How do punishments meted out in schools work?
February 14, 2007 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Help me compile a list of punishments for 1st-4th Grade.

I am interested in figuring out what constitutes a "heavy punishment" and what constitutes "lesser punishment" for young school students, say First to fourth grades.

For example:

Harsh Punishment:
Calling parents
Principals office

Less harsh:
Standing outside the classroom door

least harsh:
change seat

but where would a punishment like threatning to send to the principal come in? is that a "light" threat, or is that worse to a child then having to switch seats or stand in the corner?

what other punishments (ecch, i hate that word) are there? where do they fit in? is there any sort of "escalation chart" ut there was to what punishment is warranted for children for a specific misbehaivior?
posted by Izzmeister to Human Relations (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: - staying inside during recess (+/- busywork during that time)
- having to write lines or multiplication tables

Those would be about the middle of the scale, I think.

In 5th Grade, during the darkest days of the Spitball Wars, one of my more inventive teachers gave the punishment of having to stay after school and make 500 spitballs, if you were ever caught launching one or having the necessary tools to do so in your desk.

A peace treaty was reached soon afterward.
posted by brain cloud at 12:40 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Revocation of recess was my first thought as well.

How about having to write something 100 times on the chalkboard (See: Bart Simpson) as a light/ medium punishment.

You could also use the 'standing in corner' or 'public apology to class' approach, (though I tend to dislike public humiliation, it is effective when used in limited doses).
posted by quin at 12:56 PM on February 14, 2007

I believe that you might be able to use robocop_is_bleeding's The Wheel.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2007

NEVER NEVER NEVER use writing sentences or doing math problems as a punishment. All that does is teach them to hate writing and hate mathematics.

Punishments are most effective when you take away something they like, not introduce something they may hate. Take away their recesses, their seat (if they're sitting near a friend or something), or other positive classroom privileges. Have their punishment be that they have to sit out in the hallway during classroom "free time" when the other children are having fun together. The principal (or threat thereof) is also good, but only in the context of them believing that time in the classroom is more fun than time in the principal's office (you're removing the "fun" of classroom time).
posted by krark at 1:10 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Staying after school/detention hall was pretty serious during early elementary school, less so later on.
posted by MasonDixon at 1:11 PM on February 14, 2007

Best answer: A well-loved system in elementary schools is this:
Talking = name on the board
Talking twice = check beside name on board, see Ms. Teacher before lunch for a talking-to
Two checks = call home at the end of the day and no recess at all

What you asked for:

Least Harsh =
go over and tap on kid's desk as a warning
call on child during bad behavior and correct behavior in front of class
change seat
last in line at snack/lunch/recess
do classroom chores (take out trash, wash boards, clean chalk tray, straighten library area, etc.) while others have reading/funtime/etc.

Medium Harsh=
sit outside the room WITH WORK TO DO (otherwise this could feel like a reward!)
stay in from recess to do homework
stay in from recess with extra work
write a letter to ____ apologizing for behavior
write a letter to mom/dad explaining what I did and why it was wrong

Very Scary Harsh =
Call home
Send to principal or dean
Call home right this very minute
Parent conference
Loss of recess for three days

I once had a 7th grader who kept singing the McDonald's commercial during my pre-algebra lesson... Ba da ba ba ba, I'm lovin' it... got old fast. I stopped class and said, If I hear that once more, you'll eat lunch in my room and be in from recess singing the whole time. Of course he did it again, so at lunchtime I let him have five minutes to wolf down his lunch and then he had to start singing for the remaining 45 minutes. Two things went wrong, though: 1) he is hilarious and began doing impressions (as beavis and butthead, as homer simpson, as kermit the frog, etc.) I had to hide behind my computer so he wouldn't see me cracking up. And wrong thing number 2-- this so happened to be the day his father was surprising him to take him out to lunch. Ended up well as father was supportive and gave a more stern talking-to than I had. One of my more fond memories of junior high teaching.
posted by orangemiles at 1:14 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

I just have to add that these things are so kid and school dependent. When my daughter was in first grade, she had to miss lunch and go to the principal's office on several occasions. This ended when we realized that a) she thought the principal was beautiful and so nice! and b) the principal had a cat in her office. Much more fun to be there than anywhere else.

Emails home to parents seem to be a big deal. Our school does some parties that kids can only attend if they have met certain behavior goals, like no incident reports.
posted by purenitrous at 1:18 PM on February 14, 2007

Best answer: Elementary schools tread very lightly in the punishment department these days, I'm afraid, due to parents who raise holy hell at the slightest perceived injustice towards their precious darlings.

At my kids' schools there has been a system of colors (green/yellow/red) that help modify behavior. If you pull a yellow card, you generally lose a school privilege. If you pull a red, a note goes home to the parents. Principals get involved when the behavior is deemed disruptive to the class overall.

I don't think anyone stands in the corner any more, or stands outside. My daughter was kept late in a class with a group of talkers, but I think they can only do that during the last class of the day, otherwise they'd be late for their next class.

