What Teachers Can Do About Misbehavior in the Classroom

Dealing With Minor Naughtiness

Two high school students passing note

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Teachers deal with misbehaving students on a daily basis. Most of the time, problem behaviors get resolved without major disruptions. But left unchecked, even minor naughtiness can escalate into a bigger issue. You can combat many of the common classroom misbehaviors before you need to turn to your formal discipline plan. Major disruptions like belligerence and cheating require more direct action. Remember, the sooner you can stop a child from misbehaving, the more likely you can prevent a major disruption.

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Passing Notes

Note passing disrupts not only the students involved but also those sitting around them. Try to catch the students in the act. Confiscating the notes makes a big impact. Some teachers hand confiscated notes back at the end of class, some read them and some throw them away. The choice depends on your personal style.

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Excessive talking can be truly disruptive. Walk near the students so they realize you are listening. Sometimes this alone hushes them. If not, stop talking yourself and use nonverbal cues to indicate your displeasure. The students in question should notice the silence and will probably stop talking too. If these two actions don't work, you will need to move to your formal discipline plan.

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Getting off Task

Students can be off task in a number of ways. They might be daydreaming, completing homework for another class or even surreptitiously texting on their cell phone. If this is not a chronic occurrence, try simply walking near the distracted student while you continue teaching. Your sudden presence near his or her desk may shock the student enough to recapture his or her attention. However, if this doesn't work or it's occurred with this student before, you probably need to implement your discipline plan.

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Clowning Around

Nearly every class has at least one clown. The key to dealing with a class clown is to channel that energy to positive behavior within the class. However, realize that clowning around can quickly escalate into full-scale disruption. Talking to the student before or after class and giving him or her responsibilities within a class can help keep this attention-getting behavior in check.

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Calling Out

Requiring students to raise their hands helps you maintain control of discussions and use best practices such as wait time and questioning techniques. Be consistent about enforcing raised hands from the beginning. If, despite your best efforts, students continue to call out in class, ignore their answers even if they're correct, and only call on those with hands raised.

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Sleeping in Class

Hopefully, this will be a rare occurrence in your teaching career. However, if you have a student who falls asleep, you should quietly awaken them and pull them aside. Investigate whether there's a reason, other than boredom. Is the child sick, working late or having problems at home? If this is not a common occurrence for this student and you have lingering concerns, you might want to send this student to their guidance counselor for additional help.

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Being Rude

This can be the most troubling behavior. When a student generally has a rude attitude towards you, it can be disheartening. If a student calls you name or otherwise blatantly disrespects you, follow your formal discipline plan immediately. But if you get sideways looks and a surly attitude, it's best to pull the student aside and discuss this with them. If necessary, call a parent-teacher conference to get to the root of the problem.