Assertive Discipline in Practice
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Assertive Discipline (AD) is a behavior management system that emphasizes positive reinforcement as the key to students making appropriate choices regarding classroom behavior. It places emphasis on “catching students being good” and then providing appropriate feedback and reinforcement. AD is often effective when a more structured class is needed (e.g., with a novice teacher). (Desiderio 383)

To obtain a structured environment, an AD behavior management plan must be designed. This AD plans includes: Rules, Discipline Plan, Reward System (individual and class-wide), and Class Procedures.

In implementing AD, a classroom discipline plan must be developed. This plan should consist of three parts:
1 – Rules that student must follow at all times;
2 – Supportive feedback that students will receive consistently for following the rules;
3 – Corrective actions that you will use consistently when students choose not to follow the rules.
(Canter, "Assertive Discipline 23)

In practice, the following steps should be considered:
1 – Implement discipline plan and procedures;
2 – Discuss plan with principal;
3 – Teach the discipline plan and procedures to students;
4 – Post plan for all students to see;
5 – Send the plan home with students so parents know what is expected of their children.

The behavioral plan must include a lesson presented to students to teach them the plan, as well as a regular review of the procedures. In addition, AD must be use consistently in order to be effective. Critical to its success is reminding students of the directions for the lesson and positive reinforcement (e.g., offer praise to those students who follow directions).

As a whole, the classroom management plan helps make discipline efforts more consistent, as well as increasing the probability of getting parent and administrator support. Planning out how you will provide positive support to students is critical to the success of your classroom management plan. Students need limits that can be provided by your corrective actions. Difficult behavior with the classroom can be reduced by engaging all students in the lesson and building positive relationships with the students.

Canter advocates the Behavior Management Cycle ("Assertive Discipline" 58); a strategy to teach students to follow your directions, get on task, and stay on task. The steps of the Behavior Management Cycle are as follows:
Step 1: Clearly Communicate explicit directions you expect the students to follow.
Step 2: Utilize behavioral narration to support students who are following your directions.
Step 3: Take corrective action with students who are still not complying with the directions.

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Sample Discipline Plan for Elementary Students:

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1. Classroom Rules
  • Follow directions.
  • Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.
  • No teasing or name-calling.

2. Supportive Feedback
  • Verbal recognition.
  • Individual rewards such as the following:
    • Positive notes sent home to parents
    • Positive phone calls to parents
    • Positive notes to students
  • Classroom privileges.
  • Classwide reward.

3. Corrective Actions
  • First time a student breaks a rule: Reminder.
  • Second time: Five minutes away from group.
  • Third time: Ten minutes away from group.
  • Fourth time: Teacher calls parents with student; student completes behavior journal.
  • Fifth time: Send to principal.
  • Severe disruption: Send to principal.

(Canter & Canter 23-24)

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