No essays or extra homework that I can remember, but maybe my kids are just good... at school.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:25 PM on February 14, 2007

Best answer: When I was in kindergarten, I got into a fight with another kid (nothing physical, just yelling) and the teacher told me to go to the Principal's Office. She said "Go sit on the bench". THE BENCH was a large (monolithic, to us littl'uns) oak bench right inside the door to the office-- across from it lie the administrators and secretaries for the school, and to the left, a door with frosted glass, and "PRINCIPAL" etched in it.

Our principal at the time was a man that could only be described as horrifyingly intimidating-- I think, in retrospect, that he was a nice man, and well-intentioned, but was universally regarded at the time as a strict disciplinarian. He was like 1000 years old, and had a scratchygravelly voice that could be dialed up into a gut-shaking shout in the auditorium when we had "assemblies".

I had never been in trouble before; in fact, I was the prototypical "good" kid.

I went down the hall, heart in my mouth, and tried to figure out what to do.

I went into the office, and sat down on that giant bench. A secretary asked me, after a few moments, why I was there.

I waited a minute, and said "Where's the bathroom? I was looking for the bathroom."

"Two doors down" she said.

I got up and walked out, to the bathroom--the location of which I had always known--and hung out in there for what I thought to be an appropriate amount of time.

Then I walked back to class. The teacher saw me come back and said "Did you go to the principal's office?"
"I did."
"And what did he say to you?"
"He told me to never do it again."
"Okay, good. You can go back to your playing now."

And this is how I learned to lie without compunction to Institutional Authority.
posted by exlotuseater at 1:27 PM on February 14, 2007 [7 favorites]

have a special seat that is near the front and to the side so the kid can see you but can't see the other kids (build walls for it)

don't let the kid have free time, make the kid keep doing work
posted by henryis at 1:31 PM on February 14, 2007

If you have freestanding chairs (versus the chair/desk combos), and a student is leaning back on two legs, making noise with said chair, etc., have them stand for a duration (first time, 5 minutes, second time, 10 mins, third, during the whole lunch period). Heck of a lot worse than sitting in front of the class. (Less harsh -> harsh, depending on the duration)
posted by DarkElf109 at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2007

I only taught kids Karate. So my allowances for corporal punishment were far more broad. And sometimes the most effective way of keeping order was near out-right fascism. I had some really bad kids. At risk kids. These techniques always worked.

We had "free time" at the end of class. Like recess. The kids organize games.

After a time the best students set the rules they wanted. This was often motivation enough. Everybody wanted to be the one to set the rules and choose teams.

If somebody was still bad they could not participate in these games and had to sit out.

If that didn't get to them? Then class had no free-time at all and the bad kid did push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, etc while class counted them off.

If the kid refused push-ups everybody else did push-ups while the bad kid counted.

Bad kids were eventually so despised by their peers they came around. When they did you rewarded them instantly by making them team captains, etc.

Punish the innocent. It sucks. But it works.
posted by tkchrist at 2:27 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: NEVER NEVER NEVER use writing sentences or doing math problems as a punishment. All that does is teach them to hate writing and hate mathematics.

my father regularly made me write sentences, hundreds and hundreds, for doing bad things at home when i was a kid

today i write for a living and couldn't imagine doing anything else!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 3:12 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Salvatorparadise: my father regularly made me write sentences, hundreds and hundreds, for doing bad things at home when i was a kid

today i write for a living and couldn't imagine doing anything else!
At the middle school I went to, in detention we had to write out the list of detention offenses by hand. To this day, my hand cramps up whenever I have to write more than a couple of sentences.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2007

Maybe it's just my Catholic school upbringing talking, but I've always found a few paddlings to be an effective deterrent.
posted by fvox13 at 3:28 PM on February 14, 2007

Less harsh: cleaning the blackboards or, for old-school types, clapping erasers.
posted by nj_subgenius at 3:42 PM on February 14, 2007

I had the single most terrible first grade teacher in the universe. She only meted out one punishment, and the degree of it varied not based on the infraction but rather on her mood.

Write out your numbers from 1 to 100, she would say. Or 1 to 500. Or 1 to 1000. Do it three times, she would say.

This punishment was for talking during class or misbehaving in just about any other way.

I was a big talker, so I was always writing out numbers. One weekend I had to go home and write from 1 to 10,000 -- mind you, I wasn't the only student to receive this punishment, and I had done no worse than usual. My father flipped, called the teacher, and I got off the hook that time.

There were a few smart students who tried counting by twos or fives or tens. We hadn't learned multiplication yet, and the teacher chastised these students for using their brains to do what was actually the most useless assignment ever to have existed.

I hate math.

(Realize this doesn't quite answer your question, but it seems some teachers don't necessarily go with a "least harsh" to "most harsh" system. Then again, I was in first grade in 1986, and I gather things have changed slightly since then.)
posted by brina at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2007

I would recommend against the system with the names on the board and the check marks. As a kid, it was immediately clear to me that this system meant you could break the rules at least twice without anything happening to you. The fact that my name was on the board didn't bother me, and the fact that the teacher thought it should struck me as funny.

