by Rachel Wells
Disruptive behavior in the classroom makes it difficult to build a positive classroom environment – not to mention it makes it nearly impossible for teachers to teach and students to learn. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, there comes a time in every teacher’s career where they feel like they’re lost control of their class. Fortunately, there are tried and tested classroom management secrets that you can easily use to regain control and help calm a disruptive class.
Set Clear Expectations
You can never just expect students to know how to behave in a classroom – no matter how old they are. Your classroom is your unique space, and you need to take time from the beginning of the year to explain to students what appropriate and inappropriate behavior during classroom activities should look like.
Have High Expectations
Behavior moves in the direction of expectation, so setting and having high expectations is only going to improve your student’s behavior.
Remember that consequences don’t change behavior because of their severity, they change behavior because of their consistency and natural connection to a poor choice made (for example, if a child colors on your bookshelf, a related consequence would be that they have to be the ones to scrub and clean it.)
Take time to have fun and build a solid relationship with your students. You don’t need to become the class clown, but do take time to share a silly story from a past class (without naming any names of course!), tell a few jokes while kids are transitioning to a new activity, or play fun games together.
Take time to connect and get to know each one of your students. Ask them about the band on their t-shirt, how their basketball game went the night before, or if they are doing anything fun over the weekend. Building relationships with your students will lead to more respect, which will then in turn lead to less disruptive behaviors.
Make Them Leaders
While this may sound counterintuitive – try giving a student who is having a particularly hard time with being disruptive a chance to be in charge of something, whether that be a classroom activity, bringing the attendance sheet to the office, or passing out napkins at snack time. On top of keeping them busy, they may also get the attention they are craving while gaining some new perspective about their behavior. Be sure to let other students try this role reversal activity as well to give everyone a chance to experience being in a leadership position.
Use Call and Response
Call and response is a time-tested technique where the teacher makes a statement, or call, and students answer the call together with a learned response. The purpose of this technique is to cue students to stop what they’re doing, and pay attention to directions, without the teacher having to repeat themselves. In order to implement these calls and responses effectively with your class, you are going to want to practice them a few times together first, but don’t worry, students will pick these up pretty quickly!
Call: Scooby Dooby Doo…
Response: Where Are You?
Call: Ready Set…
Response: You bet!
Call: No bees, no honey…
Response: No work, no money!
Call: Hands on top…
Response: Everybody stop!
Call: Can I get a…
Response: Whoop whoop!
Call: Ready to Rock…
Response: Ready to Roll!
Call: Macaroni and cheese
Response: Everybody freeze.
Call: Hocus pocus!
Response: Everybody focus!
Call: Banana split …
Response: I know how to sit!
Call: To infinity!
Response: And beyond!
Call: Do you wanna …
Response: Build a snowman?
Call: May the force …
Response: Be with you!
Arrive With a Plan
Always come to school with a plan for your day’s activities, and a few back up ideas as well! This means having your copies made, and all your supplies ready to go. Transition times and down times are when disruptive behaviors are at their highest – so if you have a clear plan for your day together there will be less chances for students to engage in disruptive behavior.
Keeping realistic expectations for students is key! Keep activities to an appropriate amount of time, give your class brain breaks between activities, and try mix it up with different grouping methods for activities (whole group, small group, or partner activities).
Check out gonoodle.com for some super fun brain break videos!
Master Your Silent Teacher Stare
We all know about the “teacher stare”, whether we received it as a child, or mastered it as a teacher ourselves. Having a specific look you can give in order to communicate with your students without having to interrupt your lesson is a big help in classroom management. Your students will immediately see this look on your face and know that they need to stop what they’re doing.
A variation of this is to have a secret symbol with a specific student. All you need to do it sit down for a few minutes with a student that regularly has a hard time with being disruptive, and work together to pick a secret symbol that only the two of you know. It can be as little as a slight scratch on your cheek, or a quick tug on your ear. When that student is having a hard time, you can show them the secret symbol you decided on together as a silent reminder without having to stop your lesson to address their behavior.
Write the word ‘noise’ on the board. If your class is getting too loud or disruptive you erase one letter at a time starting with the E. When only the word ‘no’ is left, it means there is no talking for a set amount of time. If the letters in ‘no’ are erased then there would be a consequence that was previously decided on with your class. This can also be used as a reward system, where students get rewarded for the amount of letters they were able to keep at the end of the day – for example: you can make each letter worth 5 extra minutes of recess at the end of the day, so if they keep all 5 letters they would get 25 extra minutes of recess. This is an easy way for students to visualize and monitor their own behavior while working together toward a common goal.
Catch Good Behavior
Make it a goal to point out the good behavior you see in your class! This gives students attention for positive behavior while simultaneously raising expectations in your classroom for everyone.