Dealing With Challenging Classroom Behaviour


When you have to tell a pupil off do it in private if possible. If they are in front of their mates, they don’t want to lose face so they may argue back. When you have said what you need to say, end the interaction.

Criticise their behaviour, not them

It is better to say, “what you did was immature”, rather than “you’re immature”.

When I was at school, we were shown how to thread a sewing machine during a Textiles lesson. The following week we had to do it ourselves and I remember struggling to remember how to do it. When the teacher saw my dismal attempt she tutted and said in front of the class, “you’re not very clever are you!” I’m still angry at that woman twenty years later!

It might be true, but commenting negatively on a pupils’ personality in this way will do nothing but harm.

By telling them “you’re immature”, you’re telling them that’s what you think of them. That’s how they are so there’s no point trying to change.

By separating their behaviour from their personality you are telling them they can choose to improve how they behave. It encourages them to take responsibility.

Strategies To Minimise Bad Behaviour

Here are some practical strategies to use in the classroom to help prevent unwanted behaviour from happening and for dealing with it when it does.

• Polite – Set the example and be polite to pupils.

• Work the crowd – Use the whole classroom. Move around as you talk when addressing the class and when work is taking place move around to check pupil’s progress.

This shows you are considering everyone and lets them know you are likely to pick up on undesirable behaviour as you are ‘on the move’.

It also confirms your authority and shows them you are comfortable in your environment and in control.

• Behaviour chart – This is a very useful way to chart pupils’ behavioural progress throughout the lesson.

It is a visual reminder of how they are doing in the lesson and is usually very effective. It can be adapted for the needs of the class/pupil.

Behaviour charts work well with rewards and sanctions. The behaviour chart serves as an indication of how close they are to these.

• Rewards and sanctions – Rewards work well as they provide the incentive. Even for pupils who might like to come across as above all that.

Clear sanctions allow the teacher to emphasise where the boundaries are.

When things start to escalate…

• Ignore – If it’s low-level stuff you can ignore it. At this stage, it is probably best to avoid confrontation which can escalate if a pupil feels aggrieved.

• Body block – A simple technique for when two pupils are signalling to each other across the room and it’s proving a distraction. Simply stand in the middle.

You don’t even have to acknowledge the misbehaviour that was occurring.

• One-to-one – When dealing with misbehaviour it is best to do it with as little fuss as possible.

Try and do it with as little confrontation as possible. When you need to ‘have words’ endeavour to do exchange is reduced to an argument and your status is compromised.

• Follow through – This goes back to the point about consistency. If you say that you’ll give them a detention the next time they commit another misdemeanour then you must do so the next time they do it.

If you don’t, pupils will rightly believe your authority is suspect and will have no confidence in you.

You will find it very difficult to control the class then.

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