How do I manage the disruptive boy in my class?

disruptive boy throwing paper in classroom
09 May Shelley Vernon 5 Comments

Dear Teachers,

 

How do you stay sane when one of your pupils is disrupting the class and refuses to cooperate?

 

Here's Renate, teaching in Spain: "There is a child in one of my groups who makes teaching especially challenging. He never sits still, even for a minute. He makes animal sounds, crawls and jumps about. His goal is always to do the opposite and to disrupt any activity. I try not to raise my voice although he makes me angry. I also feel for the other children who would like to learn English but in such an atmosphere it’s very difficult."

 

1. Keep cool

Angry people can look pretty comical so don't become the butt of the joke! It can be hard to keep your cool with a provocative, naughty child. To help you stay cool, bear these points in mind:

  • Losing your temper weakens your position of authority. It shows you can't control yourself.
  • If you are all stewed up inside, you won't be enjoying your lesson at all!
  • Additionally, shouting at a naughty child makes him or her the center of attention.

angry man

If being angry and shouting isn't an option, what tools do you have? 

 

2. Look after yourself first

The first thing to do is to help yourself. You can't help others if you are feeling weak and helpless. The most urgent issue in Renate's case above is to remove her anger towards the child. When the child provokes her, she feels angry and the atmosphere becomes difficult. This atmosphere is not being created by the boy, but by the combination of the boy's naughtiness and the teacher's anger. Therefore if the teacher's attitude changes, the atmosphere will change.

 

3. Acceptance, Understanding and Compassion

First, accept what is. This kid may be so full of energy that it is really difficult for him to sit still, and perhaps he has ADHD. Instead of feeling mad, try feeling compassion. I understand he drives you crazy but if you get into a negative emotional state it won't help you, and you won't enjoy the lessons so much.

So be selfish. Change your outlook, even if you change it artificially. Pretend to yourself that this poor boy has difficulty and it's not his fault that he is like that. The situation in class will be the same, but you'll feel better about it.

boy with ADHD, angry boy, agressive boy

4. Don't reward his demand for attention

Shouting at this child, singling him out, will make him the center of attention. He may love that!

 

disruptive boy being told off

  • Try Ignoring him completely when he misbehaves.

  • Don't use his name.

  • Pretend he is not there. He's doing the animal noises to get attention.

  • Don't even look at him. Imagine he's invisible. Most kids hate being ignored, it's the worst punishment. Experiment with this.

  • Praise him, using his name, when he is good.

  • Make him the center of attention when he is good.

 

 

5. The teacher is the boss

Just because you are being understanding of his difficulties doesn't mean he is the boss. Be calm, firm and consistent. I had a naughty child at my house last night and I asked her to move over onto a stool next to my chair. She didn't move. I asked again. No reaction. So I insisted, nicely and firmly that she move over - she moved over. If they test you, you need to show them that you ARE the boss, and it's non-negotiable.

 

6. Make good behaviour a choice

If, after three firm requests the child still disobeys, try a question like this one: "Would you like me to speak to your father when he picks you up after class or would you like to sit nicely?"

This gives the boy the choice. He is responsible, he chooses. It's more effective than just threatening him.

Then, if he doesn't behave well you HAVE to follow through and speak to the dad. Empty threats undermine your authority.

 

7. Does he need to burn off energy?

Since this boy loves making animal sounds, why not use that to help you teach. Use the skit Zoo Talk (from my book of 30 plays and skits for children) and get him to do the sound effects.

If he's jumping off the walls, do a vocabulary quiz or question and answer session with the group. For every correct answer, the boy does a star jump. For every incorrect answer, he does three press-ups.

students being punished for bad behaviour and sent to the wall or alone in class

8. What if there is no change?

Tolerance: If, after you have asked him nicely and firmly to behave, he is still a total pest, send him over to play in a corner. Just set him aside so that you can at least teach the others. Perhaps he can do a puzzle or play with some toys, well away from the others. I don't think he will like being cast aside and he may well want to be re-integrated into the group. You can say yes, as long as you behave nicely.

 

9. Give interesting lessons

Use my resources to engage your pupils, with stories, games, music and skits.

5 Comments

Thank you for the very useful reply to Renate. We must all have met at one point A disruptive student who challanges our patience. I find myself following the 5 steps you list all the time with a yr4 st. Ì have had since yr 1. It can be a real challange at times. I have come to the conclusion that indifference is our most powerful weapon and students' most hated punishment. For me with Marco it's called survival. Thanks a million!
Hello Cristina, Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you have found things that work. Since kids are all different, it's worth trying various strategies to see which ones work the best. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could just kick our difficult students out of the class! But we can't...so actually, I suppose it's a good thing, since it makes us grow as teachers; Do you like Marco, but he's noisy? Or do you dislike him?
I love the answer, and I can see how I can use some of that for my teenager. However, I have a teen in my class who is ONLY taking class because his parents are forcing him. The other two students are not enjoying the class because he constantly bothers and disrupts. One of those students is even not interested in continuing to the next level. I think sometimes it is just becaus I am not a good teacher. HELP!
Dear Stephanie, That must be very demotivating for you to be teaching students who don't want to be there. Have you spoken to the parents of the child in question? Let them know that he is a disruptive element in class, and is not learning anything. Perhaps together you can get some leverege on the boy. For example the parents could take away his telephone and only give it back when he attains a certain mark in English. If you get nowhere with any of the ideas above, then you could ask the boy to get on with something else quietly while you teach the two who do want to learn. You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Save your enthusiasm for the ones who want to learn! Try some of the ideas in the blog above, and speak to the parents, and let me know how it goes.
And I thank Marco! Because as you point out, he has jelped me to grow as a teacher! If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger, they say. And Marco has definitely made me stronger!

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