Classroom Management/Restitution

I was working in Turkey this week with a K-12 school staff examining teachers’ responses to student misbehaviors which were classified as minor, moderate, or major. (See earlier blog)

One of the strategies we examined for moderate behaviors was the use of restitution.

Knowing that some teachers and many administrators use summer to re-examine their classroom and school management options I thought it might be helpful to share the material we used from Performance Learning Systems’ Classroom Management: Orchestrating a Community of Learners.

Responsive Strategy No. 17: Propose restitution

Restitution involves allowing a student to perform some service that corrects or makes amends for undesirable behavior. In that way, the energy students expend on misbehavior is channeled in more constructive directions.

Restitution can increase students’ sense of responsibility and personal pride in the successful working order of their classroom and school. The redeeming, constructive value of the task is essential to restitution; it allows for reinforcement of acceptable behavior. Reports from teachers in the field indicate that, beginning at the fourth grade, the chances of restitution working increase as the grade level goes higher.

Guidelines for proposing restitution:

1. Match the restitution to the misbehavior.

For example, if a seventh grader has been throwing snowballs on school property, an appropriate restitution would be, “Come to school 30 minutes early for five days to shovel snow.”

It would be inappropriate for the teacher to suggest that the student make up for it in any of these ways:

“Build a snow sculpture for the school lawn.”

“Work in the principal’s office for five afternoons.”

“Cut paper snowflakes to decorate the classroom.”

“Scrape the ice off the teachers’ car windows.”

2. Make restitution the more desirable of the two choices.

Rather than simply imposing a task for restitution, you have the option of offering the student a Hobson’s choice instead. If you do so, make sure that the choice offered as an alternative to restitution is the more distasteful of the two, and would take twice as long to complete. For example, if a student has discolored a sink with methyl blue, the teacher can offer the following choice:

“Either clean all the lab equipment and inventory the cupboard, or serve an hour of detention after school every day for a week.”

3. Choose a restitution task that has some redeeming or constructive value.

Restitution tasks should lead to a positive end result. When making restitution, students develop the habits of helping others and using their energies to build and create. They acquire a sense of ownership, of pride in their school, and of unity with their classmates. They make a personal investment in their school and are therefore less likely to damage it in the future. For example:

The student shovels a walkway that allows students and teachers to get to class more easily.

The student organizes the lab so that equipment can be more easily found.

4. Give appreciation for a job well done.

Once a student completes a restitution task, reinforce that positive behavior by expressing appreciation. An effective appreciation is a statement that refers to a specific, concrete accomplishment, omitting any personal evaluation. For example, rather than “Well done!” or “I like how you did that,” say:

“I appreciate your thoroughness in reorganizing that cupboard. It will now be easier to locate equipment.”

“Excellent job clearing the walkways! Now people can walk between buildings in less time.”

By reinforcing the restitution with appreciation statements, you add incentive for continued acceptable behavior, making it possible for the student to receive positive rather than negative attention.

Risks and Remedies:

Risk: Some types of restitution may not be acceptable in your school district. For example, sanding desks might not be permitted, while picking up litter may be acceptable.

Remedy: Check district and school policies before assigning restitution.

Risk: Some students may see restitution as a reward. This risk is greater in the primary grades, where children frequently view performing chores for the teacher as a reward.

Remedy: If you observe that a student is experiencing restitution as a reward, use a different strategy with that student the next time there is a misbehavior.

I found a great presentation on Restitution on Slide Share.

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