy: Pair the student with a classmate who can serve as a positive influence. This may unfortunately feel like a punishment for the well-behaved student.
- Behavior Chart: A consequence of regular misbehavior is to introduce a visual representation of the student’s behavior throughout the day or week, on which they may have to personally enter their behavior.
- Natural Consequences: Let the student experience the natural result of their actions, as long as it’s safe.
- Exclusion from Extracurricular Activities: Temporary removal from clubs, sports, or other non-academic activities.
- Behavior Binder: A binder where behavior incidents are recorded, tracked, and reflected upon.
- Feedback Loop: Regularly review behavior with the student, discussing what’s working and what isn’t.
- School Cleanup: Should a student behave inappropriately, it may be required for the student to assist in the daily tasks necessary to maintain a clean and organized classroom setting (e.g., sweeping the floor, dusting the desk).
- Behavior Tickets: If the behavior system in the classroom operates on earning points or ‘tickets’ for good behavior, one original consequence could be losing a ticket for negative behavior.
- Prohibited from Positions of Leadership: Any past entitlements to positions of leadership, such as being a line leader or group captain, could be revoked.
- Incentive Removal: Any incentives that have been previously earned could be consequently removed based on unacceptable behavior.
- Reschedule Recreational Activity: Recreational activities scheduled for later in the day, such as playtime, may be rescheduled to a separate time to denote the seriousness of the misconduct.
- Behavior Talk: The teacher may hold a one-on-one discussion with the student about their behavior, aiming to guide them towards improvement.
- Social Expectation Activity: As a result of unfavorable behavior, a student might be required to participate in an activity specially assigned to learn and understand the expectations in social situations (for instance, appropriate sitting).
- Behavioral Contract Revision: Earlier, I suggested using a behavioral contract. But if a behavioral contract is already in place, breaking of rules might lead to a revision of the contract with possible stricter conditions.
- Conference with School Counselor: The student might need to have a meeting with the school guidance counselor to discuss their behavior and possible improvement strategies.
- Writing an Essay: A common form of disciplinary action is to have the student write an essay about their behavior. The student might also be asked to write an action plan, stating how they will modify their behavior in the future.
- Sign-in Sheet: This consequence involves the student signing in at the start of the day to confirm their commitment to carrying out positive behavior throughout the school day.
- Pause on Field Trips: Temporary pauses on attending fun, non-academic school activities such as field trips due to misconduct will act as a disciplinary measure.
- Calendar of Consequences: A visual calendar showing the correlation between specific behavior and its consequence is maintained to serve as a clear reminder of the repercussions of negative actions.
- Behavioral Rewards System Revision: The existing rewards system for the student might be revised to a harsher one, in which rewards are harder to earn, provoking more effort toward appropriate behavior.
Positive Classroom Consequences
Based on my full piece: Positive Consequences Examples
- Praise: Complimenting the student when they display good behavior and follow classroom rules can boost their self-esteem and encourage reoccurrence.
- Classroom Jobs: Rewarding good behavior with classroom responsibilities, such as handling classroom pets or being a line leader, can add a sense of purpose and pride.
- Extra Credit: Students who consistently behave well could earn points towards their grade or bonus resources for assignments.
- Good Note Home: Sending a positive note home letting parents know about the child’s good behavior can create a supportive environment and incentive for ongoing behavior.
- Choice of Activity: Granting a student the privilege of selecting a class activity or project encourages good behavior.
- Free Time: Offering a short break from structured academic work where students can engage in an approved activity of their choice is an effective positive consequence.
- Recognition: Displaying student’s work, or recognizing them in front of peers, as a result of excellent behavior.
- Interactive Games: Reward students with extra time to play academic games that also act as learning tools.
- Points System: A point system where students earn points for good behavior (similar to a token economy system) can create a sense of accomplishment as well as competition.
- Progress Sharing: Regularly update students about their improvement which can motivate them to continue behaving well.
- Positive Peer Partnerships: The opportunity to pair or group with friends during a project can act as an incentive for desired behavior.
