What Teachers Can Do About Misbehavior in the Classroom

Keep minor issues in check with a simple action plan

Two high school students passing note

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Teachers deal with misbehaving students on a daily basis and generally resolve them 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. The sooner you can stop a child from misbehaving, the more likely you are to prevent a larger problem.

01
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Passing Notes

Note passing disrupts not only the students involved but also those sitting near 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, while others read them and throw them away. The choice depends on your personal style.

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Talking

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.

03
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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 cellphone. If this is not a chronic occurrence, try simply walking near the distracted student while you continue teaching. Your sudden presence near his desk may shock the student enough to recapture his attention. However, if this doesn't work or if it's occurred with this student before, you probably need to implement your discipline plan.

04
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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 her responsibilities within a class can help keep this attention-seeking behavior in check.

05
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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.

06
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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 her and pull her 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 her to the school guidance counselor for additional help.

07
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Being Rude

Rudeness can be the most troubling behavior. When a student generally has a rude attitude toward you, it can be disheartening. If a student calls you a name or otherwise blatantly disrespects you, take action by following the school's policy for issuing discipline referrals. This generally involves filling out a standardized form referring the student to the principal, vice-principal, or another administrator. You are asking for assistance with a discipline problem if you take this route, but in the case of a rude or openly defiant student, it's best to enlist the resources of the school to help deal with the problem. However, if you merely get sideways looks and a surly attitude, it's best to pull the student aside and discuss this with him. If necessary, calling for a parent-teacher conference may help you to get to the root of the problem.