CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT PLAN - testing Linsin's methods in middle school

drawing random objects in a student-designed still-life
We went back to work mighty early this year - in our district students started on August 6th! I have 145 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students right now and when enrichment classes start in September I will have another 50-60 students.  I am currently putting into practice all of the information I collected over the summer about classroom management and to be quite frank I am "pleased as punch" that my classes are responding to the new and improved methods!

When I first started reading Michael Linsin's work, I was very skeptical, to say the least. I really did not believe that putting middle school kids in isolation (i.e. "time-out") would be effective, but I made the decision to put Michael Linsin's ideas to the test this year. He says to officially warn the child the first time s/he breaks a rule and then send the child to time-out if s/he chooses to continue misbehaving. When I first read this, I thought, "Is this guy serious? He surely has never worked with any at-risk middle school kids! They would eat him for lunch!" (Since then, I have learned that Linsin's methods were developed while he was serving underprivileged communities.) Also, I thought to myself that if I just "warned" children all day when they broke rules they would only make an effort to behave after being warned - I have been proven wrong!

I re-wrote my art classroom rules in order to simplify and clarify a few things - there are only 3 of them now instead of 6 (although they are much more detailed.) I also posted my list of consequences on the wall along with the rules and I have been very focused on consistency. I have had a couple of rebellious 8th grade football players put me (and Linsin's methods) to the test as well as a couple of wild 6th grade classes. Guess what - it actually works! My middle school kids hate to be separated out from the group; it really is an effective consequence. (They have to fill out a "Think Sheet" at the isolation table which is an opportunity for them to reflect upon their behavior and there have only been 2 incidents where I had to put more than one kid in "time-out.")

The chart below outlines Mr. Linsin's rules, both my old and new rules, and the consequences for misbehavior that I am using in my classroom this year:

Here is a set of rules by Michael Linsin; current elementary P.E. teacher - he says he wrote these to cover every possible misbehavior:

 1. Listen and follow directions.

2. Raise your hand before speaking or leaving your seat.

3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

4. Respect your classmates and your teacher.

 Mr. Linsin instructs us to teach these rules explicitly, modeling examples of following the rules as well as non-examples. He also says to take a moment when writing rules to envision your "perfect" class - what does that look like?

Here are my "old" rules that I wrote 10 years ago for my middle school art room:

 1. Be courteous and polite.   

2. Be responsible

3. Keep your hands, feet, and all objects to

4. Speak quietly and at appropriate times. Do not cause distractions.

5. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum in the classroom.

6. Work every day!

My current art classroom rules:
After taking the online class, "Managing the Art Room" this summer at theartofed.com and reading Michael Linsin's books and articles, I re-wrote my middle school rules so as to be a bit more detailed and to leave no room for misinterpretation:


  •   Obey the first time without arguing or talking back.
  •    Speak at appropriate times and do not cause distractions.
  •    Raise your hand and wait to be called upon to speak – do not interrupt the teacher.
  •    Be positive, courteous, and polite – choose to use kind words.
  •    Treat others the way you want to be treated
  •    Take care of the art materials and equipment – use materials appropriately!
  •   Stay on task; do not wander around the room, talking or playing instead of working.
  •   Keep the art room clean
  •    Use materials appropriately – follow directions!
  •   Keep hands, feet, and all objects to yourself – no horseplay.
  •   Move around the room carefully – be mindful of others and their work.
  •   Do not eat, drink, or chew gum in the art classroom.

The consequences for misbehavior are also posted next to the rules. This is the first time in 10 years of teaching that I actually posted these. I came up with this list after studying several different classroom management experts, including Linsin and Fred Jones:


1ST OFFENSE: warning

2ND OFFENSE: isolation table

The student will quietly complete his/her “paper/pencil” work while in isolation. The student will complete the “Think Sheet” on days when art materials such as paint, plaster, paper mache, printmaking, collage, etc. are in use.

3RD OFFENSE: parents contacted & discipline assignment

The student will also remain separated the rest of the class period or the entire class the following day if the misbehavior happened at the end of class.


