Saturday, November 08, 2014

Teaching tip 65. Keeping discipline in your Children's class.

T.T. 65. Keeping discipline in your children’s class.


As every teacher will tell you, it is important to maintain discipline in your children’s class.  Without proper discipline, you will not only get frustrated, but the children won’t learn very much – even those who wish to learn will be distracted by those who don’t.


I discovered many years ago that the best way to maintain discipline was to endeavour to make all my lessons fun and exciting. I wrote an article on this, which I will reproduce below. There are, however, a few children who will still tend to misbehave, no matter how exciting your lesson is. What can we do in this situation?


Unfortunately, children’s teachers are now very much restricted in their discipline options. Even removing a child from your class is now no longer an option in most schools or churches. There are, however, still a number of discipline options we can try out. I have found that one method may work for one group but not for another and vice versa. All methods are based on either the “carrot” or the “stick” approach.


The “Stick” approach.


1. Time out. The familiar “time out” is still a popular method. Most children don’t like being excluded from the rest of the group, so you could ask the unruly child to go and sit in a remote part of the room or, if the children are gathered on the floor, to go and sit at their desk.


A quite effective variation of this method is to ask the unruly child to stand up and remain standing until you ask them to sit down again. The main drawback of this is that some children seem incapable of standing for more than 1 or 2 minutes and will sit down again. In extreme cases a child may refuse to stand up in the first place, and this of course will only cause more problems – Get to know your children.


2. A rebuke. Sometimes a word of rebuke is all that is needed to get a child to improve their behaviour. However, be very carful of how you rebuke a normally well behaved child. They won’t be used to getting told off, so even a mild rebuke may easily upset them. On the other hand some children won’t respond to a rebuke no matter how severe or how often you do it.


3. Exclusion. Most children love to be involved in class activities, for example being chosen to pray, read the Bible, be part of a skit a puppet play, or other special activity. Inform the unruly child that they weren’t considered for this because of their unacceptable behaviour.


4. An unpopular activity. This is a method I have recently started to use with spectacularly good results. If the majority of the class are misbehaved, the following lesson I give them an unpopular activity for the whole of the session, making it clear that I am doing this because of their previous unacceptable behaviour. You could even divide your class, giving the “unpopular” activity only to those who misbehaved, and having a “normal” lesson for those who didn’t.


In my case, I choose the “unpopular” activity to be work (activity) sheets. Most children enjoy working on these – but not for the whole lesson! I have subsequently found that even the mere threat of an unpopular activity has so far been enough to maintain good discipline.


The “Carrot” approach.


Rewards. I am always reluctant to give rewards as a method of improving discipline, but nevertheless it can be quite effective.


1. Tell the children that you will choose the “best behaved” to participate in any special activity.


2. Take along two or three attractive prizes to give out to the “best behaved” at the end of your lesson. I usually use balloon models as they are very popular and relatively inexpensive. Note. Most schools now discourage the giving out of lollies (sweets / candy) to the children.


You may find, however, that even the promise of a reward will not be enough to tempt some children to improve their behaviour. Experience has shown them that they are incapable of being amongst the best behaved, so they don’t bother trying. In this case, you could promise the prizes to the “most improved” rather than the “best”.


As a variation, I sometimes take to the class a larger number of prizes (say five or six) I place them on my left and explain that I will be giving them to the “most deserved” children at the lesson conclusion – as long as there are still any prizes remaining on my left. Explain that if any child misbehaves, I will take one of the prizes and place it on my right.  Explain that all prizes remaining on my left will be given away. Those on my right will be taken home with me.


Even if there is an improvement in discipline as the children see their potential prize pile being reduced, or if they plead with you to still give all the prizes away, don’t be tempted to do so. It is important for the children to understand that you will always keep your promises, whether “good” or “bad”.




Overcoming discipline problems by making your lessons fun and exciting.


( First published on my Teaching tip blog ).

There has been much written about how best to discipline 'problem' classes. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on the subject, but I would like to share my own experience in the hope that it will be a help to you.

When I first started teaching Bible classes, I had my share of discipline problems, especially from the older boys. I soon realised, however, that many children were causing trouble simply because they were bored with my lessons!

I therefore determined to make my lessons more fun and exciting. I believe that this is something we must all do, otherwise many of the children - even if they don't actually misbehave - will simply "turn off." Fortunately, there are many ways we can do this. Here are a few suggestions.

Tell familiar stories from unusual angles, to keep the children guessing. e.g. The Good Samaritan from the point of view of the donkey, Daniel, from a lion's viewpoint, Jonah, as seen by the large fish, David and Goliath from the Giant's perspective. (Don't mention the Giant's name till the end - to keep your class wondering!). etc etc.

If your class is well behaved, use skits involving the children - most Bible stories can be adapted to be told in this way. If your class cannot be trusted to do this properly, use puppet skits. I record the skit beforehand, and get children to operate the puppets. Check out for an extensive array of skits.

Use ventriloquism. You don't need a special dummy. A hand puppet will do. And you don't have to be expert. If you use good material, the children will love it, and won't mind if they see your mouth moving a little.

Teach memory verses in lots of different ways. The number is only limited by your own imagination.

Review your teaching with quizzes. Noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) is a popular way to do this.

Dress up as a Bible character, and tell his/her story with a monologue. Nebuchadnezzar, telling about the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and the cripple who was brought to Jesus by his four friends, have worked well for me.

Use lots of object lessons to illustrate your teaching points. Better still, use illusions, which are essentially object lessons with "special effects." Many illusions are very easy to do, but will still baffle your class. Two excellent sources of illusions are and (which also has an excellent range of ventriloquism skits). Also, many illusions, especially those involving paper cutting or ropes, cost nothing to do.

Result ? I can now say that I rarely have any discipline problems. I don't think this is because my present classes have generally better behaved children in them, but rather because I am now better able to keep their attention.

I am not saying that we should abandon our programs so as to keep the children entertained, but if they are not happy, they won't learn much anyway and will be put off the church in later years. We can still teach our programs, but we should all be continually searching for more interesting and exciting ways to do it. We owe this both to our children and to the Lord.