Writing lines is an age-old consequence for poor behaviour. Math teacher Ian Clapham was tired of using simple, non-expressive sentences, and has devised a list of alternative lines that he likes to use when students are reflecting on their poor choices.
You would be hard pressed to find a teacher that has never set line-writing as a consequence for poor behaviour (unless it goes against their school policy). While opinions about this discipline technique vary widely, it still remains a popular choice.
The idea is that students will take in the message that they are writing, if they are made to write it out a number of times.
Generally the lines they are writing are a direct reflection of their behaviour or the rules they are breaking. For example, my current pre-service teacher had some of our year 8 boys write out the line “I will not light bonfires in the lab” during one of our recent experiments.
Ian is a personal fan of this discipline technique, but doesn’t like to use simple, ordinary lines like “I will not talk”. He has come up with a list of alternative sentences that he uses with his students, and is finding that they are having more of an impact.
“The reason for coming up with these new lines was that I found students were not taking in and acknowledging behaviour with, “I must not talk in class.” They robotically wrote them out. When directed to write them out 10 times they would write I I I I I etc down the page, then must must must must etc and so on. They didn’t even acknowledge the message. My sentences cannot be written with the same process as they often go over more than two lines.”
He has expanded upon the simple lines and included a lot of higher-level language. Students are getting a more distinct message and expanding their vocabulary at the same time. He uses explicit language when assigning the lines, discussing with them the consequences of their poor choices. Note the word ‘choices’ here instead of ‘behaviour’ – they have chosen to act in this way, and he makes it clear that they know this.
“The additional benefit is introducing new words into their vocabulary, large words that are unfamiliar to them. While they do not recognise them at first, they become familiar with time and explanation.
Students’ initial reaction is shock when they discover the number and size of the words. I usually get them to write the relevant sentence out five times for the first offence, then 10, then 20 etc for repeat offenders. Students who are not receiving the consequence take joy and a warning of what may come.
After the first time they will normally do anything to avoid them.”
Here is Ian’s list of alternate lines for when his students make poor choices:
Traditional Line: “I will not talk.”
Alternative Line: “Electing to engage in conversations that are unauthorised, unrelated or inappropriate will result in consequences that I may deem to be undesirable.”
Traditional Line:”I will do my work.”
Alternative Line: “Classroom activities are designed to further my capabilities and broaden my knowledge; choosing to not engage in set activities is done at my own folly.”
Traditional Line: “I will be respectful.”
Alternative Line: “I show disrespect for myself when I am disrespectful to my fellow students and my teacher.”
Traditional Line: “I will come to class prepared.”
Alternative Line: “The seven P’s are: Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance. In other words, I must bring my books, my pens, my calculator and a positive attitude towards my education.”
Traditional Line: “I will be on time to class.”
Alternative Line: “Punctuality is a priority; therefore I must endeavour, barring major incidences or natural disasters, to arrive at my class in a timely manor.”
Traditional Line: “I will not use my phone in class.”
Alternative Line: “I am not a doctor on call, nor a counsellor on a help line, I do not have children in day-care, nor am I the Prime Minister’s personal advisor. Therefore, I do not need to have my mobile phone out in class.”
Traditional Line: “I will be nice to others.”
Alternative Line: “I teach people how to treat me; the way I speak, behave, present and carry myself will reflect on my character for better or for worse. Have pride and respect.”
Traditional Line: “I will not bully others.”
Alternative Line: “Bullying and harassment is not an act of strength, but one of thoughtless stupidity. Strength is shown, not by the bully, rather by someone who genuinely tells the bully to stop.”
Do you use line-writing as a consequence for your students? What do you get them to write?