Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

08.22.14On Giving a Consequence with Humanity (Video)

At a recent workshop, I asked participants: “How many people in the room have given a consequence and had it make the behavior you were trying to stop get worse?”

Then I asked: “How many people in the room have given a consequence and had it have no effect on the behavior you were trying to stop?”

Then I asked: “How many people in the room have given a consequence and had it have prove effective in eliminating a counter-productive behavior?”

Then I asked: “How many people in the room have given a consequence and over time had seen their use of consequence help a student eliminate a persistent counter-productive behavior?”

In all four cases the answer was an overwhelming yes- pretty much every hand in the room.  In other words, we’ve all experienced a consequence making things worse, having no effect, making things better, and teaching students to self-manage.

Consequences can go well and they can go poorly.  And obviously it would be a lot better if we managed to get more ‘well’ and less ‘poorly’ out of them. Reflecting on that is one reason that the new version of the book, Teach Like a Champion 2.0 includes the new technique “Art of the Consequence”- it’s devoted to studying what teachers do to give consequences effectively.  It covers a lot of the sorts of things Rochester Prep kindergarten teacher Brittany Rumph does in this clip

Unfortunately it reached us too late to make the book, but we’re excited to share it here because it’s so quick, simple, and useful.

The video is shot during Brittany’s guided reading lesson. The student in the foreground is struggling. He’s been off task and unable to pay attention and Brittany has already corrected him a couple of times without avail. So Brittany gives him a consequence to help him attend more to the need to lock in during class.

Brittany Rumph’s Consequence with Humanity

What’s useful here?

1) It’s a small consequence–A check is 1/3 of a “color change” and this let’s the student learn the lesson at a manageable cost. (A color change is a big deal to a kid.)  Addressing a small behavior early is better than letting it get big and needing a bigger consequence–and risking getting angry.

2) Brittany is emotionally constant–She’s anger free.  This means a consequence in her class is focused on “you can do it better” more than “I am mad at you.” Inserting her own emotions would only distract her student from thinking about his behavior by causing him to think about other things (e.g. Why is she mad at me?)

3) It’s quiet. Brittany drops into a stage whisper to give the student a “check”–this intimates that she’s not trying to shame or embarrass him by making the consequence public.  She’s trying to be as private as she can while getting him back on task. Important to show you care about kids’ feelings even when you must give a consequence.

4) Confirmation glance.  1. Consequence. 2. Look away (I know you’ll fix it) 3. Glance back to check.

5) Bright face. When Brittany looks back after the consequence she smiles. This says: Still love ya, kid. Just need you on task. And it says: I’m calm and not rattled.

6) Specificity/Economy of language: No lecture. Just a description of the solution: “Eyes” and a point to the speaker to remind him to track.

Giving a consequence like Brittany doesn’t guarantee that consequences won’t ever blow up on you, but it’s lovely execution of one of the toughest parts of teaching and provides a road map for how to do it with care and humanity. And doing THAT will serve you and your students well.

Thanks, Brittany.

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