- Special Privileges: Use of different or interesting materials or equipment not usually offered to the whole class can be a reward for consistent good behavior.
See Also: Whole Class Rewards Examples
- Stickers and Badges: Younger students especially enjoy stickers, badges, or small physical tokens in recognition of good behavior.
- Reward Store: Implement a class store where students can redeem behavior points for tangible items or special privileges.
- Leader for the Day: Letting a student serve as the class commander or leader for the day can act as a significant motivator.
- Extra Computer Time: Granting a student additional time on the computer or other technologies can encourage them to keep up their good behavior.
- Performance Privileges: Offering well-behaved students the opportunity to perform a special task or role in a school function, such as being an MC at an assembly.
- Positive Call Home: A phone call to parents or guardians to share constructive behaviors can create a happy home situation and a desire to continue the behavior.
- Book Choice: Giving the student first choice of reading material or the chance to choose a class storybook as a reward.
- Theme Day: A well-behaved class might earn a special day where they can dress up or bring something special in line with a chosen theme.
Consequences for Younger Children
- Shortened Playtime: A reduction in their playtime by a few minutes can serve as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior.
- Toy Timeout: A favorite toy can be temporarily taken away to convey the message that their behavior was not appropriate.
- Structured Play: Instead of free play, the child is given a specific, less preferred activity to engage in.
- Visual Warning: Using a visual warning system, like a traffic light card (red, yellow, green), to show when behavior is starting to be a concern.
- Verbal Reminder: A gentle reminder that details what the child did and what behavior is expected.
- Brief Seclusion: A few minutes away from the group to help the child understand that their behavior was not suitable for the ongoing activity.
- Loss of Special Privilege: If a child is used to a particular privilege, such as being the first in line, that can be temporarily revoked.
- Story About Behavior: Reading or telling a story that illustrates the undesirable behavior, making the child understand the consequences without directly pointing at them.
- Reflection Drawing: Younger children may not be able to write about their feelings, but they can draw a picture to show how they feel about what they did.
- Special Stickers: Younger children often love collecting stickers, especially if they are vibrant and unique.
- Extra Storytime: Offering an additional short story during reading time as a reward.
- Show and Tell Opportunity: Letting them bring something special from home and share it with the class.
- Special Helper Role: Assigning them as a teacher’s helper for a specific task or activity.
- Choice of Song: Allow them to select a song for the class to sing or listen to.
- Fun Hat or Crown: Providing them with a special hat or crown that signifies they displayed good behavior that day.
- Praise in Front of the Class: Recognizing their good behavior in front of their peers can be very motivating.
- Personalized Positive Note: A handwritten note praising their good behavior, which they can show to their parents.
- Special Coloring Page: Giving them a unique coloring page not available to others as a reward for their behavior.
- Token for Treasure Box: Providing them with a token which they can later exchange for a small toy or treat from a “treasure box.”
Consequences for Older Students
- Loss of Technology Privileges: Older students often value their access to technology, such as tablets or computers. Removing these privileges for a period can be an effective consequence for misbehavior.
- Group Project Exclusion: Depending on the offense, students might be excluded from working in groups and given individual assignments instead.
- Grade Deduction: For academic misconducts like plagiarism or cheating, the consequence may be a reduction in grades.
- Restricted Access: Older students might be restricted from certain areas of the school like the computer lab, library, or a recreational facility as a consequence of specific misdeeds.
- Extracurricular Suspension: Temporary removal from participation in extracurricular activities like sports, drama, or clubs can be implemented.
- Essay Assignments: Depending on the misconduct, students may be required to research and write an essay on topics like respect, responsibility, or the implications of their actions.
- Parking Privileges Revoked: For schools where older students drive, the removal of parking privileges can be a significant consequence.
In the behaviorist theory of education, we split consequences into a range of categories, including, mainly, positive reinforcement (a positive consequence for a good action to incentivize its repetition) and negative reinforcement (a negative consequence for an action that is to be discouraged). If you want to learn more about the theory behind reinforcement, start with my article on behaviorism in education.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]