Question Detail

Dealing with an unruly classroom...

Jan 28, 2014 6:43am

What are some tips when dealing with an unruly classroom? I am a replacement teacher (filling in for a maternity leave), and I have this one class that has been driving me crazy since the very beginning of taking over the class. I have tried a reward system (they took that as a joke), I have tried kicking some students out of class as well as give a detention (but that doesn't seem to bother them) - Let me add that I do teach Health class, so it is considered an "off-team" class. I have this class 7th period, some students are great, but several in this class are highly disruptive, disrespectful and rude. I feel as if they don't respect me as a teacher, and think of me as just a "sub". Sometimes I feel so frustrated that I question my career choice...this is also my first time in an official teaching role besides student teaching.

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    • Feb 3, 2014 12:41pm

      I found these tips online, and I've found some of these techniques to be very helpful. Take a look, some of these might work for you too! Also, here is the link to where I found them if you want to read more.

      The moment you’re confronted with an out-of-control class, what works best is to slow everything way down. Follow the guidelines below, and you’ll gain control and respect from any classroom.

      - Start from the beginning. As soon as you see your students, first thing in the morning or when they arrive at your door, stop them and don’t let them proceed any farther until they’re quiet and attentive. If it takes 10 minutes, so be it.

      - Move deliberately. Slowing down has a calming effect on students. You will also discover that, surprisingly, both you and your students will get more accomplished.

      - Speak softly and slowly. Make your students have to strain slightly in order to hear you. You can even tell them that you’re going to whisper your instructions to see how well they can listen.

      - Decide that, no matter what, you will not talk over your students or move on with instruction until they are quiet and attentive.
      Use short, direct sentences, and offer simple instructions that incrementally get students to do what you want. (“Place your math book in the top corner of your desk and stand up.”) Increase complexity gradually.

      - Pause often and a beat longer than feels comfortable. This technique has an almost supernatural way of drawing attention to you and what you have to say.

      - At any point during the day, if your students aren’t giving you exactly what you want, stop them immediately.

      - Don’t transition to a new activity until every student understands your instructions. Give them the signal to begin only after a long pause.

      - Take your time, but never be boring. You can still be happy and enthusiastic in front of your students while at the same time taking things slowly.

      - Relax and enjoy your day. If it feels stressful, then you’re doing it wrong. Classroom management doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective. Moreover, your peaceful disposition has a profound effect on students.

      - Once your students are calm and you have established yourself as the leader of the classroom, teach your classroom management plan over again, as if it’s the first day of school.

      • Feb 1, 2014 2:18pm

        Buy yourself a book called "Power Struggles Successful Techniques for Educators" by Allen N. Mendler, PH.D.. Read it before you call the parents and before you remove them from the classroom. If you only have one disruptive class (some teachers deal only with behavioral challenged students), then you can handle them by avoiding power struggles and trying the strategies in the book. Disruptive behavior can happen in any school anywhere in the world. I'm glad that you haven't given up yet. We need more teachers like you in our profession. You can get through this and build up your experience simultaneously. You CAN do this! :o)

        • Feb 1, 2014 10:26pm

          You definitely have a difficult assignment so just remember's probably the worst it will get. Last period of the day, maternity leave, and kids that probably just consider the class a joke in general...and parents who are likely not too concerned about the learning taking place. I have been in your position and wanted a career change but it's worth it to stick with it as there is an end in sight. Every school/position can be very different.

          Here's a few things to consider:
          Create a website with the course outline, learning outcomes and assignments/tests, etc, with dates. Ask for everyone to submit their parents' email/student email address so that you can send the link to the website. Use this to create a communication with the parents. You will be able to communicate marks/task completion this way. You can tell them that you will send an email every two weeks to let them/parents know what has been completed or what is still outstanding.

          Ask students to fill out survey of interests (maybe multiple intelligences). Use this information to guide your assignments and give them CHOICE. You may find that they love to draw (go for comic strips!), act/do music. Many kids love skits. Also, find out what they like to do on the weekend/stuff they do outside of home. If possible, try to connect with them on a personal level before class (how was that hockey game, who watched the superbowl?) or during class if you think they can handle it. Share something personal with them. (a picture of your pet, places you've visited, 2 truths and a lie).

          Work towards a goal for the end of the week. If they love to go outside, (I know that the weather may not be on your side), or watch a movie (of course, tied into the content).

