Writing sentences for punishment

October 13, 2011

in classroom management, hot topics, tips and tricks

Would you ever or have you ever assigned a student to write their name 50 times as punishment for not writing their name on an assignment?

That’s the question that was posed on my Facebook wall this week. Dozens of teachers responded with a huge range of answers:

The discussion was fascinating (I highly recommend you read the whole thing here, because everyone had an important perspective to add and there are some GREAT ideas for handling the issue.) When all was said and done, the vast majority of teachers concluded that having a child write his or her name (or sentences like “I will remember to write my name”) was NOT beneficial for kids.

My verdict? It’s very rare that I make a blanket statement that a particular action should never be taken with any student, ever. Teachers have to know their students as individuals and every situation is different.

What I will say is this: in eleven years of teaching, I never met a student that required this punishment. In fact, I never encountered a situation in which my students needed a punishment at all for forgetting to write their names on their papers. Oh sure, I got no name papers ALL. THE. TIME. But I viewed the problem as a procedural issue, and when kids don’t follow our routines and procedures, they need practice, not punishment. They need more modeling, reinforcement, and feedback until labeling their assignments is second nature. (To learn how I support kids with this, read my tips on teaching kids to write their names/headings on assignments.)

Most kids get it after a few days of me teaching them; some take a few weeks. Some forget intermittently all the way through June.¬†And that’s okay. Frustrating for the teacher, of course, but okay. A big part of our jobs, especially in the elementary grades, is to teach children to be responsible and accountable for their work. We’re less likely to punish them out of aggravation if we keep this perspective in mind.

What’s your take–is it ever appropriate to have students write sentences for punishment? What do you do when kids forget to put their names or the correct heading on their papers?

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Check out the free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah October 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

All I do is grade the paper, write “???” in the top corner and leave it in a no name bin. I leave it up to the students to figure out that they are missing the credit when I pass out progress reports. It requires no extra effort on my part.

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2 Angela Watson October 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi, Sarah! Thanks for sharing a workable solution to this problem.

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3 Sunny October 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I started doing “Speeding Tickets” for no-name papers. I got a “Speeding Ticket” magnet from VistaPrint and it sits on my whiteboard. Underneath it is a folder that holds any no-name papers. If I get papers with no names on them, I put a speeding ticket on it (just a small sheet of paper that says “Uh oh! This paper got a speeding ticket because it doesn’t have a name :(“) and put them in there. Each week I list assignments on the board with the students’ numbers behind it to show who is missing work (an idea I stole from you!). I am doing this with 2nd graders and while some still forget to check the folder first if they are missing work, a few reminders to check the folder if they see their number helps big time.

I am a huge advocate that in most circumstances children should NOT be made to write as punishment. I think it is why many people hate to write because this was an oft-practiced punishment “back in the day”. I am early 30s and very well remember my 4th grade teacher making us copy a “Silence is Golden” poem if we talked to much in class.

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4 Angela Watson October 15, 2011 at 11:03 am

Hi, Sunny! I totally forgot about my missing work board idea! LOL! I just checked and that’s no on the site anywhere, only in the book. I’ll have to add that in someplace. Your speeding ticket concept is cute! A fun twist on the problem coupled with those few reminders is the perfect solution for second graders.

And, um, “Silence is golden?” You must cringe every time you hear that phrase now. ;-)

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5 Miriam October 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

Angela,

I’m loving what you say about practice rather than punishment. I think most of the time that is true, even with real discipline issues.

Kids need to practice doing things the correct way and being their best self.

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6 Angela Watson October 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

Hi, Miriam! I like the way you phrased that, and agree that practice is often more effective than punishment with discipline issues, as well. Most kids truly want to please the teacher, have friends in the classroom, and experience success in school. If we can tap into that innate desire and show them HOW to accomplish those things, everyone will get a lot more enjoyment out their time in the classroom.

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