Managing Disruptive Students

If you have a set routine, kids will have fewer chances to be disruptive.

When it comes to disruption, classroom management is your best tool. It’s important to employ classroom management techniques to create a space for productive learning.

There will always be times, however, where misbehavior is inevitable and distracts others. Use the following tips in order to prevent, manage, and address disruption.

Have a Routine

If you have a set routine, kids will have fewer chances to be disruptive. Structure—especially at the beginning of the year—is important to avoid disruptions. They may feel like little things, but give specific instructions for daily tasks like how to hand in homework, how and where to put things away, what to write in your agenda, etc. Lastly, make the consequences clear if those expectations are not met.

Teach the routine and repeat, repeat, repeat. (See more on setting up classroom routines and procedures.)

The Sticky Note Method 

When proactivity isn’t enough to prevent misbehavior, try something a bit more tangible.

One year I had a student who would constantly blurt things out and disrupt the class. I put three sticky notes on his desk, and took one away when he disrupted the class. That’s warning one. When I took the second sticky note, that was strike two. With only one sticky note left, the student realized that there would be consequences for being disruptive. Seeing his sticky notes being taken away helped the student conceptualize the disruption and prevented a third strike.

Customize Your Methods to the Student

I had a student that was described by others as a “handful.” After building a rapport with the student and attempting to understand the root of his behavioral issues, I realized that allowing him to move and be active lessened his disruptive behavior. If I found the student to be particularly antsy one day, I would give him a note and ask him to take it to a teacher down the hall. This wasn’t a punishment or a reward – it was a way to prevent disruptive behavior for this particular student.

When the next year came around, I relayed this method to his next teacher. That year, this student would bring me a note once in a while from his current teacher. We would chat for a few minutes, and I would send him back to class.

Creative ways to help individual students are typically most effective, because they address the root of the issue rather than the disruptive behavior itself.

Follow Through

It’s just as important to enforce your rules and consequences as it is to make them. I often see teachers failing to follow through when it comes to managing student behavior. New teachers have told me they get nervous to involve administration, or feel bad disciplining a “good kid” when they act out. But not following through with consequences will lead to a lack of respect for you and your rules.

One piece of advice I often hand out is to not use the principal’s office as a threat if you’re never going to send anyone there. Students will catch on, and won’t respect your authority once they see you’re not serious about consequences.

When disruption is properly managed, everyone benefits. Don’t be afraid to address misbehavior and follow through with consequences — they might not right away, but eventually your class will thank you for it!