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One framework for understanding culture (that served as the foundation of the Bridging Cultures study) focuses on some very fundamental differences

Exhibit 9.2 Elements of an Effective Routine

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An effective routine is • efficient,

• clear,

• communicated with positive expectancy (“You CAN do it. You WILL do it.”),

• taught to mastery (i.e., modeled, repeated, and practiced until it is internalized and no longer a “nag”),

• matched to a purpose and group, and

• sometimes matched to individuals where appropriate and necessary.



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between two types of cultural orientations: individualistic and collectivistic. Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull (2008) explain the differences:

The fundamental distinction between these two systems is the relative emphasis placed on individual versus group well-being . . . it is not a matter of valuing one or the other—individual or group—but rather the degree of emphasis accorded to each. (p. 9)

Exhibit 9.3 summarizes some of the most important contrasts between the systems. Acknowledging that although this framework has limitations (as is true of any framework), Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull (2008) found it to be “a good place to start in order to grasp major differences among cultures” (p. 19). They report that “using this streamlined framework . . . teachers were able to generate an almost endless array of strategies for working with the stu- dents and families they served” (p. 8).

Because these particular teachers were working with students who more typi- cally come from a collectivistic cultural orientation, many of the shifts they made in management strategies were guided by that filter: “an approach to stu- dents as a group that takes advantage of its sense of community and desire for group harmony” (Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008, p. 101). They prefer to use the term “classroom orchestration” versus “management.” Some examples include routines established that involve students carrying on a group activity

Exhibit 9.3 The Individualism/Collectivism Framework

Individualism Collectivism Representative or mainstream: United States, Western Europe, Australia, and Canada

Representative of 70% of world cultures (Triandis, 1989), including those of many U.S. immigrants

Well-being of individual; responsibility for self

Well-being of group; Responsibility for group

Independence/self-reliance Interdependence/cooperation

Individual achievement Family/group success

Self-expression Respect

Self-esteem Modesty

Talk orientation Social orientation

Cognitive intelligence Social intelligence

Adapted from Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull (2008, p. 9)



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(versus working independently) if or when the teacher is temporarily absent from the classroom, or transitioning between activities by having all students gather in the meeting area and sing a song together or do a movement exer- cise. One teacher, who had previously withheld recess as punishment for failure to turn in homework, replaced this with a system in which volunteer students helped their classmates successfully complete missing homework (p. 107).

Another interesting exploration of the ways in which cultural values intersect or conflict with classroom procedures and expectations comes from Weinstein, Curran, and Thompson-Clarke (2003). Here are a few of their examples:

Because Ms. Frank values collaborative learning, she places her stu- dents’ desks in clusters and encourages them to help one another. But she spends a lot of time at the beginning of the year explaining to her second graders exactly what that means. She takes pains to distinguish between helping and doing the work for the other person. She and her students role-play different situations; for example, Ms. Frank pretends she doesn’t know how to do a math problem and asks a student for help. Then she asks the class, “Was that good help? Was that explaining or was that doing the work for me?” Ms. Frank and her students also talk about when it’s not permissible to help one another. She explains that some- times work has to be done independently so that she can see what people know how to do on their own. Ms. Frank realizes that it’s important to be absolutely explicit about the norms for helping in her very diverse class- room. Some of her children have cultural roots in individualistic cultures; it is likely that the values of individual effort and self-sufficiency have been deeply engrained, so these children may resist her efforts to encourage peer assistance. In contrast, the children from more collectivist cultures (e.g., African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American) have probably been taught the value of providing assistance to others; they may find it difficult to resist helping their peers, even when they are directed to work indepen- dently. (pp. 271–272)

When we establish norms of behavior, we have to ensure that students under- stand what the norms mean in terms of specific behavior.

This is especially critical in culturally diverse classrooms, since different cultures hold different views about appropriate behavior. In some cultures, for example, making eye contact is a sign of respect, while in others re- spect is communicated by maintaining an averted gaze. Teachers may



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expect children to sit quietly and “listen when someone is talking,” but some African American students may be accustomed to a more active, participatory pattern of behavior (“call-response”). (Weinstein, Curran, & Thompson-Clarke, 2003, p. 271)

These are but a few examples of how we might use our understanding of cul- tural values to guide the design of routines. Clearly, there is far more to culture than this contrast of individualistic versus collectivistic presented here. This is but one example of the relationship between cultural orientation and respect- ful and effective classroom management. What this underscores is the need for us to continuously develop our awareness of our own cultural orientation (internalized values, assumptions, and beliefs) while simultaneously seeking to better know those of our students, and to use that information collectively to guide the design and implementation of classroom procedures and routines. Cultural proficiency is an essential belief in The Skillful Teacher Framework (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 4).

Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull (2008) sum it up in this way:

As teachers we need to know how to examine our own cultural values; develop understanding of the values of others and regard them in a non- judgmental way; and apply what we learn about cultural differences to the improvement of classroom practices. (p. xiv)


Routines and procedures are established so that the classroom seems to run au- tomatically. Students know exactly what to do and when to do it (Stronge, 2002, p. 28). When classroom procedures are poorly thought out—or not thought out at all—the results are seen in disorganization, poor momentum, and often discipline problems.

Most important of all, valuable instructional and learning time is lost. At the end of one day in Ms. Conway’s first grade classroom, a substitute teacher wrote the following note: “Anytime you need a sub for Ms. Conway’s room, call me. I didn’t have to do anything. The kids ran the whole day: they knew what to do, how to do it, when to do it. I just followed their lead.” On a scale of 1–10, that’s a 10 in this area of performance!



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Routines Encompass a Variety of Classroom Procedures:

p Housekeeping

p Safety and operational features of class business

p Work habits and work procedures

p Developing social or personal skills

p Academics

How Procedures Become Routines:

p Modeling procedures for students to see exactly what it looks like in action.

p Practicing until the procedure is mastered.

p Tenaciously adhering to it until integrated.

p Reinforcing to make sure students absorb it and know that it is important.

Cultural Differences Need to Be Reflected:

p We need to be aware of our own cultural orientation (internalized values, assumptions, and beliefs).

p We need to better know the cultural orientation of our students and use that information to guide the design and implementation of classroom procedures and routines.

To check your knowledge about Routines, see the exercises on The Skillful Teacher website at www.RBTeach.com/TST7.




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Management Discipline



Good student behavior in a classroom derives from many sources. This chapter provides a comprehensive accounting of those sources and how to put them together. It is also a diagnostic map of what could ac- count for off-task students and misbehavior when that occurs, and how to start at root causes to remedy the situation. Think of this topic as having two strands, both contributing to good student behavior:

Strand 1: a set of tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat problem behavior.

Strand 2: a set of tools for building student cooperation and self-discipline.

We also bring in material from other chapters that influences student behavior— Personal Relationship Building, Clarity, and the Management areas of Space, Time, Routines, and Momentum—each of which can cause behavior problems if poorly handled. The sequential map of the two strands is shown in Figure 10.1. It synthesizes the diagnostic sequence we describe in more detail later.

This chapter is also very useful to any teacher implementing PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) because of its concrete detail and exam- ples. The PBIS literature is useful for any school or district that wants to plan carefully and effectively for schoolwide consistency and implementation with fidelity and correct pacing. However, this chapter enables a teacher who wants to carry out PBIS in an individual classroom to go deeply into successful imple- mentation.

“What do I have to do to get students to apply themselves to their work and stop fooling around and being disruptive?” That is the bottom-line question of Discipline. Many teachers spend a disproportionate amount of energy deal- ing with it. Some then leave teaching because they find they rarely deal with anything else. There is no question that good discipline is a prerequisite for good education. We must bring all of our best knowledge to bear on it to stop the needless dissipation of both teacher and student energy that it causes. We have the knowledge and capability to retire this issue and move on to the ques- tion most teachers are more interested in: “How do I build self-discipline and responsibility in my students?” In this chapter, we address both questions. We

There is no question that good discipline is a prerequisite for good education.





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urge staff developers, principals, and instructional coaches to pay particular at- tention to this section.

Our approach is organized around the following assumptions:

p All behavior has an origin or cause.

p There are at least 12 different causes of inattentive or disruptive behavior.

p Effective responses to disruptive behavior are chosen from a repertoire to match the cause or causes.

p Effective discipline is built on a comprehensive approach that includes four levels:

1. Laying a foundation of sound classroom management, solid instruc- tional design and delivery, and building relationships with students;

2. Establishing authority by communicating expectations, setting limits, and eliminating disruptions;

3. Building a strong classroom climate that nurtures cooperation, respon- sibility, and self-discipline; and

4. Being familiar with more complex models of discipline that may be nec- essary to implement with a very small percentage of especially troubled or recalcitrant students.


All behavior has an origin or cause, and there are at least 12 causes of disrup- tive or inattentive behavior in classrooms (Table 10.1). We’ll take a quick look at these causes and then examine a few of them in depth. The reason for doing this analysis is that prevention and response to off-task or disruptive behavior must be done in relation to the cause of the behavior to begin with. Some of the causes of these behaviors have their origins in our choices, not the student’s faults. As we walk through each of the causes of disruptive or inattentive behavior, we point to the many tools available to address specific issues of student behavior addressed in detail in relevant chapters of this book.

All behavior has an origin or cause.

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