Bryan Harris shares four simple but effective ways deal with common classroom disruptions, from his new book, 75 Quick and Easy Solutions to Common Classroom Disruptions, co-authored by Cassandra Goldberg.
C.M. Charles, author of The Synergetic Classroom noted that, “Teachers have two great dreams – to work with students who try to learn, and to escape from the constant struggle against misbehavior.” Dealing with student disruptions can take the joy out of teaching and cause stress, anxiety, and frustration. In fact, student misbehavior has been cited as a reason some teachers leave the profession (Allensworth, Ponisciak, & Mazzeo, 2009).
While dealing with classroom misbehavior can be a challenge, it is important to remember that, in many cases, the students who are difficult inside the classroom are the ones who have problems of their own outside the classroom. Effective teachers first and foremost think about how they can provide the supports so that the student learns skills to improve in the future. Because we know that punishment alone rarely teaches a child the skills necessary to act appropriately in the future, we should consider how to provide the support so that the behavior doesn’t happen again.
Fortunately, there are some simple and effective ways to deal with classroom disruptions. First, understand that all behavior happens for a reason. Although children may not be able to clearly express what is happening in their lives, there is usually some sort of payoff for a negative behavior. Second, try to avoid becoming defensive about a child’s behavior. Rarely does a student plot to make a teacher’s life miserable. He or she usually doesn’t enter the classroom with a plan to cause chaos or to disrupt the lesson. Third, work to change the mindset. If children came to us as they should be, there would be no reason to have teachers in the first place. We can learn a great deal from our most challenging students and finding solutions may take a different way of thinking about difficult students. Finally, always maintain student dignity. For some students, it is more honorable to act bad than appear stupid. Maintaining student dignity involves valuing the child and addressing his or her behavior without making judgments about character, background, or personality.
With those ideas in mind, here are 4 simple but effective strategies for dealing with classroom disruptions:
- Avoid Questions: In the middle of a conflict, tense situation, or a redirection, avoid asking students questions such as, “Why aren’t you working on the assignment?” Such quesitons often lead the student to respond negatively or outright lie. This is especially true if the student feels like they are trapped or being accused of wrongdoing. Avoid focusing on the negative and instead provide students with positive repleacement behaviors.
- Be Brief, Be Positive, Be Gone: When redirecting a disruptive student, keep verbal interactions and directions brief in nature. Use as few words as possible to convey the message and avoid lecturing or scolding. Use positive words and body language that conveys a belief in the student and in their ability to act appropriately. Then, be gone. That is, literally, leave the student alone and allow them to make an appropriate decision. Hoovering over a student often causes more inappropriate behaviors.
- Use Start Statements:Some challenging students are given numerous directives and commands throughout the day. Many of them begin with stop: stop running, stop talking, stop fooling around, stop texting, etc. Although these statements get the point across, they may come across as negative and harsh in tone. Start statements are short, positive reminders of the expectations and serve as a clear directive about what students should begin doing instead of what they should stop doing.
- Provide Photographic Evidence: Many students respond well to visual images that provide examples and evidence of appropriate behavior. Gather images and pictures that demonstrate expected classroom behaviors such as taking turns, sharing materials, getting attention, etc. When providing direction or guidance to students, refer to the photographic evidence in addition to providing verbal redirections or reminders.