Teaching Tip: Disruptive Students

Disruptive students are a major problem in any classroom. They interfere with your teaching and other students' learning. Here are some things you can do to manage a disruptive student.
  • Ignore behaviors that are only minimally disruptive, such as inappropriate laughter. Focus on major disruptive behaviors, such as walking around the room.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors. This is especially effective when the purpose of a student's disruptive behavior is to get your attention.
  • Seat the student close to you. Students are much less apt to be disruptive when a teacher is close by.
  • Cue the student whenever he or she is disruptive. You can work out a signal with the student such as looking at the student and shaking your head once. Sometimes students don't realize that they are being disruptive.
  • Develop a behavior contract with the student. Keep it simple by focusing on one disruptive behavior at a time, such as calling out. The contract should include a reasonable goal for reducing the behavior (e.g., will call out not more than three times a day), and an appropriate reinforcement when the goal is met.
  • Use timeout only when a disruptive behavior gets way out of hand. Try not to overuse this strategy.
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