10 Strategies for Teachers: How to Deal With a Disruptive Class
What Is Classroom Management?
Classroom management involves the number of techniques that teachers use to ensure that their lesson plans are executed in a smooth and productive fashion with as little distracting behavior from students as possible.
I have had many interesting experiences and have learned several classroom management strategies in my 25 years of teaching. I would like to share these important techniques with both new teachers and veteran teachers alike and all those who are dealing with a disruptive classroom.
Curbing Classroom Interruptions Before They Begin
There are two key strategies that I have developed over the years to curb disorderly behaviors in the classroom before they begin. These strategies involves developing relationships with students and arriving to class with a solid plan.
Build a Meaningful Relationships With Your Students
Teaching should not be treated as a popular contest, but there will always be value in getting to know your students on a personal level. Here are some approaches to building relationships with your students in order to gain their support, increase engagement, and minimize disruptions in your classroom.
- Listen to your students. Be open to receiving feedback in class so that they feel that they have some sort of influence on their learning experience.
- Develop a genuine curiosity about their interests and what's on their minds. Find parallels in your own life to bridge the conversation.
- Identify their strengths and weaknesses as quickly as possible.
Arrive With a Plan
Your classroom management plan should be well-thought-out and ready to go on the first day of class. The more front-loading you do at the beginning of the year, the more you will thank yourself later. Your set of rules should cover any sort of disruption that you can think of. Your consequences should deter students from interrupting the flow of your class.
Classroom Management Strategies
Exercising good classroom management strategies can be the difference between having a great year or a miserable year with your students. This article will feature the following techniques for regaining control in your classroom:
- Have a sense of humor.
- Never raise your voice.
- Use the silent stare.
- Learn your students' names.
- Send the first disruptor to the hall and the second to the office.
- Let your administrators know about your class.
- Have administrators visit your classroom
- Never let your class know they are getting under your skin.
- Treat your students with respect.
- Tell the disruptive student that you do not need his or her help.
Before we begin, this is a friendly reminder that being overcome with frustration is natural. Do what you can to model an appropriate response by setting a positive tone, even if that means taking a few moments to compose yourself.
1. Have a Sense of Humor
You have to have a sense of humor in the classroom. If you do not there will be a disconnect because the kids will not like you and you will not like the kids. Using a sense of humor with your students is the best way to disarm a bad situation.
Be sure to be careful with your sense of humor. If you try to carry it too far with students who do not understand their limits, you could have a potential rowdy class who thinks you are a clown and a pushover. Dispel this notion by constantly giving the kids guidelines. Once they have the guidelines for classroom behavior, they will “get” your sense of humor.
2. Never Raise Your Voice
A disruptive class is just waiting for you to raise your voice and yell at them—they love it. It gives the students a chance to raise their voice and argue back. They love retelling stories about the teachers who "lost it," especially if they know they were the ones who caused it. Be careful that you don't show up in their Twitter feeds. Do not give them the pleasure. Staying calm, cool, and collected is the key.
3. Use The Silent Stare
When my classes are talking too much or out of their seats, I stand in front of the class and simple stare at the class. One of the students gets the hint. Then I hear, “Shhh, shhh, shhh!” all over the room. I act like I did not even recognize the loudness in the room, and I start or resume.
There have been a few times that it has taken a class too long to quiet down. In those few occasions, I say, “Obviously, you know what is going on today. The assignment is on the board. I am not wasting my time with you. You are on your own.” They are all aghast. I go back to my desk, and one at a time the kids trickle back asking for help. This may seem harsh, but it works. I do eventually go back to the front of the room and ask in a humorous, sarcastic tone, "Would you like me to explain?" They usually give a resounding, "Yes!"
Even though they would like to make you think you are unimportant at times, most of them know they need you.
4. Learn Your Students' Names
I have to admit, learning their names is the hardest part for me. I start looking at rosters over the summer.
If you have a troublemaker in class, you want to be able to call that student by name on the first day of school. Unfortunately, the ones who want to cause problems are the ones easiest to remember. The kids who do not say much are the ones I need to work on most.
Remembering their names shows all your students that you care about who they are and what they do. Many times, just knowing a name will help stop a kid from creating trouble.