          Have crossword puzzles (health related) and other paperwork (colouring/drawing if needed) just to keep them busy when you don't think they can handle the lesson/ or when you just want to focus in a small group on the non disruptive students.

          Greet your students at the door by name. Ask them to look at the board for their assignment/agenda for the class.

          Have a very clear structure for each class. Write it on the board: 1. Reflection strip (something we learned last class) OR read the cartoon on the overhead, OR weekend sharing (share with a partner, then 3 people will present to class) OR Fill out your email address OR What's your favourite food?/sport?/subject?/least favourite
          2. Lesson/work: "Complete Multiple intelligences survey" OR "The decision making process"
          3. Exit pass: When you leave pass in your reflection strip OR decision making process/homework/check out my website tonight...

          Create a seating plan!

          Ask your principal to stop in from time to time (let him/her know of your struggles, tell him your plan/strategies).

          Reflect on what went right each day and why and what didn't...ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently to make it better. There's a good chance there wasn't so know that you've done your best.

          Good luck! You can do it!

          • Feb 3, 2014 7:29am

            Here is a specific strategy:
            Start a 10 minute daily journal writing assignment. This should happen as soon as they enter the classroom.They need a small notebook or a section in their binder. You can give prompts regarding the day's lesson, an interesting quote, news that might interest them, etc. As they are writing walk around the room and look over their shoulder. Try to make small, positive comments.
            For example, sounds fun, me too!, that must be hard, wow! I love that. etc.
            Do not criticize or correct any entries.
            Collect them, read them and comment. I've made a lot of connections with my students this way, and it has changed the atmosphere of the classroom. After writing, the students are usually ready to learn, and more open to hearing what you have to say.
            I teach in a residential treatment center where the students are placed by family court. They are in my class anywhere from 1 month to 18 months. It's a challenge, but commenting, showing you are interested in them really helps.
            Good luck!

            • Feb 3, 2014 2:36pm

              I recently found a helpful video with a few tips to control unruly students. I have found that some of these methods work for me and I think they are really worth trying. For example, standing silently by the students who are making trouble until they quiet down often intimidates them into cooperation, rather than yelling over their chatter.


              The link includes a couple of "do's and don'ts" for dealing with these sort of students. Try not to let it get to you. If you continue to assert your authority without losing your temper, I think they will begin to fall in line.

              • Jan 28, 2014 2:04pm

                Phone calls help but you need to be persistent with it so weigh the time you have, evauate the students you have and their family situations to see if it's worth it to make calls. WIth the really really deeply disruptive students, sometimes their family dysfunction makes it not even worth taking the time to call home.

                I invite you to invoke the best teaching tool on earth for all of us adults and kids: teach by example.

                I invite you to work on being mindful, aware and self monitor YOUR emotions throughout your interactions with students. Keep breathing, and try and focus on MODELING respect and honor for fellow human beins. I know it's a big task but it works onver time.

                That doesn't mean you don't have to remove some students from time to time, don't feel guilty, but also don't expect students to act or believe in ways that aren't natural for them.

                Thank you

                • Feb 3, 2014 7:44am

                  What has worked for me is to try to understand why the student is misbehaving. Then find a way to reach them and make a personal connection. I have many "private conversations in the hall" to help the student feel understood and that I am here to help they grow as a person, not just a student. Then I try to have them understand the real-world connection of what I am trying to teach them and the relevance to their life. Soon they become a supporter and then humor always helps defuse intense moments of conflict.

                  • Feb 3, 2014 10:30am

                    Another thing that I thought of...sometimes these kids are so restless and can't focus because it's the end of the day. Start your class off with some exercises/running around the gym if possible. Simon says or other types. Give them jobs...and ask the ones who are your biggest trouble to help you do something that you think might make them feel good. Like they're making a positive contribution. "staple these handouts", "help me figure out out to set up this tv/video", "bring this message to Mr. B".

