13 strategies for maintaining discipline in a classroom

Classroom order is essential to the teacher's mental health as well as for accomplishing anything in a classroom. Yelling and angry threats are not only ineffective, they leave a bad impression with students who are volunteering to come to your Bible class. Here are some student problems and positive strategies to try with various age groups.

1. Pray for them

What was your purpose for volunteering to teach Sunday school? Was it to share the gospel with boys and girls who are lost to God?  Pray for patience.  Pray that your problem students will show understanding about their problem of sin.  Pray that they will receive Christ as a savior.  Pray for their emotional and physical needs.  Discipline that you give to students is always for their benefit.  A teacher who prays for her students will always the good of the student in mind.

2. Give a lesson assignment

A variety of activities makes a classroom interesting, increases learning and resolves many behavior problems.  You can lecture only so often before your students get bored of the routine.  Check out some of the worksheets and activities in the "Downloads" section of this website for ideas.

3. Set a good example

Your actions and attitudes set the tone for others around you.  Be responsible, caring, patient and organized to demonstrate the actions needed to make a successful classroom operate.  

4. Cite good examples often

We all want attention.  As a teacher, try to call special attention to positive behavior when you see it.  Instead of calling attention to problems, call attention to behaviors that you want other students to follow:

  • "Thank you John for being in your chair when class is starting."
  • "I notice that Julie is raising her hand and waiting to be called on.  I think I will ask her what she wants."
  • "I see that Tim is already coloring the picture on the back of the assignment. Thank you Tim for getting right to work."
  • "Thank you for raising your hand.  What is the answer?"
  • "Nadine is not pushing to get into line.  I think she understands how to respect other people's space." 

When there is a problem to be corrected you can speak indirectly to the student. For example, Mike is kicking the back of a chair in front of him.  You could say to the student nearby.  "Mindy, I notice you are not kicking anyone else's chair.  Thank you for following directions."  Students will get the humor if said right.  After all, how hard is it to NOT do something? Mindy will get positive attention and you have robbed Mike of the spotlight.

5. Offer a reward for good achievement

Although verbal praise is the most effective, easiest and free form of reward, you can also have small rewards for good behavior. Dismiss the students first who demonstrate good behavior. 

6. Have a personal talk with the pupil

Before or after class, take a student aside.  Find out what he/she thinks.  Clearly tell him/her what you expect.  Don't assume you know why a student behaves poorly.  A face-to-face discussion can reveal what might be bothering him.

7. Let the pupil know what is expected of him

Classroom rules should be simple, understandable and enforceable.  Put them on the wall. Read them together.  Try to reinforce these through calling attention to the students who obey them.

a. Follow directions the first time they are given.

b. Raise your hand and wait to be called on before speaking.

c. Stay in your seat unless given permission to walk around.

d. Do not touch anyone else.

8. Make lesson more interesting

Don't talk your students to boredom.  If you drone on for more than five minutes, adults will go to sleep or mentally check out.  Children will give immediate feedback for a poor teaching performance.

Students learn through three main kinds of action: auditory, visual and kinesthetic (or action).  Try to incorporate all three styles in every lesson.  

  • Examples of auditory learning: read aloud, listen to an explanation.
  • Examples of visual learning: watch a demonstration, movie, series of pictures, inspect a graph or map.
  • Examples of kinesthetic learning: write an answer, arrange a series of objects, assemble a model, draw a picture, act out a story.

Most people would consider themselves to be strong visual or kinesthetic learners.

  • 10% of people favor auditory learning.
  • 40% of people favor visual learning.
  • 50% of people favor kinesthetic learning.

For example, in telling a Bible story, use pictures, puppets or dolls (visual learning).  Vary your voice according the the character (auditory). Ask students to read something (auditory).  Have the student write or draw something (kinesthetic) .  Act out the story with those students who know the story and can act responsible (kinesthetic). Arrange pictures in a timeline (kinesthetic and visual).

9. Ask a good pupil to be his buddy

"Join the group" is the message that some students need.  Be part of us.  Don't quit.  Don't fight us. 

10. Investigate background

Talking with a student individually or speaking with a parent will reveal problems that may need extra attention or at least give the teacher better understanding of the problem.

11. Give the pupil more responsibility

Almost everyone likes to help.  Getting a responsibility shows trust, gives positive attention and can make the classroom work better.  Some jobs that might be assigned include: taking attendance, setting up the computer, writing the verse on the board, creating a quiz, helping a younger student with a project.

12. Introduce a class project

Working together to create something might be a way to draw in students who otherwise fail to pay attention. A class project might include: create a map of a series of Bible stories in Exodus, create a bulletin board of the miracles of Christ, build a tabernacle model, color and arrange a series of pictures to tell a story.  All of these projects can be found in the "downloads" section of this website.


Suggested Corrective Action for Behavior Problems

  Pray for them Give a lesson Assign-ment Set a good example Cite good examples often Offer a reward for good achieve-ment Have a personal talk with pupil Give the pupil special attention Let pupil know what is expected of him Make lesson more interest-ing Ask a good pupil to be his buddy Investi-gate Back-ground Give pupil more responsi-bility Introduce a class project
Attends Irregularly X   X   X X     X        
Fails to Pay Attention X X         X   X   X   X
Learns Slowly X X         X X X       X
Seems Overly Timid X         X X     X X    
Likes to "Show Off" X X                 X X  
Appears Antagonistic X X X             X   X  
Tries to Domineer X             X     X X  
Is Always Tardy X   X     X X       X    
Lacks Respect or Reverence X   X X   X         X    
Doesn’t Attend Gospel Meetings X