Dealing With Discipline Problems in the Classroom

Back View of Elementary Students Raising Their Arms on a Class

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Discipline problems challenge most new teachers and even some veteran educators. Good classroom management combined with an effective discipline plan helps keep bad behavior to a minimum so the entire class can focus on learning.

Classroom rules must be easy to understand and manageable. Make sure that you don't have such a large number of rules that your students can't consistently follow them.

Set an Example

Discipline starts with you. Begin each class period with a positive attitude and high expectations. It'll help create a positive learning environment. If you expect your students to misbehave, they probably will. Come to class prepared with lessons for the day. Reduce downtime for students to help maintain order.

Work on making transitions between lessons smooth. For example, as you move from whole-group discussion to independent work, try to minimize the disruption to the class. Have your papers ready to go or your assignment was written on the board so you can move quickly through the process. Many disruptions occur in transitional times during lessons.

Be Proactive With Discipline Problems

Watch your students as they come into class and look for signs of discord. For example, if you notice a heated discussion before class starts, deal with it then. Give the students a few moments to work things out before you start your lesson. Separate them if necessary and try to gain agreement that during your class period at least, they will drop the issue.

Post a discipline plan that you follow consistently to govern student conduct. Depending on the severity of an offense, this should provide a warning or two before formal punishment. Your plan should be easy to follow and cause minimal disruption to your class. For example, first offense: verbal warning; second offense: detention with the teacher; third offense: referral.

Use humor when appropriate to diffuse touchy situations. For example, if you tell your students to open their books to page 51, but three students are so busy talking with each other that they do not hear you, resist the urge to yell. Smile, say their names and ask them calmly to please wait until later to finish their conversation because you would really like to hear how it ends but you have to get this class finished. This should get a few laughs but also get your point across.

Be Firm But Fair

Consistency and fairness are essential for effective classroom management. If you ignore disruptions one day and come down hard on them the next, your students won't take you seriously. You will lose respect and disruptions will probably increase. If you appear unfair in how you enforce the rules, the students will resent you.

Address disruptions with in-kind responses. In other words, don't elevate disruptions above their current significance. For example, if two students keep talking in class, don't disrupt your lesson to yell at them. Instead, simply say the students' names and issue a verbal warning. You can also try asking one of them a question to bring their focus back to the lesson.

If a student becomes verbally confrontational, remain calm and remove them from the situation as quickly as possible. Do not get into yelling matches with your students. And do not bring the rest of the class into the situation by involving them in the disciplinary process.

Prioritize Safety

When a student becomes visibly agitated, you must maintain a safe environment for the other students. Remain as calm as possible; your demeanor can sometimes diffuse the situation. You should have a plan for dealing with violence that you discussed with students early in the year. You should use the call button for assistance or have a designated student get help from another teacher. Send the other students from the room if it appears they could get hurt. If a fight breaks out in the classroom, follow your school's rules concerning teacher involvement as many administrators want teachers to stay out of fights until help arrives.

Keep an anecdotal record of major issues that arise in your class. This might be necessary if you are asked for a history of classroom disruptions or other documentation.

Most importantly, let it go at the end of the day. Classroom management and disruption issues should be left at school so you have time to recharge before coming back to another day of teaching.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "Dealing With Discipline Problems in the Classroom." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Kelly, Melissa. (2021, February 16). Dealing With Discipline Problems in the Classroom. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Dealing With Discipline Problems in the Classroom." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 25, 2023).