5. Send the First Disrupter to the Hall and the Second to the Office
In the beginning of the year, you must set the tone.
If they are going to make trouble in my class, I give the first warning, “The first one goes to the hall and the second one goes to the office.” There are usually at least two pushing the buttons - many times together.
You must follow through with the threat so they know you mean business. When you show them in the beginning of the year that your objective is to teach them and not babysit them, they get the message quick.
Students love to test teachers. Not because they are "bad" but because they are kids. Try to remember your own school days so you can relate to them before it is irreparable.
When you send a kid to the hall, make time to discuss the problem clearly. Some students, even in high school, do not understand why they are being disciplined. Make it clear in a way that lets the student know you want their success.
The same goes for if you send a student to the office. Find a time to discuss what happened to lead to the discipline. If kids know you are still on their side, they will try harder to do better for you.
6. Let Your Administrators Know About Your Class
This past year, I had a class full of boys who were childhood friends and loved to have fun and aggravate. They wanted the tone to be a “them against the teacher” tone and made it clear from the beginning.
I went to the administration about it. They knew the boys already, not just from having them in their office but also knowing them in the community. These were not bad kids. They just wanted to have fun. I totally related. Letting the administrators know about the situation prepares you and them for any situation that might arise.
7. Have Administrators Visit Your Classroom
After I let my administrators know, they would periodically show up in the room either a couple of them or just one. What I loved was that they never made it seem like a visit for discipline. They would come in, ask how I was doing, ask the kids how it was going, and actually conversed with them. It gave the kids a good feeling to be recognized by the administrators in a good light rather than in the cloak of shame when they are sitting in the office.
When you have a disruptive class, the administrators can really have a positive influence by just making an appearance and showing interest. You must let them in on the situation, and tell them you want them as a preventative measure, not a last resort.
8. Never Let Your Class Know They Are Getting Under Your Skin
As soon as you let a disruptive class know that they have gotten under your skin, they have you right where they want you: angry, agitated, anxious, defensive. No, no, no! Do not allow this to happen.
Again, you have to set guidelines from the first day. You must also loosen up enough that you can find humor in something they just did that you would not otherwise find humorous. You will have a miserable year if you allow them to make you show what you are actually feeling. They love it when you “go off the deep end,” especially in the beginning when they do not know you. Keep reminding yourself that their success is your success. You just need to control the type of success.
9. Treat Students With Respect
From the first day, always remember you are the adult and they are the student. You must also show them respect if you want to receive it in return.
If a kid is constantly acting up in class and nothing has worked, go out in the hall with the kid and say, “Listen, you are disrupting class which is not good for anyone. There are students in there who want to learn, and you are keeping them from it. I know you are just having a good time, and I don’t think you are a bad kid. It is just that you and I each have a job to do in there. You need to be quiet and calm while I am teaching, and I need to keep my focus. There are appropriate times for this type of behavior, but in the middle of class or work time is not the time or the place. Now, let’s go back in and act like decent human beings to each other.”
That last line usually gets a smile. I treat a disruptor with respect (when their behavior hasn’t gone overboard), and in return we go back into the class and things are better. Kids need to know adults understand and respect them. Sometimes, the teacher does have to send the student to the office. Many times it can be handled one-on-one and a new respect for each other grows from those times.
There are times that you have to constantly work on that student-teacher relationship.
10. Tell the Disruptive Student You Do Not Need His or Her Help
It is inevitable. You will have one kid misbehaving, you tell the kid to stop talking or tapping his pencil or getting up and down out of his seat or whistling or whatever other annoying thing the kid can come up with to disrupt the class.
Once you tell the kid to stop, you have another kid mock you by saying, “Yeah, stop that. Don’t you know you are annoying everyone else?” These kids are in high school. Most completely understand the dynamics of the class: good and bad.
When a kid “appears” to be “helping” you with discipline, it is probably a case of mocking you to get a laugh or to get a group to start in on their buddy to create the drama. I simply say, “I have it handled, and I don’t need your help.” Abrupt and to the point. They know when they have crossed the line.