                    • Feb 3, 2014 3:12pm

                      Being a long-term substitute or a new teacher can be very overwhelming and stressful. It is understandable that in many situations, such as dealing with disruptive and disrespectful students can elicit feelings of doubt about your career choice as a teacher or feelings of being in competent. I am certain that even teachers who have been in the classroom for 30+ years still find themselves in the situation of dealing with an out-of-control class. Having had the experience of working in the emotional support classroom, where they practically all have behavioral issues, my motto is, "never let them see you sweat ." Stand tall and appear confident, body language is important. Make an effort to make instructional time constantly engaging and demand student participation during the entire lesson. Students should be a part of the learning experience. If they are actively engaged in the lesson, they will more likely find the material being taught to be interesting and will put forth more academic effort rather than waste energy being disruptive. Many teachers exhibit loss of control or become visibly stressed out, frustrated and angry, then react by yelling, threatening and demanding. I believe that the opposite reaction is a much better strategy. The moment you are confronted with a disruptive class, take the time to breathe deeply and calm down. Address the class by speaking more softly and slowly and use short, direct sentences, pausing often. This technique usually works by drawing the students' attention to you. Once you have their attention, begin by using a more enthusiastic tone and introduce your lesson. Involve the students, ask them any questions and keep them engaged. They will feel that they are an important part of the class and will begin to respect the teacher and the classmates by exhibiting appropriate behavior.

                      • Feb 3, 2014 5:02pm

                        I'm assuming this class may have been a bit of a handful before the regular teacher left for maternity leave. A first step would be to discuss with that teacher what methods they tried in dealing with the class. If anyone knows something that actually worked, it would be them. As a substitute teacher it is common practice to not only get the days procedure, but a list of student names to look out for. In most cases it's a matter of sticking to your guns and sticking to the regular teachers guns. Students, no matter what the age, will act negatively to change in their environment. Make the transition to you being their teacher as easy as possible. In a past experience taking a long term position, the first day I showed a simple powerpoint slideshow explaining my background and history, some hobbies, and a few silly photos. It gave me something to talk about with even the difficult students. This works into the whole "show respect, get respect" idea.
                        Frankly if the students still act out of hand, it's a matter of discipline. Unruly students should be distanced from partners in crime. Arrange desks so that they can interact the least, are closest to you, or with students you can trust in keeping them on track when your attention is elsewhere. Maintain your ground if you choose to dismiss a student from your room or if you inform them that you plan to take action because of their behavior. They will try and backpedal to cover their mistakes. "I don't care, write me up, nothing is going to happen to me," is only going to work so much. Administration will have to step in and discipline the child with a detention or suspension or in drastic situations create a behavior plan for the student to maintain.
                        Classroom management can in some cases be a very political concept, but always remember that you are in charge. If you don't like the way something is happening in your classroom, change it immediately. If students think they can get away with it once, they will be determined to get away with it again,

                        • Feb 4, 2014 6:37am

                          Okay, I am the new kid in the block. Here is what I have learned. Children like to try the sub and you are the object of bullies if you would. They want to see how steadfast you are. They are testing your patience :) Be steadfast! if you say you are going to call parents do it! and I agree with the teacher who says phone calls are important they let the student know that you will follow through. The are worth it even if there is dysfunction in the home you have no way of knowing that anyway you are not their assigned teacher. You are the new kid on the block like me, it matters not how old you are they want to see if they can scare you and make you cry. If you break you have lost their respect and they will never do what you want. Yelling is not an effective way to get their attention either they do not care if you yell. Bullies are bullies even when they are pint size :) so turn the tables on them. Tyr this ......Give them a task to do each day that helps you. Not a meaningless one but one that you can monitor and they feel a bit more a part of the class. Bullies are hiding or feeling insecure they are afraid too this has nothing to do with you and do not let them make it be about you. Be kind they may not always get that, speak softly and ask them to exit the class with you then ask them to help you. Let them know you need them to help you with the assignment by lets say making sure everyone has their logs ; let them know that you know if the class sees them doing the right thing they will too. I have used this many times and it has worked every time! if you have to ask them to calm down do so away from the others they hate being embarrassed and calling them down in class does that if you are yelling. Say, Excuse me,____________, we will wait until you finish because we do not wish to be rude right.....class please do not laugh this is important and he/she has something important to say, okay you have the floor pleas share with us what you need us to hear.....I have also just stopped and became silent just watching as the student them calms themselves as the other students begin to correct them by calling them down so they can finish what we are doing just said nothing and allow the strength if your class to take over. For those who act violent calling for a male helper is no weakness sometimes it is a gender thing too boys are negative toward females who are smaller and they feel they can over power even if you are the teacher because remember you can not hit them and they fell you are not the real teacher so they do not have to listen and what can you do? Just what the real teacher can right? :) Get some one to come and sit in with you for a few days a parent of one who misbehaves so they can see. do not tell the student when they are coming. Good luck, do onto give up okay. I too have been told this is not a profession I really want to take on but for me the children are worth it! My teachers cared for me and never let me down, I was not a trouble maker but I had no parents and they helped to raise and guide me. They gave support to my older sister who raised me. You never know what your students are dealing with outside of the classroom so try to understanding. YOU ARE AWESOME!