After the student’s parents have been contacted twice, s/he will be referred to an administrator.

In cases of severe disrespectful behavior or fighting, parents will be contacted and/or the student will be referred to the office IMMEDIATELY.

If a student needs to be referred to an administrator, s/he will be separated, without art privileges, for 3 days following the referral.

Before school started, I re-wrote my "parent letter" to include this list of rules and consequences and my principal approved it - I wasn't sure he would! No parents have complained about it, and the kids haven't complained, either. I was a bit concerned that the 7th and 8th graders would rebel against the new system, but my wiggliest groups have actually been 6th graders - they have been the ones to repeat procedures the most often (the "do-it-over" strategy.)

I choose to remain calm no matter what happens - that isn't easy! One day at the beginning of a 30 minute 6th grade class (the second week) I was interrupted 7 or 8 times - I had 2 teachers, an office aid, a technology associate from the school board, and 4 new students come into my class room within the first 10 minutes of class! I also had an 8th grade boy  become belligerent earlier this week, along with teenage emotions running amok with a couple of girls (and a 6th grade boy, too!) I must also note that the afore mentioned belligerent 8th grader was reported by me to his football coach - not something recommended by Linsin. (This particular student had been to the isolation table on two different occasions and I had already spoken with his mother before he chose to yell at me, so I asked his coach if I could send him to his class if he ever defied me like that again. The student apologized for his behavior and has been well-behaved, enthusiastic, and hard working since his coach had a chat with him.)

Another of Linsin's ideas is to be sure and teach the kids that the discipline plan exists to protect them and their right to learn - not to punish them and make them miserable. My own attitude reflected this for the first time this year - in the past I apologetically tried to get through the first few days of rules/procedures/safety as quickly as possible in order to get to the "fun" stuff. Not any more! When the kids understand that I am being strict in order to help them, they don't resent me for it; especially when I have chosen to treat them with the utmost respect at all times. I will not yell at them, lecture them, or pay more attention to misbehavior than good behavior.  I also will not let small misbehaviors slide - if a kid breaks a rule, the kid's name goes on the board (or on a Post-It if I am not teaching at the board.) That's usually all it takes. I have finally found a way to keep discipline issues in the background and to focus my energy on making my classroom fun, interesting, and an environment of hard work!

I make the choice each day to enjoy my job and I am having a lot of fun with the kids! I have some motivators in place, such as "Fun Friday" where the kids get to sit by their friends and talk while they work (as long as they are on task). We also play "Pictionary" on the board at the end of class. 
The past 2 weeks have been a time of very hard work for both me and my students because we are learning how to improve drawing skills; this requires intense concentration on the part of the kids. However, to make it more fun and to break up the class a bit, I gave each group a tray full of random things and a wooden manikin person to set up for drawing. They loved it - even though I only gave them 3-4 minutes to set it up! One day I also had 6 small still-life arrangements set up for the kids to draw - one for each table. They got to change seats to draw the one most interesting to them. Finally, on "Fun-Friday," I showed them how to turn a still-life drawing into an Op Art design with a pattern of black and white stripes changing across the objects and background. 

In conclusion, I am really interested to see if this new system holds up over the toughest times of the year - Halloween week (and Homecoming week), the week before Spring Break, and the last few weeks of school. The kids get pretty boisterous at these times and it is tough to reign them in! 
Also, I admit that I have some weaknesses - when I am really tired it is extremely difficult to remain consistent. It is also hard to hold the kids accountable for raising their hands and waiting. I get caught up in the moment and find myself acknowledging comments from students who "talk out." 

Family Psychologist John Rosemond, author of A Family of Value, says that the particular disciplinary techniques a parent or teacher chooses don't matter too much. He says that what does matter is the person's determination and strength. Do I "mean business" or don't I? Am I experiencing success because of my determination to do so? After all, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

by: Mrs. Anna Nichols

March 22, 2019

At the end of this experiment, I referred a total of ONE student to administration for the entire school year. The rest of my behavior management was done entirely in the classroom or via parent contacts. 

