Every teacher in America at some point in their career faces the challenge of keeping students engaged in the classroom. This is an ongoing struggle where there is no definitive solution, only suggestions to improve the situation. In this article, we'll focus on individualized student engagement and how to prevent disruptions for teachers and distractions for other students.
What Is a Classroom Troublemaker?
A classroom troublemaker is a student who interferes with the learning process. This can be as simple as a student talking while the teacher is speaking or as extreme as getting out of their seat and screaming at the top of their lungs. We have all seen it before, whether you are a teacher, a parent, or just a visitor to the school. One child in particular talks when they should be silent, interrupts when they should wait their turn, and pushes others to get what they want.
As a teacher, it can be frustrating to manage your classroom and teach the curriculum when you have a student constantly disrupting your lessons. Disruptive behaviors in school take away from the time students should be learning and can negatively affect the learning environment. Disruptive behaviors can include talking when the teacher is talking, excessive talking to classmates while working, failure to complete assignments or homework, not following directions, making inappropriate comments or jokes in class, cheating or plagiarizing, and outright refusing to do work.
How Do I Create Individualized Engagement?
One of the most significant ways to prevent disruptions is to individualize engagement for students. Engaging students with meaningful activities and allowing them to take ownership in their learning will help cut down on disruptive behavior. Have you ever wondered why those so-called trouble makers sometimes thrive in sports? It's because they are engaged and see value in what they are doing. Sports require practice, skill-building, communication, and teamwork which allows these kids to shine. Using these same ideas in your classroom will let you see these same kids shine as well!
Digital signage improves teacher-student communication. Encourage students to find meaningful activities with these templates:
Strategies to Help You Stay in Control of Your Classroom:
1. Plan for Success
One fundamental way to prevent classroom disruptions is in the planning stage. Before each class, take a few minutes to consider how you can avoid possible distractions and trouble-making. This can be as simple as making sure all materials are available, or it might include having activities ready to engage those students who tend to be easily distracted. While this may seem like an extra step, it will pay off with better classroom management and less time wasted during the actual lesson.
2. Have a Plan B
If you have a particular troublemaker in your class who you know may cause problems, have a plan already prepared if they start acting up. This could include having another activity ready for them or removing them from the room if necessary. If their disruption is particularly severe, don't hesitate to talk with the school's administration about your concerns and ways that they can help support your efforts in maintaining positive behavior and classroom management.
3. Choose Your Battles
This may sound cliche, but it's true! When students have a bad day, they often feel cranky or don't want to work. Sometimes it's important to give them a pass on it and let it go by the wayside. Other times, look at the overall picture and decide if this is something you should get involved in or not. This will help prioritize when and where to spend your energy throughout the day and how much time to spend with each child.
4. Create a Behavior Chart/Contract
Creating a behavior chart for individual students can work wonders! This will differ depending on your grade level; however, the concept still stands. Keep in mind that students hate to be embarrassed in front of their peers, so encourage students to pitch ideas to a behavior chart and encourage them to hold themselves accountable. Sometimes, it helps to offer students an incentive to keep them engaged in class, and that is not a bad thing; just don't let students' behavior become solely dependent on receiving an incentive.
5. Build a Rapport With The Student That Goes Beyond The Classroom.
Learn about the student's learning styles and interests, modify lessons or activities as needed, and develop a close relationship with the student. As difficult as it may seem, try to build a rapport with the student that goes beyond the classroom. The more comfortable they feel around you, the less likely they will act out in class. While this may not work 100% of the time, it can create a more positive and healthy learning environment.
In the classroom, disruptive behavior can challenge student learning and teacher effectiveness. However, in many cases, disruptive behavior can be prevented or minimized by teaching students to identify and understand their feelings, showing them how to express their emotions appropriately, and providing them with positive ways of getting attention.
According to the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), individualized student engagement is at the core of effective classroom management. Individualized student engagement allows teachers to address disruptive behavior issues before they escalate by connecting directly with students. By building a rapport with the student that goes beyond the classroom, teachers can help students learn how to identify and appropriately express their feelings and redirect their disruptive behaviors so that they do not disrupt the classroom environment.
"The more teachers know about students and what interests them, the more likely it is that students will feel engaged in school," states ICLE. "Rather than trying to be all things to all people, teachers should focus on developing relationships with students by learning about their interests and creating opportunities for them to pursue those interests while continuing to build academic skills."
6. Prevent Classroom Disruptions by Limiting Their Access to Your Time and Attention.
One alternative to try is to ignore the problem. Do not give in to their behavior by engaging them negatively or giving them extra attention. Instead, ignore their behavior and stay focused on what is most important: your lesson and the rest of your students who are interested in learning. The more attention you give them when they are disrupting your classes, the more likely they are to do it again.
What Do You Do When It Isn't Working?
Once you've changed your teaching style and the students still aren't behaving, it is time to change your discipline style. Can you bring in another faculty member to address the situation? Do parents need to be involved? While these may work for K-6 students, high school is another story. Do the student's actions require detention or suspension? While there are many steps before deciding on these actions, it is essential to know what steps are in place with your school appropriate for the situation.
Teaching students what they're responsible for and what you expect from them in class gives them more control over their education. This will allow them to take more ownership of their learning even if you're not there to guide them directly. The key isn't reacting to the problem but instead preventing disruptions altogether with proactive steps.
Improving Engagement in the Classroom Is Much Easier Said than Done.
One of the common issues teachers tend to struggle with is classroom disruption. A lack of attention in class can become a real problem for you and your students, but it doesn't always have to be that way. There is no clear-cut way to encourage student engagement and prevent classroom disruptions, and it falls upon the teacher to make the proper steps to support all students, learning styles, and behaviors. A positive teacher-student relationship will help both parties feel more comfortable, and the student is more likely to engage in learning. With some creativity and understanding, the most energetic student can be one of your most engaged. The onus is on teachers to prevent disruptions instead of reacting after the fact.
When it comes to encouraging student engagement, there is no one-size-fits-all. We hope that the tips we've provided in this post will help you think about ways you can engage with your students and prevent classroom disruptions before they become a real issue.