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?


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!


Instructional Strategy 

Every week, enjoy a fun way to teach one of the common core standards for English Language Arts! Teach CCSS.RL.1: Watch the “SUPERMARKET SUPERHERO” video. Cite explicit evidence and make inferences to explain what the conflict is in, and how direct and indirect characterization enhance the conflict.

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CCSS-Aligned Video Activity

Read and play this inspirational video clip on goals and grit “Basketball – How Bad do You Want It” and ask students what their goals are and how they will commit to achieving their goals. Pair with my NO PREP activity for a classroom culture reset, or activity for beginning or end of term.

Inspirational Bell Ringer: Have Students Paraphrase a Quote

“When you want to succeed as badly as you want to breath then you will be successful.” Eric Thomas


Reduce Teacher Stress and Anxiety

Want a cure for the Sunday Scaries? Meditate on inspirational and motivational quotes that will ease the anxiety produced when you worry about student or administrator behavior, opinions or judgments of your teaching ability. Meditate on inspirational quotes every week to increase calm, confidence, joy and gratitude. CLICK HERE to enjoy three free inspirational quotes a week straight to your inbox.

If you are still overwhelmed with lesson-planning, find NO PREP English lesson plans, student handouts, writing units, novel studies, bell ringers, task cards and more at my TpT store.

Classroom Management to Reduce Stress

Whether you are a panicking first year teacher or a veteran teacher trying to prevent teacher burn out, find the most effective classroom management strategies, inspirational student activities, and culturally relevant curriculum ideas here.


Classroom Management Tip 


What is the most effective classroom management technique? Silence: NEVER talk over students. If one student or the entire class is looking out the window, whispering, not paying attention, laughing, or exhibiting any degree of off-task behavior, stop talking immediately. Do not yell warnings or consequences, simply stop mid-sentence. Wait silently without using any words for as long as it takes for 100% of students to be 100% silent and focused. Then wait several more moments before speaking. Do not immediately launch into a lecture or a consequence. This will likely start the outburst again. Instead say, “Thank you for getting silent and tracking me.” Then carry on with the lesson. Standing calm and silent is a greater display of authority than shouting and threats and it avoids an out of control escalation of consequences or power struggles.

After class, praise well-behaved students and consider sending a positive note, email or phone call home. For misbehaving students, call home or let students know they have a chance to improve behavior tomorrow before you will call home.

Instructional Strategy 

Every week, enjoy a fun way to teach one of the common core standards for English Language Arts! Teach CCSS.RL.1: Identify and characterize the characters in the Inside Out Video Clip. Describe how the author used indirect or direct characterization to share each character’s personality.


CCSS-Aligned Video Activity

Read and play Maya Angelou’s “STILL I RISE” poem, and ask students to, “Identify, interpret and analyze the poem’s figurative language and theme.”


Inspirational Bell Ringer: Have Students Paraphrase a Quote

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


Reduce Teacher Stress and Anxiety

If you are desperate to cure your teaching anxiety or reduce the sunday scaries, enjoy a tip every week to reduce anxiety. First, put things in perspective. One day, this will be a distant blurry memory so in moments of work anxiety, simply remember that this does not matter as much as you think it does. Stay in the present moment by practicing noticing your surroundings without worrying about your future or past work stress. Notice the trees, clouds, bird song, etc. Then, make the most of your after school time, weekends and school breaks by daydreaming and planning free time “itineraries.” Make a habit of reading, drawing, hiking, visiting local parks and museums, or anything that helps you feel happy and present. Keep perspective and remember that your job is not your life. Cook dinner with a friend, get a daily fitness buddy, join a meet-up or sports team, anything to have something non-teaching related to look forward to after work.

Finally, to put your teaching stress in perspective, remember who your favorite teachers were. You probably don’t remember their lesson plans or classroom management style. You do remember how they made you feel. Be confident, assertive and honest about the support you need from your administrators. Then smile, stay enthusiastic, engage in one-on-one interactions, and use the “silence” classroom management strategy to calmly not talk over off-task students. If you’re in a rut, use the inspirational quote and video activities above to improve classroom culture today! Good luck and we are here for you every week to help you not just survive but thrive as a teacher.

If you are still overwhelmed with lesson-planning, find NO PREP English lesson plans, student handouts, writing units, novel studies, bell ringers, task cards and more at my TpT store.


