Check with your administrator before issuing any writing assignments. There are many in education who are of the opinion that writing used as a consequence discourages students from enjoying the art of writing. However, I have found no empirical evidence that proves this and my current administration does allow it.  If you have ever seen any empirical research (not just opinion articles) that shows hard evidence that sentence writing or punishment essays are harmful, please contact me. I am very interested in further reading!

"Asking your child to write a sentence, or more, about what she did wrong can help her to think more critically about her behavior. Instead of just nodding her head when you tell her that she is misbehaving, or tearfully accepting a time-out or grounding, writing sentences about her actions means that she has to actually think about what she has done and how it effects her and those around her." everydaylife.globalpost.com

It is very effective and developmentally appropriate to require a child to write a reflective essay about the choices s/he made and what better decisions could be made. This is a good way to help them exercise their vocabulary and written communication skills:
"Some aspects of writing-based punishments can be beneficial for your child. Sentence-writing exercises promote fine motor skills and provide practice with spelling and handwriting. When a parent makes a child sit down in a quiet area and write for punishment, her focus and attention becomes occupied in a way that can prevent angry outbursts, temper tantrums and other misbehaviors that result from boredom or restlessness during unstructured time-outs." livestrong.com
Here are 5 discipline assignments I have used before or are currently using in my middle school classroom. Also, math worksheets can be very effective with lower grades! 

1. ESSAYSAssign a one or two page essay about respect and responsibility. My students write about what a respectful and responsible student looks like, or about using kind, encouraging words, etc. Let the punishment essay fit the "crime!"

2. "THINK SHEET" This is the assignment the student completes who has been sent to the isolation table for breaking a rule after being warned:

Mrs. Nichols’ Art Class
Name _____________________________Grade____ Period____ Date__________
The Art Class Rules are:    1._______________________________________
I chose to break Rule #_____ by doing this – be VERY SPECIFIC in describing exactly what you chose to do instead of being RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE, or SAFE. 
(Write in complete sentences.)  
It was a problem for _______________________(who?) because:
Next time, I will choose to do this instead: (What can I do to solve this problem?)
(Write in complete sentences.) _____________________________________________________________________

3.  "TICKET" for talking at the beginning of class: I will usually only assign 5 or 10 sentences and the kids do them during class, before they work on their art projects: 

 Copy the following sentence ______ times:

I will come into the classroom quietly and do my bell ringer quietly, without disturbing others.

I copied and pasted this in Microsoft Word, printed it out, and made copies that I cut up. When the kid keeps on talking at the beginning of class instead of settling down and working on the bellringer, I will give them a paper "ticket." Also, I sometimes will assign sentences at any point during class if the student breaks a rule after being warned. I just phrase the sentence in a positive way, and ask the student to write however many I think are appropriate.

Example Sentences for students to copy: 

  • "I will respect my teacher and classmates by doing my work quietly, without   disturbing others." 
  • "I will speak with permission in Mrs. Nichols' classroom." This one is assigned most often, after we have gone to "Silent Art" because students are off task and/or too noisy. Many students don't care that I've told them to be quiet and will talk anyway, so I assign them this sentence to copy. 
  • "I will respect my teacher and classmates by using the art supplies appropriately."

4. BOOK WORK/ALTERNATIVE ASSIGN.: Assign an activity for the student to do that requires reading and writing about the medium the rest of the class is having fun with. I primarily have used this as a consequence when a student can't be trusted with the materials, i.e. s/he was sword-fighting with paintbrushes, painting someone's hair, tearing the art erasers up into little bits, etc. (I have a set of art textbooks with review questions at the end of each chapter.) Reading and writing about art is definitely part of the curriculum!

This website has a list of extra credit art writing assignments that could also be used in lieu of art materials: 

Also, this is an assignment I will post on the dry-erase board (entitled, "ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENT") at the more difficult times of the year, such as before holidays or at the end of the school year. Just seeing the assignment on the board is very effective for students to be reminded to make their best effort to behave! 

 Marlene Johnt, in her book A Retired Art Teacher Tells All, describes preparing discipline assignments for her high school students ahead of time. She kept a few ziplock bags of magazine articles she found about famous artists. The students had to read the articles, then write a one-page report that night. They had to write a 2-page report if the assignment wasn't turned in on time!