Before implementing Linsin's methods, my average referral rate per 9 weeks was around two or sometimes three students depending on the month. October and March were the most difficult months. 

Eight students referred to the office vs. ONE is pretty good evidence for the effectiveness of this method. 

The year I put Michael Linsin's methods to the test our school population was at around 60% free/reduced lunch.

I was also a 10 year veteran during the year 2014 - 2015 and had been intensely researching classroom management for this blog since November of the previous year. 

Nearly five years after doing this experiment, my rules and consequences are still going strong. I did not change my rules when I transferred to teaching PK-12 last year, but my consequences differ only in the number of times I correct behavior or redirect the little ones. I don't immediately go to a consequence for grades PK-2 after a warning, I spend much more time focusing on positive behaviors and getting the students engaged than on consequences. Also, consequences are not used much in grades 9-12. Simply talking to high school students in private about their behavior is all I have needed to do. 


Wendy Gilbert said...

When I began teaching I was at a charter school with a very strict code of conduct. It was good for me as a new teacher but I realized that I didn't want to spend everyday monitoring a specific set of rules. The book Teaching with Love and Logic has guided my current outlook.

On the first day of school, students sit in every class and listen to rules and read the syllabus out loud. Last year I decided to take a different tactic.

I started them right in on art. The first 5 minutes is a timed silent warm up so day one, is a drawing of their choice - silently.

After that we start on a guided name doodle that will take us two periods. they are drawing with marker so we can learn to relax and not sweat the small mistakes. Inevitably, someone will ask to use the bathroom and I will explain my bathroom procedure.

Making my classroom an Art Making Space from Day one sets the standard for the rest of the year. I don't give homework, I don't have written tests, we don't read from textbooks...they will "Art everyday!"

While they are working on their doodle I will ask them if they have any questions about my class and I will tell them a little about me. I will also ask them to share what they think some of my rules should be. I don't have a written set of rules or consequences. They have enough experience with school, they know what the expectations are.

I let them sit where they want on day 1 but let them know that if I feel they are distracting each other I will move them to another seat. When I separate kids, usually one or both of them will come to me asking to move back. The deal is that both of them have to have 5 consecutive days of good solid work where I don't need to redirect or refocus them. I will start the 5 day count any time they want and if things go bad, we can start it again. I've had a few that have earned the seat change back but most just accept their new seating assignment. Occasionally I will reassign seats for the whole class.

I used to have an isolation table in the past but found kids used it as a way to focus attention on themselves.

I have found I don't like specific rules and consequences because it doesn't allow for flexibility based on the needs of the student. Many of my students have consecutive lunch detentions and referrals from other classes so these will not be effective forms of discipline. Taking them away from making art may also be a reward for them if they are finding it difficult and uncomfortable. I also have a number of kids on the Autism spectrum that will act out and I can't hold them to specific rules. I am very procedure based. My kids have my warm up speech memorized. :)

My goal is to keep every kid working as much as possible.

I am consistent in my expectation that everyone will put in their top amount of effort.

Gretel Watts said...

Anna, could you go in to detail about your procedures and do-over strategy. I struggled with my own do-over mid-year management restructure but I think unclear/unposted procedures may be the root of my problem. Wendy, could you share your warm up speech?


Click on the "Discipline" Tab up on the top menu for more information:
“Do it over” strategy – examples:
student runs down the hallway – s/he has to go back down to the beginning and walk
student throws trash from several feet away from the trash can – student either throws trash away properly or has to pick up all trash in the room
class comes in boisterously or too loud – they have to line up in the hallway and do it again, then individual students do it again if they are still silly.........
If kids make a game out of this I will write them up, call parents, etc. They have to be respectful during the "do-over" too! I have been known to write kids up for arguing with me about having to do a procedure over......I had one 6th grade class that needed to repeat procedures way too many times, so I just had the "offenders" write sentences instead of the whole class repeating the procedure. You sometimes have to try some different strategies with different groups, depending on age and maturity level. Some things I've tried are completely useless with some kids - these are general strategies! There are always classes or individuals who challenge me, too! I hope this helps....