Discipline with a Twist

Every teacher wants to be able to discipline without feeling bad about it. That’s why you need discipline with a twist.

Each year as a teacher, you have that group of students that get under your skin no matter what discipline or relationship-building technique you try.

I definitely had those students that got to me. On those days I would go home worn out and exhausted, not only from a regular day of teaching, but additionally from basically breaking down in front of my class because of sometimes a single student. Thankfully, this didn’t happen very often because of techniques I learned and applied right when I started teaching.

Every teacher wants those “perfect” students. We live in the real world, though, so those students rarely exist. Students may misbehave by yelling, throwing things, or name-calling. In a less dramatic way, students might just refuse to work.

The strategies I used, although not perfect, worked almost every time to calm a child down and get them to work. My inspiration for these strategies comes from “‘Words Will NEVER Hurt Me’ Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying, and Putdowns” written and illustrated by Sally Northway Ogden.

These strategies help to build a relationship and break down the wall between teacher and student. I had a choice during my first year teaching when one of my students would refuse to do their work. I could take “control” and try to force them to work by yelling, threatening to send the child to the office, or threatening to call home. In the back of my mind I would often think, Do these kids realize I really have no power to MAKE them do anything?

Instead, after reading the guide by Ogden, I would quietly walk up to said disruptive student and whisper in their ear, “The birds on the roof coughed quietly with the purple cow.” When a student was either disrupting the class or refusing to work, I would think of another statement (often including animals), walk over, and whisper the statement. After quietly reciting a few words with the child, I would simply walk away.

Some examples of statements to use are:

  • The bee sipped on tea in the office
  • The cat saw a red spoon and ate it
  • The green frog laughed at the clown beneath him.

After practicing this technique, I quickly realized how immediate students responded. When my students were thinking about how crazy I was, they often got back to work quicker than if I had threatened them in a different way.

Eventually, for me, it became a little game. What crazy sentence can I come up with today?

In my seven years of teaching, I probably used this “out-crazy the crazies” technique that Odgen discusses, hundreds of times. The funny thing is I never got a verbal response from a student. No “huh” or “what did you say”. And every single time I used this strategy, I felt empowered, had fun, and disciplined without demands or threats.


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All the Best,


2 thoughts on “Discipline with a Twist

  1. This is a great idea! I’m going to take a look at that book. Whether the children realized it or not, they were lucky to have a teacher who met them where they’re at instead of trying to control them (which, in my experience doesn’t usually work very well). It’s hard being a kid these days!

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