Classroom Management Tips


Whether you are a panicking first year teacher or a fifth year teacher hoping to finally gain that 100% confidence and joy in the classroom, these effortless tips will give you the strategies, inspiration and mindset to improve your classroom management once and for all.

calm teach1. Remain emotionally constant:

Children like structure and predictability. No matter what happens, remember that you are the adult in charge: Never act frustrated, flustered or upset. Show students through your unwavering calm that you will unconditionally support their learning no matter how they test boundaries. If you do not know how to react to an outburst, simply pause and address the student, “We will discuss this later.”

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2. Assume the best:

NEVER take anything personally ever and never make assumptions. Treat every single student like your very best student who is having a very bad day.


3. Be consistent:

Be consistent with expectations! Articulate expected behaviors and appropriate consequences. Then stay alert and organized to consistently uphold expectations 100% of the time. How? Jot down (or have a trustworthy student do so) off-task behaviors, warnings and consequences on a clipboard because you will forget “who did what” later. Then ALWAYS follow up with consequences. Negative and positive parent phone calls are a great way to encourage positive behaviors!


4. Don’t start with a consequence:

Follow the least invasive approach to address off-task behavior:

  • Pause
  • Make eye contact
  • Give a whole class anonymous correction or positive reminder
  • Tap the student’s desk
  • Say student’s name (non-aggressive tone)
  • THEN privately tell the student to change a specific behavior or there will be a consequence
  • THEN (an only then) give a consequence PRIVATELY.

If this least invasive continuum seems impossible and you cannot privately address a disruptive student or give them a second chance THEN postpone the specifics. For example, say, “Jack, that is the third time I had to stop instruction because of your behavior. We will discuss your consequence after class.” This lets the class know behavior is unacceptable while avoiding a power struggle.

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5. Demand 100% attention:

Whenever you talk, make sure 100% of students are focused. If one student is staring out the window, stop and wait. If two kids are whispering or making faces, stop and wait. Don’t get angry, make threats or say, “I’ll wait.” JUST WAIT.

If you demand 100% attention, you must make every word count. Script your classes so every word is necessary and every direction is clear. Do not ramble or repeat yourself because students will learn to ignore you. Instead of repeating yourself, cold-call students to repeat your direction or definition in their own words.

Still struggling with a a particularly challenging student?

Try my behavior tools and collaborative problem solving approach.





Enjoy my  free and low-cost TpT products that foster CCSS-aligned academic excellence, joy and cultural-responsiveness.


Don’t just survive your first (or fifth) year of teaching, THRIVE in and out of the classroom!  FInd  my classroom management teaching tips, along with best practices and tools for a healthy work life balance:

calm teach


My background is as a Special Education English and Art teacher for 6th – 12th grade students in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. I offer products and tips applicable for all grades and regions.

I now devote myself full time to creating inspirational and academically rigorous curriculum materials that make teacher’s lives more joyful. I also run the early literacy non-profit, Word Rebel.

Word Rebel helps prevent the preschool vocabulary gap between low and high income children in order to close the achievement gap before it starts. Get your school involved. Every $3 donation provides 1 book. Find out more:

Read my effortless differentiation strategies as featured on Minds in Bloom.


Stay healthy and happy in the classroom and beyond!

Whether you want to start the year off right, ward off the winter slump or end the year strong, classroom management can be tough! First year teachers and veteran teachers can use these behavior management tips and instructional strategies to prevent teacher burn out! Use these effortless tips and enjoy a joyful classroom culture!

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Classroom Management Tip

Be emotionally constant. Never act frustrated, flustered or upset. No matter what your students are doing, you maintain your authority if you remain calm and composed.

Your body language is a big part of emotional constancy: Keep your tone flat, your eyes soft, and your hands behind your back or folded in front of your waist. Speak slowly, stand tall, keep your legs straight, and face the student(s) in question.

If the entire class is off-task, simply wait without using any words until the class settles down. You can always write a note on the board and then silently face the class until they are silent. Once students are 100% silent and focused, wait several more moments before speaking. Do not immediately launch into a lecture or a consequence. This will likely start the outburst again. Instead say, “Thank you for getting silent and tracking me. Those of you who were on-task all period will get a positive phone call (email, note, etc.) home. Those of you who were off-task have the reminder of class to show improvement. At the end of class, I will inform you if you have earned a consequence.” Silence and calm are more powerful tools than shouting and threats.

If one student is acting out, simply pause and address the student in a calm voice, “We will discuss this later.” This avoids a power struggle over specifics while letting the class know you do not tolerate misbehavior.

Instructional Strategy 

When teachers are transparent, students are more engaged. A simple instructional strategy is to always post the class agenda with time stamps on the board so students know what to expect. At the start of class, explain how the day’s lesson builds on previous lessons and matters for longterm goals. You can also incentivize student engagement by framing focus and cooperation as a fun challenge:

  • “If we can copy these 5 new concepts in 5 minutes, then we will have time for 15 minutes of partner work.”
  • “If we all remain 100% on-task and focused for the next five minutes while I introduce the new unit, I will know I can trust you to work in groups instead of independently on the independent practice activity.”

