Module 8 – How to Manage Your Unruly Classroom

What Makes Unruly Students and How to Manage Unruly Students in Your Classroom.

The unruly student really is an absolute pain.

They seem to surface for most relief teachers - unfortunately.

Your role, as a relief teacher, is to ensure the unruly student does not interfere with the right of other students to learn. That can be an exhausting and a full time job in itself.

You can't mistake the unruly student in your classroom. They exhibit childish misbehaviour constantly and irritate most teachers. They also have undue influence on other students, particularly those who have a similar bent. If they join in, your lesson and your day can be completely ruined..

unruly students

What Makes An Unruly Students

Unruly students are all individuals but they do have some common traits.

  • Most unruly student love to be in the spotlight. These students love to have all eyes on them. Most unruly students thrive on the perceived admiration of others. Whether the admiration is real of not, if they don't get it, their classroom behaviour becomes more pronounced.
  • The unruly student is always prepared for a smart alec response. These responses are usually inappropriate and are usually shouted out loud enough for everyone to hear, which of course is the purpose of the display.
  • The unruly student is primed by perceived encoragement of peers. This encouragement vindicates the students towards more unruly behaviour.
  • Once started, the unruly student does not know when, or even how, to stop.
  • The unruly student rarely responds to teacher reprimands. Quite often the reprimand is an exactly the attention sought as it provides the student with social kudos from peers.

Unruly Students and Self Esteem

Research indicates that self esteem is often one motivating factor for the unruly student's behaviour.

Most children, particularly younger children, evaluate their worth through the eyes of others. That requires others to notice them. For the unruly students, this is brought about by gaining attention by misbehaviour.

Not surprisingly, most unruly student usually has poor social standing amongst his peers. He is usually, but not always, male. He may be tolerated within the social circle but seldom has close peer relationships. The insecurities of not belonging brings a lack of self-control. He just does not know when to stop.

The craving for attention elicits even more ridiculous behaviours. unruly students desperately seek approval from others and are genuine in their desire to be liked. These behaviours often mask inherent anxiety and insecurities. Unruly students often lack the skills to interpret responses from others which often causes situations to go too far.


Managing the Unruly Student

We know the unruly student craves attention. It makes sense that the teacher needs to give attention the the unruly student that does not involve his misbehaviour.

You have to give attention on your terms.

"Graham has put a lot of effort into his work. Well done Graham." 

Let the class hear the reward, but it has the be the same type of acknowledgement that would be presented to any other student who exhibits the same behaviour.

This is a great way to wean the unruly student off attention-seeking generated by misbehaviour.

Make the acknowledgement purposeful and learning related with positive feedback.​ If you give the same acknowledgement to one of your "honour" students if puts you little miscreant Graham in the same class. Imagine the boost to Graham's self esteem.

Unruly student and Non-verbals

We all know Unruly Students have difficulty STOPPING.

 You can easily train an unruly student to recognise a STOP signal, if you use it consistently. The signal needs to be clear and simple. 

The teacher puts the hand signal for stop and the unruly student responds with the same signal to acknowledge he has seen and understands the message. The behaviour must stop.

You can also build in a double-stop signal which means ,"You are close to having the knee-caps broken!" (or something similar)

stop unruly behaviour

Finger to the lips followed by a mirrored response from the unruly student indicates that noise must stop.

Build in limiting signals for other inherent behaviours as necessary. You can also use peer support for these behaviours. Have student mentors use the same signals to be used in small group work situations. Unruly student and Performing

Unruly Students and Performing

Where appropriate, select the unruly student for class performances. Most unruly students love to perform. Use this to your advantage. Here they can be called to entertain for the benefit of the whole class. Feed the inner clown by providing opportunities for attention.

Unruly students can sometimes by wonderful masters of ceremonies.

The negative for this situation is that, while some unruly students like attention in unstructured circumstances (calling out in class) they may not respond to structured circumstances (class talks, expositions, reading out)

The Unruly Student and Audience

Unruly Students often do not understand the difference between the concepts of laughing at and laughing with.

The unruly student needs to understand that he is member of the class and his inappropriate behaviour often prevents others from learning. Pointing out that he is alienating his audience may be a powerful message.

Statements like, "Barry isn't happy that your silly behaviour is stopping him from doing his mathematics project."

Unruly Student and Peers

You need tp stop the class responding to the misbehaviour of the unruly student. The unruly student is the one who is often making ridiculous sounds. In reality, sometimes it is difficult not to laugh.

I mean, who doesn't like a good fart joke? ONCE!

Any response generated by misbehaviour will be just the encouragement the unruly student needs to continue the joke. Keeping the class silent can be hard work. Try directions like, "Hands up if you would like Barry to stop disturbing us.

"Barry will quickly look at those whose hands are down because these are his audience.The teacher needs to respond quickly, "Hands down. 23 hands went up Barry. 23 people find your behaviour disruptive. 23 people want you to STOP."

Notice the person the unruly student looks towards first when misbehaving. This will be the person of most influence. It might be you, the teacher. This is the person with the most power to reduce misbehaviour incidents.

The unruly student really wants to elicit a response from this person. If you can get this person NOT to react, the audience is taken away. It might take some preparation on your part.

The Unruly Student and Space

Use classroom space to remove the audience. Don't place the unruly student at the front of the room because they are in the spotlight for the whole class.

( Isn't that why teachers stand there?)

Every action of the unruly student will be seen by those behind. If he wants the stand and wiggle his bum, the whole class will laugh. Place the unruly student in the far corner of the room as far as possible from the teacher's desk. This will reduce the impact to the small group students nearby.

You can remove the clown from the class or remove the class from the clown. If misbehaviour proves intolerable, move the clown's table just outside the classroom door. He can see you but he can not see the class and the class can not see him.

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