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December 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Extrinsic Motivation In My Classroom

I’m a big advocate of intrinsic motivation in classroom management and a big opponent of the extrinsic kind, but I’ve always said in this blog and in my books that extrinsic motivation does have a place in the real world of our classrooms. The key is that it has to be kept in its place, too.

Often, part of keeping it in its place is being strategic about how it’s introduced and having an “exit plan” to get away from it.

Here’s an example of how I’m using the extrinsic kind of motivation in my classroom these days.

“John” is a great kid and wants to do the “right” thing, and he’s easily distracted. His distraction can be quite disruptive in class. I had tried just about every intrinsic tool in my tool box (see My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students), and nothing had worked.

One day awhile back, I pulled him out of one of his classes during my free period to chat. We discussed how easily he was distracted by others and, how other students knew they could easily get a reaction from him. It turned into a very productive conversation about “Why Do You Let Others Control You?”

From the very beginnings of our conversations about the issue earlier in the year, he’s been clear that he wanted to change, but nothing had worked. However, this “take” on being controlled by others seemed to really hit a chord, and he seemed particularly motivated to turn things around that day.

I proposed that we put a “post-it” on his desk each day, and that every time he didn’t react to someone trying to provoke him he would put a mark on it. He would receive ten extra credit points for each mark. It would be an honor system — I wouldn’t ask him what he did to “earn” each mark. He would turn it in at the end of each class and receive his extra credit. We discussed, though, how this wasn’t going to be a long term solution. Instead, it would a “bridge” to help him develop his self-control and to become more aware of his actions and, if it worked well, in a few weeks we’d stop it.

He was very enthusiastic.

The experiment has been going on for a couple of weeks, and has been remarkably successful so far. Even though he is not required to tell me what he’s done to “earn” his extra credit points, he pulls me over one-to-four times during each class period to quickly tell me about what provocations he’s recently resisted. His classroom behavior, though not perfect, is now more like that of a typical ninth-grade student. When he regresses, I just say his name and tap his desk or do one or the other, and he immediately says something like “Oh yeah” and stops the targeted behavior. I periodically ask him how he’s feeling about how he’s been handling himself, and it’s clear that he’s proud of his change.

My plan is to continue the experiment for a couple of more weeks, and then initiate a discussion with him about moving off the point system. My hope is, that like other times when I’ve used extrinsic motivators for classroom management, he’ll welcome that recognition that he’s become a more mature young man in control of his emotions and surroundings.

We’ll see. I’ll keep readers posted.

And, of course, I’m always eager to hear reactions and suggestions on how I can more effectively handle this situation.

I’m adding this post, perhaps prematurely, to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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October 30, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Oh, I Get It! If You Send Me Out, Then I’m Being Bad; If I Send Me Out, Then I’m Being Good!”

I write about positive classroom management strategies a lot (see The Best Posts On Classroom Management) and I’m always learning through everyday challenges.

One student this year is a great kid who is very energetic and can get distracted and somewhat disruptive at times. We’ve talked and experimented a lot, and have found that when he reaches that point, his going outside — to get a drink, got the restroom, or just walk for a minute or two — helps him get some energy out of his system and then is focused when he returns.

Now, we’re at the point where I’d like him to develop more of his own self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control) so that he doesn’t wait for me to send him out. Instead, he begins to see the warning signs and goes out on his own (after giving me a subtle sign that he’s headed out).

Yesterday, we started talking about it at lunchtime and, after a few seconds, an excited look of understanding came on his face and exclaimed, “Oh, I get it! If you send me out, then I’m being bad; if I send me out, then I’m being good!”

We spoke a little more about how it’s a little more nuanced than good/bad, but that basically, yes, he got it. During class a half-hour later, he was beginning to get distracted and pointed outside. I nodded, he went out, returned a minute later, and was great the rest of the class.

One day does not a solution make but, perhaps, with a daily reminder at the beginning of class, this might work…

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September 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Excellent List Of Eleven “Classroom Discipline Mistakes”

Marvin Marshall, a great writer on positive classroom management, has published an excellent list of eleven “Classroom Discipline Mistakes.”