Sitting in the hall also always seemed like a silly punishment. If I wasn't behaving in the class, then I didn't want to be there. Rewarding my behavior by demanding that I leave was a good way to motivate me to do the same thing again the next day.

The original question here mentions threatening to send the kid to the principal as if that is a punishment in itself, and it's really not. At least not to a kid who doesn't accept it as a given that they should fear and obey authority all the time.

Missing recess is stupid too, because recess is a much-needed break from everything else. The kids need that break. Taking it away is going to make them agitated and resentful, not penitent.
posted by bingo at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2007

Best answer: By the way, its not a punishment, its a consequence.
posted by pgoes at 3:47 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

My son's teacher uses a behavior modification chart.

One of your punishments could be half of recess, entire recess, lunch without the rest of the class, busy work in a desk away from students, sit out of special area (music, art, PE).

Classroom Management message boards.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:17 PM on February 14, 2007

Missing recess is stupid too, because recess is a much-needed break from everything else. The kids need that break. Taking it away is going to make them agitated and resentful, not penitent.

I completely agree with this. In my opinion young children should not have recess taken away as a consequence. Many teachers do not believe in taking away recess, and many schools have a policy to not take away recess. It's always sad to see kids lined up against the wall during recess when I am at my kid's school --and it's always the same two or three kids.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:16 PM on February 14, 2007

I have worked with first graders, and found that there is usually intense competition for the coveted jobs of "classroom work" such as cleaning the boards, cleaning the desks, or even emptying the trash. These jobs make them feel like adults and take them away from the monotony of regular work. Two approaches that I particularly admired: one teacher would walk around as she lectured, and if a child continued to misbehave after a warning, she would discretely place a 1"x1" sticky note on the child's desk. That was a notice that the child would have a point loss. The child would nervously fold the sticky and contemplate the events. The sticky would be folded into a microscopic object as the teacher continued to talk, and the event would loom large.

There was also the green-orange-red stoplight, with everyone having a clip with their clips on green at the beginning of each day on green, and the child would have to walk to the front of the class and move the clip to orange and then to red if the child continued to misbehave. I did not like that approach as much because it was so overt, and typically resulted in 6 year old hysterics, that it was only used in cases of last resort, and was not as helpful as the more subtle consequences.

Another consequence that I appreciated was when there was a blue binder, filled with dated pages. If the child had already received a sticky notice but continued to misbehave, the child was told to "sign the book". The book was on the side of the classroom, and was somehow less tearful and overwhelming than moving the clip on the stop light, but involved the same peer sanctions (everyone noticed) and same "ownership" of the action (the child moved the clip or signed his/her name in the book).

Overall, I admired both the sticky note and blue binder consequence the most. In any classroom, almost every student is aware of almost every strength and weakness of every other student. There is no need for elaborate hiding because the children will discover the truth, but likewise, there is no need for overt shaming, because the most subtle gestures will be recognized by all.
posted by aliksd at 6:06 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

By the way, its not a punishment, its a consequence.

pgoes is absolutely correct. And it is not simply a semantic difference.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:49 PM on February 14, 2007

Have none of you read Jane Eyre? That punishment is like harsh. She had to stand on that stool ALL DAY, because she was a liar.
posted by oxford blue at 12:18 AM on February 15, 2007

I have no idea if these are legal in the US but I taught English in Korea and some of my punishments were:
Standing in the corner with both hands up and one leg up
Doing "up dog" position (hands and feet on the floor with bottom in the air)
Staring at the kid (works for younger kids) for a long period of time - really freaks them out.
And, (my all time fav!) for when a student wouldn't be quiet, spray in the face with a plain spray water bottle.
posted by shokod at 3:36 AM on February 15, 2007

In elementary school my fourth and fifth grade teacher made a poster with a pocket for each student. If you misbehaved you would have to put a slip in your pocket. One slip was just a warning. Two slips meant you missed snack time short recess. Three slips meant you missed lunch time long recess. Four slips meant detention. Missed recess was spent sitting at your desk doing school work or nothing at all. If you gave the teacher any sass when she told you take a slip, she'd say "take two, they're small."
posted by robinpME at 6:38 AM on February 15, 2007

Best answer: i'm a big advocate for making the punishment fit the crime:

in sixth grade, i disrespected the national anthem by singing it in a funny voice. the supply teacher came up with an unexpectedy brilliant punishment: then and there, i had to stand up and sing it properly, all by myself, in front of the entire class (ie, judgemental 12-year olds). this was a PERFECT punishment: scary, appropriate, indisputably deserved... and also?

it turned out i was a good singer, which i'd never known until i finished the song, expecting to be publicly stoned, and the whole class looked at me like, "huh, that was actually pretty decent".
this incident lit the fire for my current career as a performer.

so... maybe kids who talk too much could do speeches?
maybe kids who doodle or vandalize could make art projects?
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:30 PM on February 15, 2007

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