Maintaining a classroom environment that’s conducive to learning can be difficult. If one or more students disrupt the class, their bad behavior can “trickle down” to other students or take a large chunk of time away from academic activities. Instead of waiting until a student’s bad attitude rubs off on the rest of the class (or the teacher), school staff can use preventative measures to keep students productive and happy.

Keep a Detailed List of Bad Behavior

Observe students with problem behaviors. In order to correct unruly or talkative students, keep a journal indicating the bad behavior, its frequency and exactly how it manifests (harassing other students during lunch, yelling in class). By listing the outbursts and when they occur, teachers and other staff can discover patterns that bring about the behavior. This gives them concrete information instead of general accusations that can be misunderstood by the students, parents and counselors. A specific, irrefutable description of the behavior will often result in a productive discussion with the student instead of a denial.

Set Classroom Rules

Students need to know what behaviors are acceptable and what won’t be tolerated from the first day of class. Teachers should write an age-appropriate list of rules before the first day of class and post them on a bulletin board or in another common area. A letter including these rules can be sent to parents for their signature. If clear parameters are set at the beginning of the school year, students will be less likely to misbehave. Elementary school teachers can institute a series of rewards for class-wide good behavior, like a pizza party or a special movie screening.

Adjust the Learning Environment

Create a proactive, supportive classroom environment with plenty of activities to keep students engaged. Children and teenagers crave challenge and variety, so day after day of lectures and book-reading can bring out the worst in more restless students. Arrange study groups, have students tutor each other to foster camaraderie between classmates and involve students in selecting some activities and homework assignments. Be clear about the transition between one activity and another, and have materials for the new activity available before the old one ends. Let students volunteer to help in transitional activities like passing out books or checking workstations in the computer lab.

Get to Know Each Student's Talents

Even in a large, urban classroom, there are ways for teachers to identify and recognize each student’s interests and personality. Prepare forms for students to fill out listing their favorite subjects and hobbies. Instead of punishing a student who is poor in math and resents algebra class, focus instead on their interest in art or reading. Spend a little extra time developing relationships with students and fostering their true talents while offering them help with subjects they find difficult.