(Another post for newbies and anyone interested.)
You brainstormed with your class. You created the list of rules for day-to-day operations. Students maybe even made the class poster, decorating that poster with hearts, multicolored dots and stickers. But somehow the rules keep falling by the wayside. That poster does not appear to have captured the hearts and minds of at least a few students.
What’s next? You have to tighten up. Your students understand the rules. Now they have to understand the consequences.
You might try a version of the following. Note that my rules have been laminated, the better to discourage graffiti. Printed on simple 8″ by 11″ colored paper, this represents a quick fix. Let your class know your chosen nonverbal signal. The refocus form can be a canned sheet, a creation of your own, or a simple assigned essay designed to help a student reflect on the behaviors that are complicating learning and instruction. The student should acknowledge problematic behaviors and specifically write out solutions to prevent repeating those behaviors. I recommend separating that student from the class to fill out the refocus form. Continued isolation for the remainder of the class period may also reinforce your point.
Consistency will be vital to making your consequences system work. Students must know that the nonverbal cue puts them one step from refocussing. Don’t accept substandard refocus forms, either.
For example, do not take, “I was bad. I will be better.” When a student hands you the form, look at that form. If the specifics are not there, that student needs to start over. You may hit some resistance at first. But perseverance will improve class conduct for the rest of your year. Reflection often does improve misbehaviors, especially thoughtless ones such as talking to friends in class.
Frankly, if nothing else, isolating a problem student improves the class atmosphere. Kids mostly hate to be located away from their peers. They will often pull themselves together simply to rejoin the class.