Classroom Discipline

Assertive Discipline

Discipline Directory

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As mentioned on the previous page, Assertive Discipline was created by Lee Canter. Canter believes that if you "catch" a student being good by recognizing them when they behave, they will work harder at behaving. He also believes that there should be consistent consequences of breaking the rules that are very clear.

In a nutshell, the teacher comes up with no more than five rules for the classroom. It is more difficult for students to remember the rules if more than five are presented. Each time a rule is broken, a consequence is given. If the misbehavior continues, the consequences get more severe every time. At the same time, students are rewarded for behaving properly. This can range from a field trip, pizza party, and a snack.

The teacher should come up with no more than five rules that are easily understood and presented in a positive light. For example, instead of "Students will not get out of their seats," you would write, "Students will remain seated." Students need to know what to do, not just what NOT to do. A "catch-all" rule should be added such as "Follow directions the first time."

Name with checkmarks Next you create a consequence every time a student breaks a rule. Every time the rule is broken, an increasingly severe consequence is added. Unless the behavior is severe, usually the first time a rule is broken, the student will be given a verbal warning. Next, the student's name is written on the board without fanfare. After this, a check is put by the name of the student and the student begins to exprience punishment for their misbehavior. This could range from a time-out, loosing priviledges, detention in your classroom after school, an extra assignment, etc.

assertive discipline


The punishment is much more effective if it relates directly to the behavior. For example, if a student pulls out all the paper towels on the floor in the restroom, then a good punishment would be to clean the restroom and mop the floor. If a student won't sit down when you ask them to, give them a choice. "Tim, you have a choice. You can either sit down now or sit with me after school for an hour today." You then follow through by calling the parents to tell them their child will be coming home an hour late. If the parent blames you for the problem or gives excuses why he can't stay after school that day, give them a choice too. "Tim can either stay after school today for an hour or he can spend two hours for me on ____." If they argue with that, explain to them that the punishment is much more effective when given soon after the misbehavior.

Just as important, you also have a system to reward the students. They can earn a ticket every day a name is not written on the board, or if the class is quite difficult, any time a second or third check by a name is given. Sometimes you can give instant rewards. My great-grandfather was the only professor in Indiana University history to be awarded the Brown Derby award two years in a row as the most popular professor on campus. If he really liked the answer a student gave him, he'd throw them a candy bar- and this was at the college level.

Finally, it is important not to embarrass or shame a student. Descretely talk with a student about an incident. Don't bring them any attention in front of the other students because sometimes that is a reward to them for misbehaving. They may not get any attention at home and bad attention is better than no attention. You may need to teach students how to behave. They can role play or some other activity that reinforces positive behavior. Knowing the reasons for positive behavior is also helpful.


In summary, students should be taught how to follow directions, they need positive repetition to reinforce good behavior, and negative consequences should be given after the first two don't work.

Discipline Directory

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Lee Canter's Books

Assertive Discipline: Positive Behavior Management for Today's Classroom (Building Relationships with Difficult Students) - Outlines a three-step approach for positive behavior management by creating a classroom discipline plan that includes: rules that students must follow at all times; positive support that students will receive consistently for following the rules; and corrective actions that the teacher will use consistently when students choose not to follow the rules.


Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline: Teacher's Plan Book Plus 2 (Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline Workbooks) - Additional behavior-management ideas and advanced techniques to further empower you and your students to maintain a positive classroom climate.


Teaching Students to Get Along: Reducing Conflict and Increasing Cooperation in K-6 Classrooms - Your classroom should be a safe and comfortable environment where you and your students share common values and enjoy a sense of community. This book teaches you how to develop lifelong skills in your students for getting along with others, managing anger, respecting diversity and building friendships. Includes strategies, lesson plans, tips, activities and reproducibles.


Assertive Discipline: More Than Names on the Board and Marbles in a Jar - [Archive] A nice article by Lee Canter.
Assertive Discipline Information- A page on this method by Dr. Bob Kizlik
Assertive Discipline- [Archive] A summary by the Telematic European Learning Materials for Inclusive Education.
Assertive Discipline- By Tom McIntyre, a former teacher of students with behavior disorders and learning disabilities.
Central Middle School's Assertive Discipline Plan [Archive] - View this page to see a sample of punishments.
The Teacher's Role in the Application of an Assertive Discipline Program for Students- an article by School Psychology International.