Assertive Discipline in the Classroom- Blog

Assertive Discipline in the Classroom

Author: Mrs. B Short

Teaching School Development Practitioner

Department of Childhood Education

Faculty of Education

University of Johannesburg

No matter how well planned your lesson is, how beautiful your teaching aids are or how lovely your classroom looks, if the learners in your class are not well disciplined you will not be able to teach. Classroom discipline is the most important skill for a teacher to learn.

To make it a little easier, here are some tips for disciplining learners effectively:

Lead by example

Keep in mind that children learn from your example so set a good example! Make sure your desk is neat and tidy if that is what you are expecting from the learners in front of you. Ensure that you are on time. Dress like a professional. Be well prepared. Speak to children how you would like to be spoken to! Children learn by watching the adults around them, not by listening to the words that they are saying.

Establish routines

Children flourish in environments where there is stability and predictability. As a result they manage well when teachers set up routines. Routines also help teachers to become more consistent! Something that many people are not good at. Routines are mini sets of instructions (usually about four instructions). Routines help to contribute to a disciplined environment.


  1. Line up in two rows
  2. Lead in one row at a time
  3. Stand behind your chair
  4. Greet and be seated

Watch your tone of voice

In a classroom your voice is an incredibly powerful tool. Use your voice effectively. It’s interesting to note that men are often better disciplinarians than women. Men do two things differently, firstly men say less. On average women say 10 000 words a day, men say 2000. When disciplining a child a women will say, “stop talk, you are disturbing the children around you and you are disturbing me, if you disturb all of us, we will not finish the curriculum…” A man in that situation would say, “Stop it!” Men also use a deep voice, women unfortunately often make a sound that it irritating to the human ear and the ear shuts down.

Use “The Look”

Establish a “look” which sends a very clear message to a learner who is not doing what they should be. It is important to note that a “look” will appeal to a child subconsciously and it will mean that you will be able to discipline without disrupting the flow of your lesson. However your “look” should not say, “I hate you, I wish you were dead.” This is not that kind of look.

Talk to learners individually

Ask challenging learners to meet you at the door. Have a one on one conversation with them. In front of their peers learners are much bolder and cockier! Alone at the door you will see a different side of this learner. Disciplining learners in front of their peers also often leads to audience participation where everyone joins the conversation which may be detrimental to managing the situation and often wastes precious teaching time.

 Be positive

Remember that as a teacher you determine the energy in a learning environment. And some of the things that you say to learners will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Use lots of positive reinforcement in your classroom. Let learners know which behaviours you like to see. Interestingly enough most of your class are already doing the right thing-acknowledge them for it.

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