Article

How do you deal with disruptive behavior in the classroom?

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

I had a boy come to my first grade classroom from the second grade. I was warned that he was very abusive, so I set up a plan with his mother that involves getting stamps each day for good behavior. His mother then rewards him for his good day at home. We do this every single day.

Cheré Freeman

You have to get to the roots of why each individual is acting in such a way. Usually they are searching for attention. You must find a way to make sure the student can get attention for positive behavior. Poor behavior should get either no attention or the kind of attention that is so negative the student won't want it.

Brad, Compton, CA

Try first talking to the child, then try isolating the child within the classroom. If neither works, isolate the child in a peer teacher classroom with some work to do.

A. Merson, White Springs, FL

First of all, I explain to the students that their parents have given me the job of teaching them and that I am not going to let even one student keep me from doing my job. So when a disruptive student acts up, I have this statement to fall back on. I have one child who likes to do his own thing, so I told him that I needed him to help me show others how to behave. He and I made a pact, and with gentle reminders, he behaves better most of the time.

C. McClure

Disruptive students can be put to great use. I put them in charge of organizing the supply closet, sorting papers, passing out materials, etc. The only key is.... their work must be completed first. Watch how fast they complete an assignment without disrupting others!

Allison Parajon, Somerville, NJ

My approach varies depending on the student and the situation. I have found that dealing with disruptive students is a long term process. Lots of private conversations with the student and phone calls to the parents/guardian helps. My school recently handed out cell phones to teachers so calls can be made immediately for attendance and discipline issues. Using the phone during class can be time consuming, but it has been effective in diffusing arguments and other disruptions. Often, just taking out the phone and showing a student that their name and number is programmed in the phone does the trick.

M. Boraz, Chicago, IL

I am a fourth grade teacher. This is my tenth year. I have an ADHD son. Because of this, I usually get many of those students. It makes for an extremely disruptive class. I am fortunate enough to have a small workroom off of my room. I use it a great deal for time-out. I consistently use a timer when putting a child in time-out. My first step is a warning. The second is time-out. Rarely does it go past that because the student is required to complete all work no matter where they are. For those students whose behavior goes beyond this, I quickly and consistently follow our school-wide discipline plan. I do not have trouble when I write a discipline slip because I document each behavior that has led to the slip. Documentation is a teacher's best defense!

Marti Hooten, Summerville, SC

Often there is a "situation" between two or three students - after recess, etc. I offer to let the students CALMLY discuss their problem with each other in the hallway and in private. (I don't listen in unless they ask me to.) The rule is - they cannot yell at one another and must come to some sort of an agreement before re-entering the classroom. So far this has worked well. It stops the disruption, reinforces that it is not acceptable in the classroom to yell at each other and encourages communication with WORDS! The kids also develop a sense that I TRUST them to handle it in a grown-up way.

K. Swenning, Bridgeport, CT

I have often found that a child who disrupts in class is choosing to be "in control" even if in a negative way since it might be easier and less risky than taking on an academic challenge.

The best way to deal with disruptive behavior? Figure out the antecedent does this behavior have a pattern does the child act out right before math time or at the beginning of "Drop Everything and Read" time? I've often found that the best way to handle a child who is disruptive is to improve my teaching: make sure she/he is fully engaged and that my teaching meets his/her needs academically.

Kathe Simons, Merrimack, NH

First of all, I make it a priority to establish a rapport with the child's parent(s) so that we can have an ongoing dialogue about how to help meet the child's needs. I also believe in the child taking full resposibility for his behavior. We fill out "Think Sheets" designed for a child to

  1. own up to what he did by describing his actions
  2. stating the school rule that he violated
  3. stating who was offended, and most importantly
  4. thinking about what he could have done differently.

This year, I took additional steps by asking our counselor to come into my class and do "classroom guidance lessons" which included the use of "I messages". My parents have called to tell me how much they are learning from their children, who in turn taught "I messages" at home! This intervention has diffused many conflicts before they started and the kids are graded accordingly.

Bev Webster, Euless, TX

  • Subjects:
    Childhood Behaviors, Classroom Management, Child Development and Behavior, Professional Development, Teacher Tips and Strategies, Working with Families and the Community
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