If you are overwhelmed with lesson-planning, find tons of free and low-cost CCSS-aligned ELA activities, lessons, unit plans, projects and behavior solutions perfect for the end of the year at my TpT store.


CCSS-Aligned Video Activity

Play the Like a Girl” video and either provide a half sheet prompt or ask students to copy the following prompt into their notebooks: “When and why did doing something like a girl become a bad thing?” OR “What advice do YOU have for a girl when someone tells her they do something like a girl?”

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Inspirational Bell Ringer: Have Students Paraphrase a Quote

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” Herman Hesse

Work Life Balance

Don’t make your commute stressful, make it a sacred time to relax! Here are some ways you can make the most of your commute:

  • Read
  • Meditate
  • Listen to an enlightening or interesting podcast
  • Listen to a book on tape
  • Get excited: Write down personal, finance, and travel goals.
  • Daydream!

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Snap out of Spring Fever with Inspirational Activities

Hopefully you have time to rest and recharge over Memorial day. Since summer is just around the corner, students can be energetic, distracted and disruptive. Use these teaching strategies and work-life balance tips to keep yourself and your students calm and inspired.

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Classroom Management Tip

Transitions can eat away valuable class time. Teachers accidentally cause misbehavior when they use unclear or ambiguous language. A simple way to help transitions move more smoothly is to make several changes to your directions and word choice.

If you do not already use a loud display timer, start now! Enough said. When the timer sounds to signal the end of the Do Now, independent reading, partner work, etc. Many teachers will say, “We are now going to X.” This causes students to start moving around or whispering right when you need their attention the most. A simple change is to say, “Not yet, but in a moment, we are going to X.” This slight shift piques student’s interest enough to listen to the rest of your clear, step-by-step directions. If any students are off-task, you can now use humor or at least positivity, to correct the misbehavior, “I know you are excited to begin the next activity but I said in a moment, not yet.”

Instructional Strategy 

Keep students engaged by NEVER repeating your directions. Instead ask 2-3 students to repeat the instructions or behavior expectations in their own words. Doing this daily will teach students to listen to your instructions the first time.

Remember to always ask the question, pause, and then state the student’s name. If you start with one student’s name, the rest of the class will stop paying attention. Keep kids on their toes by asking, “What is the third step, Kim? The last step, Caitlin? The second step, Charlie? And the first step, Claire? Good..Begin.”

CCSS-Aligned Video Activity

Play the “Why do we fail?” video and either provide a half sheet prompt or ask students to copy the following prompt into their notebooks: “When in the past did you succeed through hard work? When in the past did you give up? How will you remind yourself to never give up and to show the world how great you are?”


Inspirational Bell Ringer: Have Students Paraphrase a Quote

“Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.”  Buddha

Work-Life Balance: 

Meditate for Peace of Mind

  • Meditation can be quick and easy if you make it a daily habit.
  • Simply save 5 minutes each day while you are lying in bed or on the subway to turn off your thoughts
  • To keep your mind from wandering (or racing), focus on your breathing or your heart beating.
    • Imagine the air filling your lungs or the blood pumping from your heart through your veins
    • You can do this laying down or walking around the city
  • The more you practice the longer you will be able to meditate.
  • This will increase overall peace of mind and reduce overall stress

Remember, leave lesson planning at work, and if you can’t, find tons of NO PREP print and go ELA activities, lessons, student handouts, complete unit plans and projects at my TpT store.


Fair means you give every child what they need to succeed!

I hope you are enjoying our new weekly blog format! We are excited to provide priceless teaching tips and free activity ideas for in and out of the classroom! 

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Classroom Management Tip

Assume the best of every student even when they are misbehaving. NEVER take anything personally and never make assumptions. How do you do this while enforcing behavior expectations? Use humor and understanding like you would when interacting with adults. For example, if a student is talking during independent work time, say, “I know you are SO SO excited about this assignment that you want to share your awesome thoughts with your friends but I have to ask you to wait until its officially time to share out” OR “I must be hallucinating because I know I didn’t just hear laughter from one of my perfectly silent students during an important independent assignment.”

When a student is blatantly disrespectful you can still be understanding by treating every student like your very best student who is having a very bad day. For example, privately say to this student, “It seems like you are having a hard time being in my class right know. I can’t know what you are experiencing but I do understand what it is like to feel frustrated. I am on your side if you need me, but right now I need to teach the class. If you want to take a 5 minute water or bathroom break you can do that now.”  Use you best judgement, but often times humor and understanding receive a much more positive response than a warning or even well-intentioned lecture.

