How to handle and prevent disruptive student behavior

What do you do when students don’t stop talking? What do you do when students do not care about consequences and continue to not pay attention? How do you prevent off-task behavior in the classroom and handle disruptive student behavior?

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Classroom Management Tip 

As a first year teacher, I had an entire class of middle school students not paying attention. Nothing seemed to work and I had no authority whatsoever to maintain student focus or prevent off task behavior. You don’t have to learn the hard way! Read on…

Never raise your voice or appear frustrated. This only shows students that you have lost control and that they can control you (and your mood). Remain  calm, cool and collected no matter what = Display your unwavering authority despite the bad choices of students. Remember, you are in charge. Not them. Don’t let student misbehavior negatively affect you. Calmly assert authority to regain control:

  1. When students are messing around, not paying attention or being generally disruptive, and the “silent” strategy from last week does not work, turn off the lights. A permanently “dark” classroom has a calming effect.
  2. Stop talking, stand silent, and write or type on the board, “On-Task Behavior = Collect Your Homework Pass After Class (or positive note home)”. Appreciate, acknowledge and give a reward that well-behaved students will genuinely appreciate.
  3. Write a second list of students, “Off-Task Behavior = Get 100% Focused Now or Receive Call Home for Disruptive Behavior”. Positive and negative phone calls are time consuming but the MOST effective method to change behavior.
  4. Stand straight, unmoving and confident as you wait for students to regain focus.
  5. If student(s) still disrupt, say,” John, Beth, Derek, we will discuss your consequence after class.” “Sarah, Joe, Steve, thank you for your maturity, we will discuss your reward after class.” By calling out behavior but not being specific, you prevent a power struggle and also prevent warning every kid in class that they have a consequence you will forget by the end of class.
  6. Always follow through! Call home, hold detention or have students complete a writing assignment: “Share your goals and how education is important to achieving your goals” or “Why is respect important and how do you earn and display respect every day?”
  7. Start the next class period with a classroom culture reset: With lights off, greet students at the door (every day), and silently hand students a do now/bell ringer that instructs them to “Watch the Video & Respond to Questions Below”. When students are seated and quiet, play an engaging video on pursuing goals and displaying grit. Give students five minutes to complete the writing activity and then have a respectful and engaging discussion on how to keep end goals in mind to show focus and grit on a daily basis. I personally love this video activity.
  8. Then have a transparent conversation about why being 100% focused in class matters and how you as a teacher also are committed to making 100% of class important. Then, as a teacher really commit to making every second of “teacher talk” and student activities culturally relevant and academically aligned with longterm student success.
  9.  Commit to playing a video every single day either at the start or end of class as an incentive to stay focused and complete work.
  10. Student-Led Lessons: Limit teacher talk almost completely by having engaging and culturally relevant student-led reading and writing units. Hand students a packet or handout at the beginning of class and make them responsible for completing it independently or in small groups. This empowers students and is more effective than teacher-led lessons riddled with misbehavior. It also allows you to circulate and have 1:1 check ins
  11. Enjoy student-led novel units, student-led writing units, Print & Go ELA Lesson Plans, ELA Task Cards and pop culture friendly lessons for $3-$8 at my TpT store!

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