Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Look: Setting Limits in the Classroom

Setting Limits in the Classroom: How to Move Beyond the Dance of Discipline in Today's Classrooms

By: Robert J. Mackenzie

Review by: Scipi (V. Rauch)

Recommended for: All Staff

The theory of education is something we were all required to study in college. It sounded good in the book; it was great for discussion, and it made us feel smart!  But that same theory tended to fall apart when you became the teacher of actual students.  In addition to theory, what we really needed were practical suggestions for classroom management, effective ideas for dealing with children, and management methods that were classroom proven. Well, look no further; this is it! 

In his introduction, Mackenzie states that, “Teachers can’t teach their academic subjects effectively until they can establish an effective environment for learning. Classroom management is simply too important to be neglected or handled ineffectively.” The book discusses effective classroom structure, your approach to teaching rules, how children learn your rules, and establishing consistent rules. Throughout the book, the author wants you to recognize the discipline you might be using that just doesn’t work. He concludes the book with how to develop a school-wide guidance plan.

Setting Limits in the Classroom gives answers to the most testing behaviors that you may experience in the classroom.  The book provides solid advice for fixing the way you interact and deal with students, and it is also practical in that it gives various real-life scenarios to re-enact in your classroom in order to practice effective management. It offers firm, down-to-earth, and sensible solutions that effectively cut off students' attempts at negotiating, bargaining, and being belligerent towards the teacher.  Mackenzie offers many options to the unsuccessful extremes of permissiveness and rigid authority, and all points in between.  He outlines no-nonsense methods for setting clear, firm limits supported by words and actions. The book is really a step-by-step manual that shows you how to create structure and methods that work, stop power struggles, motivate students, and even solve homework dilemmas. It is a must-read, and I highly recommend it especially for middle and high school teachers.
To peak your interest, here are a few quotes I especially liked from the book: 

  • "Your consequences will have their greatest impact when they are immediate, consistent, logically related, proportional, respectful, and followed by a clean slate."

  • "Much of what we consider to be misbehavior in the classroom is actually limit testing or children’s attempts to clarify what we really expect."

  • "When our words are consistent with our actions, we don’t need a lot of words or harsh consequences to get our message across."

  • "When we ignore misbehavior, we are really saying, 'It’s okay to do that. Go ahead. You don’t have to stop.'"

This is an ideal book for a whole-school study or new teacher development training. The appendix contains a study-group guide that lists the objectives for each week, as well as study-group discussion questions for each chapter.  I have successfully used this book with many student teachers who have in turn used it as a discipline and classroom management guide.

Other Books I Recommend by Robert J. MacKenzie:

Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child

Setting Limits: How to Raise Responsible, Independent
Children by Providing Clear Boundaries

Supplemental Classroom Management Materials by Scipi

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