5. DISCIPLINE ASSIGNMENT: The following discipline assignment must be done at home by the student and turned in with a parent signature. I only assign it after the student has broken 3 rules in quick succession. I adapted it for art; it was originally a discipline assignment I got from another teacher my first year of teaching:

Discipline Assignment – to be neatly copied in full in the student’s own handwriting
Mrs. Nichols – Art Teacher: Grades 6, 7, 8
Name ____________________________________________Grade_____Period_____Date Due________________
     “I understand that if I refuse to do this assignment my parents will be called. I must do this discipline assignment at home, not in any other teacher’s class. If Mrs. Nichols is unable to read this paper, I understand that I must write the paper again. I must have my parent sign this form. Mrs. Nichols has high expectations for me and my classmates and will under no circumstances tolerate any further disruption of the learning environment.

     I understand that when I do not behave, I not only keep myself from learning, I prevent others in the class from learning, too. It is not fair to the other students in the class if I misbehave because I am sabotaging their opportunity to learn. Rules concerning everything from gum chewing to fighting have specific purposes and must be respected, even If I do not agree with them. I am responsible for my own actions, and I must be held accountable when I break the rules. There will always be rules (and laws) created by society that must be obeyed, so I should start obeying now.

     Having an art class is not a right or entitlement. Learning about art is a privilege and gift with many rewards if I choose to accept. Some of the many rewards I can gain by choosing to work hard, to learn, and to be respectful are: improving my mind, gaining knowledge and skills, satisfaction form a job well done, self-discipline, expressing myself in creative and beautiful ways, good grades, and respect from my teacher and classmates. By choosing to participate in art class, I have the opportunity to learn about the history of art, thus learning about the history of the world. I will get to learn about cultures different from my own and participate in making art objects that reflect my own and others’ culture. I will get to practice thinking skills when I analyze the structure of artworks. I will have the opportunity to learn to judge the value of art objects as well as make my own decisions about beauty and meaning in art. Also, I get the chance to learn skills in making sculpture as well as in drawing and painting. Finally, I get to experiment with, explore, and express ideas and feelings while I make art objects. I am fortunate to attend a school where I can take art because many middle schools in Alabama do not have an art program at all.

     Education is about understanding my world. If I choose not to learn, I fail to succeed in life. When I misbehave in art class, I miss opportunities to learn skills as well as to improve my mind. My teachers and parents want me to be educated because they want the very best for me. Mrs. Nichols believes in me and has high expectations for me. She will accept nothing less than my very best.

     I am an important, strong, and valuable individual. I am intelligent as well as loved. I have many gifts and I am treasured by my teachers and parents. I have a great potential to succeed in life and make a difference in this world. Without a good education, my potential for future success is very poor. My teachers and parents love me enough to make sure I do what it takes to be successful in life. If I were allowed to do whatever I pleased and were never disciplined, I would be severely handicapped as a person. If I want a good job in the future I need to be educated, responsible, and respectful. I need to learn right now to be accountable for my choices.

     Because I am a good, strong, intelligent individual, I have the ability to choose to behave in class and respect my teacher and fellow students by being quiet, courteous, listening, participating, and working. I have the power to choose to learn, I have the power to choose to work, and I have the power to choose to honor myself and others by letting my actions show an attitude of respect.”
Student Signature________________________________________________________Date___________________
Parent Signature_________________________________________________________Date___________________

Here is an idea from Jeryl Wittenburg Hollingsworth from the Art Teachers Facebook group: 
"Our students sign contracts every a.m. saying they will be in control of their voices and bodies etc. If someone appears to be having a problem, I ask them to step to the back of the room and take 5 minutes to get themselves back in control. Yesterday I asked a 6th grader to step to the back. His immediate response, "What? What did I do?" My next step at that point is to hand them a pen and paper. Turns out he DID know. Lol"

I now teach PK-12th grade, and when my elementary students need a discipline assignment I give them grade appropriate math worksheets. I just asked their teachers to share some with me; this one is for third grade. The website math-aids.com has thousands of worksheets sorted by category and grade level! 

3rd Grade worksheet from math-aids.com

Editor's note: Managing student behavior involves far more than discipline techniques. In order to create an environment for student success, the teacher needs to provide quality instruction as well as appropriate motivation. Most importantly, the teacher needs to have the right attitude for leadership in the classroom. Finally, having a solid classroom management plan with rules and procedures set up from the beginning of the year is also extremely important - students need to be very clear about what the teacher's expectations are.

disclaimer: These are a set of ideas about being proactive in teaching based on classroom experience as well as various education authors. Many times there are circumstances in the classroom that are beyond any teacher's control, especially when serving at-risk populations or in environments where those in administration fail to provide effective leadership in a school. Sometimes, regardless of the prevailing theories about teacher responsibility, the teacher is not to be blamed for out of control students. Finally, we do NOT recommend that you put any of these strategies into practice if your administration disagrees with them. 

Article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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