                          • Feb 1, 2014 1:04pm

                            I try to focus on those students who are making the right choices and complementing them a good strategy. This usually helps the other students change their behavior. It is difficult because those negative behaviors always seem to get our attention more than not. Speaking in a low voice helps sometimes too. I teach Kindergarten so this might not apply to all situations. Explaining why showing respect to others is important and getting to know your students personally instead of taking the governing role might work too. This being said, I made two phone calls last night for two students not showing respect and being non compliant. You will have those days. Both girls have difficult home life issues they are dealing with so that is a factor. I will discuss this with them on Monday to let them know I'm on their side. Hang in there. I have had some wonderful moments teaching both students. I think about those moments at the end of the day and that helps a lot!

                            • Feb 9, 2014 9:56pm

                              Having been a long term sub, I can see where you would be frustrated by this type of behavior from your class. You need to ask yourself, " Why do these students feel they can behave this way?" What impression am I giving them to make them think this is acceptable behavior?" Health is a class that is mandatory for graduation and they have to pass it. So while it may be an "off team" class, it still merits proper classroom conduct and the ability to instruct the students in the information that needs to be covered. Are you familiar with the rules of the classroom prior to you taking over? did you make clear to class class what your expectations were at the beginning? Do you have any idea where the students are before health? are they in brain intensive classes where they need to do some thing seemingly crazy like 10 jumping jacks to "get it out of their system?"
                              I had a high school art classroom for 12 weeks. Prior to my arrival, I was told there were some students with behavioral issues. I never had any problems with them because from the first day I made it clear what I expected from them, and I listened to their issues with the teacher who told me about the disorderly behavior. what I found out was that she screamed at them and did not respect them as people.
                              The other thing I know is that you need to always be prepared with multiple strategies because what works today may not work tomorrow. all of these strategies should be based on a system of mutual respect.
                              Here is the link to a fantastic blog.. Perhaps this book might be of assistance to you. Good luck and embrace this opportunity to not only educate your students, but yourself as well.


                              • Oct 7, 2014 11:10pm

                                Classroom teaching is only effective if a student wants to take advantage of it. An alarming number of underperforming elementary and middle school children do not. Unmotivated students are unlikely to embrace the learning process or participate in tutoring, homework help or other types of traditional mentoring programs.

                                Here is a simple and fun 15 minute, once per week strategy, to repetitively motivate and inspire elementary and middle school students to excel academically and socially and to respect their teachers, schools, peers and the learning process. Although originally geared towards significantly underperforming children, this program will benefit any student type. Of particular relevance would be the home page, benefits page and FAQs at: www.OnGiantsShoulders.ORG

                                • Mar 21, 2014 12:54am

                                  Kids are a blank hard-disk or a blank DVD disc or blank pen-drive.

                                  You can write anything you want to to write in that

                                  each kid have ability to do things by own self.
                                  they have more solution for current problems

                                  let them give direction
                                  give them scope to think

                                  once they find the way
                                  they start reading
                                  they start finding solutions

                                  Be a consultant rather then dictator

                                  Make a list of social problems facing by your country and society.
                                  find out NGOs working on that

                                  Let them explain meaning of opportunity.

                                  so many developing country facing learning English
                                  let them know that their native language is English
                                  In that way they may realize the value of a language.

                                  Use this kind of examples and finding reason to why do they have to learn what they learn.

                                  • Jan 3, 2015 12:26pm

                                    Here is a simple and fun 15 minute, once per week strategy, to repetitively motivate and inspire elementary and middle school students to excel academically and socially and to RESPECT their teachers, schools, peers and the learning process. Although originally geared towards significantly underperfoming children, this program will benefit any student type.Of particular relevance in this case are the home page, benefits page and FAQs at: www.OnGiantsShoulders.ORG

                                    • Sep 30, 2016 10:07pm

                                      I appreciate the tips from all of you. I had an unusual 9th class, I taught them science after the lunch break. The class was very disruptive as most of the students wanted to go in washroom to do drugs...they were very disruptive and they would try to find any way to leave the class...this happened over and over and it came a point that it was frustrated and no rules will work with. The school was in an isolated rural area and very poor.