You definitely want to read them all, but here are his first three:


Teachers become stressed by reacting to inappropriate behavior. It is far more effective to employ a proactive approach to inspire students to want to behave responsibly and then use a non-adversarial response when they don’t.


Rules are meant to control—not inspire. Rules are necessary in games; however, when used between people, rules create adversarial relationships. Relying on rules is a major contributor to the punishment culture in many schools today. The reason simple: If a student violates a rule, the teacher automatically moves into an enforcement mode. A mindset of rules leads to a punishment mindset, whereas a mindset of procedures promotes a coaching approach that inspires responsible behavior through expectations and reflection. View the effect of relying on rules


Obedience does not create desire. A more effective approach is to promote responsibility; obedience then follows as a natural by-product.

I’m adding his post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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September 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

NEA Today Unexpectedly Runs Article Featuring Classroom Practice Of…Me?


More Teachers Adopting Restorative Discipline Practices is the title of an NEA Today story that unexpectedly features my classroom practice.

I had a short email interaction with the writer over the summer, but hadn’t thought much would come of it.

You might find it interesting.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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August 27, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Management: Your 25 Best Tips”


Apparently, long ago when, for awhile, I moderated a classroom management forum at Edutopia, I invited readers to share their best classroom management tips.

Well, Edutopia just put them all together in a a nice slideshow that I think readers will find useful.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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August 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Good Classroom Management Advice: “The Person Who Asks The Questions Controls The Conversation”

If a student an I are having a bad day — a fortunately rare coincidence, but one that nevertheless still happens — sometimes our conversation can denigrate into one that is not helpful to anyone.

Marvin Marshall, who writes a lot about positive classroom management techniques, offers some good advice in that situation:

The Person Who Asks The Questions Controls The Conversation

In other words, if the conversation is going south, asking a question could be one way to get it on track again — “What do you think we should do about this situation?”; “What do you think would help fix this problem?”; “How is what is happening now contributing to any goal you have for the future?”; “How could we deal with this situation in a way that would help you achieve a goal you want for the future?”

Obviously, students can offer retorts that are not constructive to any of those questions, too, but the strategy is worth keeping in mind.

As is other advice Marvin has offered, which I think is the best classroom management guidance I’ve ever heard:

Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?

Do you have any good one-sentence classroom management advice that’s good and easy for teachers to remember?

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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August 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Detentions make no difference, pupils claim”


As any regular reader of this blog or my books knows, I’m not a big fan of using punishment in the classroom (you can see many of my previous posts on the topic here).

I know they have their role in very serious offenses, but I’ve been fortunate enough in my teaching career to be able to “cut off at the pass” most of those serious offenses before they’ve become a reality. I’m no saint, however, and each year I usually send less than a handful of students to the office just to get them out of class that day — it usually happens when their bad day coincides with me having a bad day.

A new study just came out in the United Kingdom where they surveyed students about effective punishments, and they said detentions weren’t much of a deterrent. I’m certainly more than a little skeptical of a student survey on this topic, but it’s still not a surprising result. The survey found that the teacher contacting home was more effective, and I’ve definitely found that to be true. One of my favorite interventions, though, is to NOT call home after misbehavior. Instead, I tell him/her that I know they can step-up, and that I am going to call home in a week’s time. I’d like to be able to say great things about them to their parents, and they have a week to show me. And I’ll tell the parents whatever I see happening over the next week. Without fail, the student is on the ball for the next way and usually far beyond that time…

What do you think of using detention?

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Surprise, Surprise — Study Finds Shouting At Children “creates further discipline problems”


To few teachers surprise, a new study has found that shouting at children is counter-productive. You can read all about it at Shouting at children ‘increases their behaviour problems’ in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

There have been plenty of studies (and years of countless teachers experience) that have found the same thing (you can find out more at The Best Posts On Classroom Management).

Do I sometimes raise my voice at my class? Of course, we’re all human. But, fortunately, I seldom do so.

I just don’t understand why some continue to use shouting as a part of their classroom management strategy.

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