How to Handle Disruptive Students in the Classroom

Teachers deal with classroom discipline issues every day.

Classroom management skills are essential for all teachers. Supervising a group of children with different personalities and backgrounds is a challenging task. You are responsible for their academic growth while ensuring that the learning environment stays welcoming and secure. Establish a discipline plan the first week of school and implement it fairly and consistently. Clearly explain your definition of appropriate classroom behavior as well as your system of rewards and consequences. Be sure your behavior management plan reinforces the school's code of conduct regarding disruptive behavior.

Talk to the student publicly and privately. When students disrupt the classroom with incessant talking or getting out of their seats, tell them immediately to stop and inform them of the consequences per your class rules and expectations. Talk to them again separately after class or in a conference with the principal if disruptions continue.

Determine causes of misbehavior and address them if possible. If a student suddenly starts disrupting class after being quiet and studious all year, the behavior may indicate a problem at home or at school with peers. Talk to your school's counselor about meeting with the student to find out additional information. If you have a rapport with the student, talk to him yourself and offer assistance if appropriate.

Meet with the student's parents if disruptions continue. This allows you to collaborate with caregivers and discuss ways to help the child conform to classroom expectations. Ask parents for their input and advice. Do not use a parent conference as a forum for your opinions about how bad their child is or to criticize their parenting style.

Establish a behavioral plan and contract for repeat offenders. A counselor or behavioral interventionist at your school can help you with this. A behavior contract outlines specific ways the student will act in class. It also lists possible rewards for meeting behavioral goals. Get the student's, parents' and your signature on this document as a way to demonstrate that this plan is a team effort.

Enforce school and classroom rules as stated. If a student continues to display disruptive behavior after enacting a behavioral plan, follow your discipline plan in the order you presented it at the first of the year. Do not let anger and frustration cause you to exact a more severe punishment than the offense warrants. When students see that you treat everyone fairly and respectfully, it can have a positive impact on future behavior.

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.