A good teacher must know the rules; a good pupil, the exceptions.— Martin H. Fischer
Classroom Management Mistakes Teachers Make
Teaching is a learning experience like anything else in life. We've already discussed some tips for the classroom, so now lets get into some things that are to be avoided.
Failing to communicate expectations.
Establishing and reviewing your expectations, rules, and consequences is essential to forming the foundational principles of your classroom. Be consistent in your doling of consequences to convey an equitable environment to your students.
Failing to triage an issue.
Most of the disruptive behavioral issues that students exhibit in classrooms are indicative of an underlying issue. What these students need is a trustworthy adult to dig beneath the surface to find out how they're doing. Sometimes the issue will be out of the scope of what a teacher can handle, so coordinating the student with a professional may be necessary.
Striking down too hard, too quickly.
Teachers should do the best job they can of implementing a progressive disciplinary approach in their classrooms. Not every issue warrants a trip to the principal's office and a suspension. Small infractions can be reprimanded with conversations and detentions. Dismissing students from your class too readily can leave you with less options going forward.
Not following through.
Students will take you less seriously if you fail to deliver on your promises. This is one of the biggest mistakes teachers can make. Things will really get out of hand when your students catch on to these tendencies. Don't give them open avenues to exploit you.
You Are Going to Be All Right
I hope these are helpful tips to get you started on a good school year. It doesn't matter if you are a new teacher or a veteran teacher who sees a problem with a class of 35 – 40 students coming in; using clear strategies will help your year go by much smoother for you and your students.
The strategies also allow you to build relationships with students rather than letting constant tension control the classroom. Some educators may disagree, but going in strong sets up the tone for the year. You can always loosen up as you see fit throughout the year.
More Classroom Advice by Susan Holland
- 25 Sure-Fire Strategies for Handling Difficult Students | Scholastic
You can breathe a sigh of relief now! Here's expert advice on what to do when students act up and personalities clash.
- 10 Classroom Procedures That Will Save Your Sanity - WeAreTeachers
These will seriously cut your stress. Members of our WeAreTeachers community share their #1 sanity-saving classroom procedure.
- Successful First Day of School Sets the Tone
Whether you are a first-year teacher or a veteran teacher, the most important thing you must do on the first day of school is let students know your expectations through the class rules.
Questions & Answers
I’m a very very young teacher, and I know one group of students do not respect me. I have raised my voice, sent them to the office and they still don’t respect me. They mock me in class in front of my face, and I don’t know what to do anymore. Could you help me?
Since they don't want to learn, sit at your desk and say nothing. When they ask, say, "Since you seem to be so active in class, I assumed I couldn't teach you anything." Do not sound whiny or upset. Be very straight-forward. IF they don't ask, call administration to come to your class. Let them know the situation before they arrive. Also, separate the worst offenders with a new seating chart.Helpful 66
How do learners who are not paying attention affect learners who are paying attention?
If they are sitting quietly, they are probably not affecting the other students. But if they are doing something distracting, then they need to be disciplined for disrupting the learning environment. Try to tell them to stop, if that does not work, send them to the hall or office.Helpful 27
How do noisy students affect other students?
Noisy students distract other students from the entire learning process.Helpful 21
How do I handle a student who is a troublemaker but also very smart?
Try to engage that student with some type of common ground. Ask direct questions to that student. If the student chooses to be a smart alec to get a laugh, send him or her to the hall. Then go out and explain that you know he or she knows the answer but the disruptive behavior is causing other students to miss the lesson. Appeal to the student to be helpful, but if the student does not cooperate, give a warning that you will have to refer him or her to the administration. Keep your cool because this type of student loves seeing a teacher unsettled. Email the parent. Chances are they would not approve of the behavior and the disruption to the rest of the class.Helpful 21
Many of your learners come from different cultures with different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. You have been teaching, and learners are complaining that they cannot understand you or follow your logic. What would you do to deal with this?
I have assigned student buddies. They help with the learners who are having a hard time keeping up because of their different backgrounds. The challenged learners and buddies also form a bond that makes learning easier and more fun. I also make myself available and answer their questions to the best of my ability.Helpful 1
© 2011 Susan Holland