Even the most experienced teachers with the best classroom management skills have to deal with teaching disruptive students at times. When you can’t prevent disruptive behavior, you’ll need strategies in place to teach undeterred by it.
Your strategies for teaching disruptive students can make the difference between a quick redirection and the entire class going off-task. Having plans in place in advance can help you recover quickly with a minimum of distraction for the other students.
What is disruptive behavior?
Any behavior that interferes with your ability to teach or your students’ ability to learn is “disruptive”. While you can’t avoid all disruptive behavior, you can limit its occurrence and recover quickly when it does happen.
In last week’s email, we talked about how to prevent disruptive behavior in the art room. But even the best attempts at heading off behavior problems will sometimes fail.
Here are 7 strategies for teaching disruptive students:
1. Be objective.
Is the behavior disruptive to the other students, or just to you? If it’s only disruptive to you, try to ignore it or talk to the student about it later, privately. (If you call the student out in front of their peers, it takes the whole class off task.)
2. Stay calm and don’t raise your voice.
When you need to correct a student or group of students, lower your voice and speak more quietly. Always be polite, and never sarcastic. This works wonders to diffuse the situation and restore peace in your classroom.
3. Follow through with what you’ve said you will do.
Don’t ever threaten what you’re not prepared to carry out. Students need to know you mean what you say and they will test you on it! This builds trust and honesty.
4. Don’t take it personally.
Students engage in disruptive behavior for a variety of reasons. Behavior problems could signal frustration with the material they’re learning, stress, boredom, problems at home, or mental health issues.
Or maybe they’re not getting enough sleep, or they’re skipping breakfast. Maybe they just want attention. In other words, it’s probably not you, so don’t take it personally.
5. Use proximity.
When kids are talking during instruction or are otherwise off-task, go stand by their desk while you continue your lesson. Sometimes just making direct eye contact as you carry on with teaching lets them know they’re on your radar. This works like a charm without disrupting the rest of the class at all.
6. Deal with misbehavior privately, and later if possible.
Sometimes you need to stop instruction to talk to a misbehaving student. This may need to happen, but be aware that it will take the whole class off task.
Instead, try to redirect the student if you can, while maintaining the flow of instruction. Then have a talk with them later if it’s still needed. Always avoid disciplining a student in front of the whole class if possible.
7. Document EVERYTHING.
Keep a running log where you can note the date, time, who was involved, what happened, and how you addressed it.
Use the notes app on your phone for those times when you’re away from your desk. Then transfer the info at the end of each day while it’s still fresh.
Remember, safety should always be your #1 priority. Dangerous behavior is different than disruptive behavior and requires different solutions. Always get the administration involved if you or your students feel threatened.
an inspiring quote:
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” ~ *James Clear
I once had a heart-to-heart talk with a group of 5th graders about this very idea. They had been giving their (first year) teacher such a hard time that she was beside herself with frustration.
So we spent part of their Art class one day talking about the kind of people they wanted to become and worked backward from there. Once these kids started imagining the “future selves” their current behavior was creating, something seemed to “click” for them.
This is a concept that kids will be ready for at varying ages. Some kids will “get it” much earlier than others, but it can’t hurt to talk about this early and often. The payoff for kids who can think about their behavior this way is huge for everyone involved!