Ten top tips: Tackling disruptive behaviour

Low level disruptive behaviour is a challenge in schools and classrooms so education staff find that there is a plethora of views, guidelines and advice.

We share some of the top tips from our bestselling course ‘Tackling Low Level Disruptive Behaviour’ which you can implement right away to minimise disruption and enhance learning in your classroom.

1. Do not take it personally

This is surprisingly difficult advice to follow. It’s hard not to take it personally when a student appears to be doing their utmost to disrupt your lesson. But in almost all situations you will be able to deal with the situation more efficiently and be more likely to prevent a reoccurrence if you take a step back and handle the situation as objectively as possible.

2. Think quickly and act slowly

It is best to always be prepared. Don’t wait until you come across disruptive behaviour before you think about how you will deal with it. Instead pre-empt the situation and think through the different ways you might respond. In that way you will be completely ready if your lesson is disrupted and will be able to rapidly determine the best course of action. Your response must always be calm and measured. You need to demonstrate that you are entirely in control of the situation in order to retain the respect of all your students.

3. Have established rules and procedures

A set of basic ground rules can go a long way towards maintaining a sense of order and control within your classroom. Repeat these as often as is necessary for the message to sink in – maybe have a copy on the wall as well. Consistency is key here. Always expect a certain level of behaviour from your students and praise them or thank them when they work well within the ground rules but be quick to pick up on anyone who is not behaving in a way you have deemed appropriate.

4. Condemn the behaviour and not the student

As with point 1, it is far easier to deal with disruptive behaviour if you avoid allowing it to become too personal. Where possible, quickly and efficiently respond to the specific disruptive behaviour that is happening at the time.

5. Act as you say you will

Set out your guidelines and stick to them. This way your students will know exactly what is expected of them and the likely punishment if they do not follow your ground rules. You should also set a good example and follow your own guidelines – for example, you cannot expect your students not to speak over each other, if you speak over them.

6. Avoid shouting and physical contact

Although it can be hard to keep your cool, allowing a situation to escalate into a shouting match is a sure fire way to lose the respect of your whole class and massively increase the likelihood that you will encounter further behaviour problems in the future.

7. Control your communication and body language

Undoubtedly you won’t feel it but keep your words and posture as relaxed as possible. Like shouting and physical contact, hostile words or body language are likely simply to cause the situation to escalate.

8. Act within school and departmental policy

Be certain that you know what your school and department expects to be tolerated in terms of behaviour and what the standard punishments are for not following the ground rules. Complete consistency and a united front are the best ways to tackle persistent low level disruptive behaviour issues. Not responding in the same way as your colleagues will leave you open to questioning from your students and may lead them to question your authority.

9. Plan and structure the lesson content/activities

One of the key catalysts for disruptive behaviour is a bored or unmotivated class or students who don’t understand what they’re meant to be doing. When planning your lessons make sure that you’ve provided activities that will be engaging for students of all different ability levels and that your instructions are concise and clear. The success of a whole lesson can often be determined by how successful your starter activity is. Get this right and you’re halfway there!

10. Ensure student voice

Whilst it’s important to retain control of your class, other than in extreme circumstances you should be working in partnership with your students rather than dictating to them. In many cases the majority of students will be frustrated by having the lesson held up by a disruptive minority. Allow their voice to be heard – students will often respond quite differently to their peers than to their teachers. Of course, this requires sensitive handling but if you get it right then you and your students will end up working as a team. One that doesn’t tolerate having the lesson disrupted by poor behaviour.

Tips taken from Tackling Low Level Disruptive Behaviour

Interested in behaviour courses? See more behaviour courses here.

Does disruptive behaviour have an impact in your class?

Is it fair that a minority of unruly pupils can negatively impact on a whole class?

Do you have any top tips for tackling tricky behaviour?

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