Instructional Strategy 

ALWAYS provide visual materials for verbal instructions and notes. This means you should write every step-by-step instruction, definition or behavior expectation on the board or PowerPoint slide in addition to saying it aloud. For the 1-4 students who tend to fall behind or slow the class down while taking notes, provide a personal copy of the PowerPoint slide so they can take notes at their own pace. Collect the handout at the end of class to make sure they still take notes as opposed to simply using your notes.

CCSS-Aligned Video Activity

Play the “Why Fame Doesn’t Matter” video and either provide a half sheet prompt or ask students to copy the following prompt into their notebooks: “It’s about the experience, not fame: What do do you want for your experience? What is your goal?”


Inspirational Bell Ringer: Have Students Paraphrase a Quote

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us” Helen Keller

Work-Life Balance: 

Make “ME time” Sacred:

  • Just like you wouldn’t let a day of playing “hookie” go to waste, don’t take your after school time for granted.
  • What are your “ME” hours?
    • 8 hours from 3pm – 11pm
    • 5 hours from 5pm -10pm
    • Schedule afterschool activities for yourself to take full advantage of the time you have NOT being a teacher
      • Socializing with friends
      • Taking a class
      • Taking a yoga or kickboxing
      • Running in the park
      • Throwing a dinner party
      • Hosting a movie or season premiere “screening”
      • Painting, knitting or jewelry making
      • Writing your memoirs
      • Reading
      • Meeting a friend for a picnic in the park
      • Meditating
    • metime

Everything A Teacher Needs for Positive Work & Home Life

Starting today, we have a new weekly blog format! We are excited to provide priceless teaching tips and free activity ideas for in and out of the classroom! Every week, enjoy one of the following:

– Classroom Management Tip

– Instructional Strategy

– CCSS-aligned Video Activity

– Inspirational ELA Bell Ringers: Paraphrase a Quote

– Work-Life Balance

calm teach

Classroom Management Tip

The “pause” is your best friend. Avoid anger, threats, disrespect and lack of control by simply refusing to speak unless you have 100% of your student’s attention. Stop and pause until every pair of eyes is on you. Pause out of a place of care and mutual respect, not frustration or impatience. Pretend you cannot imagine a world where a student would intentionally not listen to you. Know that you have your student’s best intentions in mind when you plan your lessons and that every student simply must reap the benefits of your hard work. Pause, smile wait to speak, and repeat!

Instructional Strategy 

The easiest way to differentiate in a classroom is to let a child know ahead of time that you will call on them. As you circulate, use a whisper or a post-it to inform a struggling student that they should be prepared to read page 10 aloud or share their answer to #6 . Many struggling students live in fear of being cold-called. When you consistently give these students time to prepare in advance, you free them from anxiety and allow them to experience academic success and confidence.

CCSS-aligned Video Activity

Play the Kid President “Pep Talk” video and either provide a half sheet prompt or ask students to copy the following prompt into their notebooks: “How will YOU give someone a reason to dance today (and everyday)?”


Inspirational Bell Ringer: Paraphrase a Quote

A great way to start any class is to have students paraphrase a quote. This builds close reading and analysis skills while also setting a positive tone for the remainder of the class. Ask students to paraphrase the quote’s meaning in their own words: 

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.” Dean Jackson

Work-Life Balance

Remember your higher purpose for yourself and your students and do not let day-to-day misbehavior destroy your inner peace and joy. Remember your favorite teachers. Do you remember their classroom mangament skills or lessons? No. You remember how they genuinely cared about their students. Take a deep breath and do the same.

Is anxiety, work stress, insecurity or dread making it impossible to enjoy teaching? EFT or “tapping” is an evidence-based technique that uses brain plasticity and acupressure to  literally “tap” into the part of your brain that causes fear, the amygdala. The amygdala has kept humans alive for thousands of years by causing the fight or flight response in the face of real danger. However,in the 21st century brain, the amygdala is also responsible for debilitating work and social anxiety and irrational fears. EFT tapping allows you to calm the amygdala when it is giving you irrational anxiety. Learn how to tap away anxiety, insecurity, doubt and fear from EFT expert, Jackie Viramontez: CLICK HERE.

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Hopefully this post brings the joy back into your teaching and non-teaching life. Subscribe for weekly ways to prevent teacher burn out, stop student misbehavior, increase student engagement, master classroom management, AND erase anxiety!!