The truth of consequences


Erik Ketcherside

Nayely Sanchez-Hernandez was a music major at Arizona State University until she realized that music may be the only universal language. A communication barrier between generations in her own extended family troubled her. “My cousins would say, ‘Goodnight, Grandma,’ but she couldn’t understand them, and they couldn’t understand her. I had to be their translator. It’s sad, when you think about it; that they can’t talk to their grandmother.”

Nayely also realized it’s important to her that people who come to the U.S. from other countries, or Americans in families who speak languages other than English in their homes, be able to retain their cultures. It’s important enough that she transferred into ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and changed her major to bilingual education and English as a second language.

Today, as a BE/ESL teacher in a Phoenix, Arizona elementary school, Nayely has learned that language may not be the only barrier to comprehension, when consequences for behavior are concerned. After using the Sanford Inspire Program module, Understanding Consequences, she decided to work with her mentor teacher to change her classroom management system.

Understanding Consequences is one of a three-part series of modules that includes “Creating Consequences” and “Delivering Consequences.” These free professional development modules are available on demand from the Sanford Inspire Program through Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Concern: Punishment damages teacher-student relationships

When she started as a teacher, Nayely relied primarily on one form of punishment for classroom management: loss of recess. Now, she admits, “That didn’t really make sense. They get only 10 minutes of recess, anyway, and they need it because they’ve got all that energy going. If anything,” she laughs, “it’s hurting the teachers because we have to stay with them those extra 10 minutes, and then they’re antsy the rest of the afternoon.”

Another disadvantage of the punishment model of behavior management, research shows, is that students may become so accustomed to the negative experience of punishment that it no longer deters misbehavior. And the repeated use of punishment may convince a student the teacher is just “picking on him,” causing him to take less responsibility for his behavior, not more.

Solution: Consequences promote student responsibility and growth

Understanding Consequences is the Sanford Inspire Program module that challenged Nayely to rethink classroom behavioral management. A consequence is a behavioral intervention directly related to a specific misbehavior, designed to promote student responsibility and growth. “I talked with my mentor teacher, and we agreed that punishments often don’t make sense. So we replaced them with consequences,” Nayely says. One of the strategies they adopted is what she calls the Wow List. “ When a student does something outstanding, I’ll say, “Let’s give [name] a ‘Wow,’ and everybody says (she whispers) ‘Wow!’ Then I’ll write the student’s name on the Wow List.” She says students on the list get to draw a slip from a jar that names their reward. These include incentives such as bringing a stuffed animal to school, doing a show-and-tell for the class or eating lunch with the teachers. “The rest of the class sees that, and they start working harder toward it,” Nayely says.


“Our new classroom management system is working a lot better,” Nayely says, “because it’s more logical.” Her second-graders are more willing to work toward the incentive of a reward than to avoid the threat of punishment. The module teaches that logical consequences help students develop greater ownership and responsibility for their behavior.

The module also specifies the difference between consequences and punishments, and the criteria a consequence must meet in order to be effective. Teachers are able to practice with different scenarios, determine whether their responses to a particular misbehavior are consequences or punishments, and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions.

Though this module and the two others in the series stress consequences, there are other modes of intervention for addressing misbehavior. Proactive strategies such as using proximity and giving clear directions, and nonverbal cues such as eye contact and finger-to-lips, are also effective in redirecting misbehavior. These strategies and more are presented in other Sanford Inspire Program modules.

Teacher resource: Understanding Consequences

Source: Sanford Inspire Program

Type: on-demand, single user

Cost: free

Estimated time required: 1.0 hour

Completion documentation: certificate

Teacher Standards (InTASC): Professional Teacher: 3; Essential Knowledge: 3(k)

Topics: Learning Environment > Managing Student Behavior > Rules and Consequences

For more free professional development resources for teachers, administrators, schools and districts, visit the Sanford Inspire Program homepage, and the ASU Professional Learning Library, powered by Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.