Managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom

Managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom

Varinder Unlu

Following on from her previous article on creating an inclusive classroom environment, IATEFL Inclusive Practices and SENs SIG Coordinator, Varinder Unlu, shares advice for managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

Disruptive behaviour is not limited to young learners only. Adult classes can also be challenging in this sense. Disruptive behaviour can be presented by learners in a number of ways, ranging from wanting control and power in the classroom, being consistently late, talking when they shouldn’t be, arguing with the teacher unnecessarily, challenging the teacher on certain issues, ignoring instructions, etc.

What causes disruptive behaviour?

There are a number of reasons why students may behave in this way. Some of the influencing classroom factors to consider are as follows:

  • Level – some students may find the lesson too easy or too difficult which can result in a disengagement with the tasks you have prepared.  Some students may not feel challenged enough and therefore withdraw from the lesson because they’re bored or frustrated.
  • Catering for everyone’s needs – is your classroom inclusive?  Sometimes bad behaviour can be a result of the teacher’s inability to meet all the students’ needs.
  • Your classroom – is the seating layout suitable for your learners? Is the room too hot or too cold? What’s the noise level like – is it too high that it distracts your students?
  • Group size and composition
  • Cultural and linguistics barriers
  • If a student has a specific learning difference (SpLD) which the teacher is unaware of, who may be displaying behaviour which the teacher perceives to be disruptive.

7 tips for managing disruptive behaviour

1) Clear rules about what is acceptable and what is not. Be careful to express rules in a positive way rather than making a list of dos and don’ts and make it an exercise that involves the students so that they understand the purpose of the rules. You could so this by asking students to make posters which can then be displayed on the wall in the classroom. It’s always a good idea to review the rules regularly and ask students to evaluate them.

2) Rapport. We all know that rapport with students is incredibly important. Finding the right balance, especially with young learners is vital. You want to be friendly and approachable without being a pushover. Your approach needs to change with different classes, with some students requiring a more firm approach and others less so.

3) Learning students’ names is highly important. Show an interest in the students lives outside of the classroom – finding out a little bit about their backgrounds, their interests, and treating them as individuals will not only help you understand them better but also help you prepare lessons that are relevant to their interests and needs.

4) Develop a flexible teaching style, and recognise when students aren’t interested in the lesson you have prepared for them! The ability to sense the students mood and motivation can help control disruptive behaviour.

5) Build a team atmosphere. Encourage students to work more collaboratively and solve problems together.

6) Don’t lose control and start shouting. This never works. Avoid using sarcasm even if you think it’s funny – your students won’t understand it. Be a good role model by behaving in a way that you want your learners to behave. If you are constantly late to class, your student will not take you seriously.

7) Support and strategies. If you think your student has a learning difference, talk to them and try to find out how you can support them. There are strategies you can work on together to help both you and the student.

Poor or bad behaviour can become a barrier to learning so it is very important that the teacher is able to identify and deal with the problem appropriately and create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued and equal.