9 Strategies for Disruptive Behavior In the Classroom

Disruptive behavior in the classroom can make it difficult to build a positive classroom environment, difficult for students to learn and difficult for teachers to teach.

Teachers should be sure to support the disruptive behaviors and have strategies to diffuse disruptive incidents. 

Teachers may see a rise in disruptive behavior during difficult subjects or before breaks or weekends. 

Disruptive behavior is often the result of a student wanting to avoid doing school work or to seek attention from friends or teachers. 

Strategies for Disruptive Behavior In the Classroom (Let’s Get Calm!)

Strategies for managing disruptive behavior should address the child as a whole person.

Do your best to keep track of anything that seems to trigger disruptive behavior and make sure their basic needs are met. 

These nine strategies can be adapted to any level of students in any classroom.

These solutions may seem simple, but they can have a big impact. 

Set Clear Expectations

Begin by outlining appropriate and inappropriate behavior during classroom activities. 

While talking to a neighbor is encouraged during a lab activities, it is not appropriate during a class discussion or during the presentation of a new lesson. 

It can be helpful to have different sets of expectations for each classroom activity.

Review these expectations each time you participate in one of these activities. 

Verbally Redirect

When a child begins to display disruptive behavior you may choose to redirect the behavior. 

Keep these reminders brief and impersonal:

“Eyes forward”

“Return to your seat”

“Pick up your pencil”

“Return to the project” 

“Keep your hands to yourself”

“Be kind with your words”

These redirects focus on what you want the student to do, not on the misbehavior. 

Be sure to keep a neutral tone and facial expression when giving these redirects to avoid embarrassing or singling out the student. 

It may be helpful to write these redirects on a card to place on a student desk. These reminders may be helpful for students who have a habit of disruptive behavior. 

Address The Need

Check in with a disruptive student to make sure they have all the materials necessary to complete the assignments. 

Students may be disruptive when they cannot find the assignment, are having trouble logging in, or need a pencil. 

Students may also have more basic needs that should be addressed before they can be successful in the classroom. 

Is the child cold? Hungry? Tired? Uncomfortable?

Many schools have a family support specialist that can help communicate with families to address household needs. 

Many schools can support families with food, laundry and resources to help with utilities. 

Smart Grouping

The first suggestion you will be given by administration, coaches or other teachers is to change the seating chart. 

A well designed seating chart will promote collaboration, give all students a good view of important classroom resources and give students a quiet workspace of their own. 

A classroom that has a lot of disruptive behavior can benefit from a smart grouping strategy. 

Colors and Numbers is a strategy that assigns each student a color and a number.

The numbers may be based on academic levels and the colors may be based on social groups or other criteria. 

The idea is that you have built two seating charts.

If you are struggling during a math lesson ask them to move from their color groups to their number groups. 

Acknowledge Emotions

A child may display disruptive behaviors because of underlying emotions.

It is important to acknowledge these emotions to help the student process their emotions. 

Students are developing emotionally and they may need support in process these emotions. 

Provide Privacy

When a behavior has escalated to the point when it needs to be addressed individually be sure to talk to the student away from their peers. 

It can be difficult to take the time to address behavior individually in a full classroom, but addressing behavior in front of the whole class will only shame the student.  

Asking the student to step into the hallway can allow the student the calm down and speak more honestly. 

Use Reflections

Using a reflection form for students to fill out during a behavioral reset break can be a useful tool when the teacher is not available to speak one on one with the student. 

If your school has a reset space or a calm down room that is staffed to support students they may have a form available for students. 

You may also choose to keep these forms in your classroom and have students carry them to the reset room. 

You may also set aside a quiet space in your classroom for reflection and have the forms available there. 

Reflection forms are usually one page worksheets that ask the student the following questions:

How am I feeling?

What behavior caused me to be sent to reset?

Why is the behavior unacceptable?

What did I want?

Did I get what I wanted? Why? 

There are plenty of age appropriate behavior reset forms available online for use in your classroom. 

Call Parents

Be sure to involve parents when you see undesirable classroom behavior. 

Assume positive intentions when you are talking to parents.

They want their child to be successful and they can support their child’s academic success. 

Keep a log of all parent contact that you make, recording the date and time as well as the content of the conversations. 

You may want to BCC the appropriate administrator if the behavior is consistent and requires admin involvement or if the parent is making accusations about other students, you or your classroom. 

Get Support

Be sure to reach out to school support like your mentor teacher, an instructional coach, a behavior coach, guidance counselors and principals. 

These people may already know the student and have insight to help you make a plan. 

They may be able to observe the student and help you identify triggers or make recommendations for other interventions. 

Do not struggle in silence, be sure to reach out so that you can support teaching and learning in your classroom. 

How To Deal with Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom 

It can be very difficult to enjoy teaching when you feel like you are constantly dealing with disruptive behavior, but using these strategies consistently should restore a positive classroom environment.

It is common to need to reset expectations in January and April, sometimes October too. 

Do not feel discouraged if you feel like you are spending a lot of time on expectations, this is your best tool to create a positive classroom environment. 

It is much harder for students to act out when the rest of the class is on task. 

Strategies for Disruptive Behavior In the Classroom