The class clown really is painful to have in your class. The role of the teacher is to stop the class clown from interfering with the learning of others. That can be a full time job, if you let it.
You can't miss the class clown in your classroom. Their childish misbehaviour is irritating for most teachers but their influence on other potential class clowns can ruin your lesson.
Characteristics of a Class Clown.
The Class clown is recognised by the following behaviours.
The class clown loves to be in the spotlight. They want all eyes on them. They thrive on the attention of others and if they don't get it instantly, their behaviour becomes more outlandish.
The class clown is always ready for a smart response, usually inappropriate and untimely. The smart-alec responses are usually blurted out loud enough for the whole class to hear, which of course is the preferred option.
The class clown is primed by giggling class mates which seem to motivate them towards even more misbehaviour.
The class clown seldom responds to reprimands. In fact the reprimand is an attention the class clown enjoys.
Once started, the class clown does not know when, or even how, to stop.
The Makeup of the Class clown makeup.
Research puts poor self esteem as the motivating element for the class clown's behaviour. Self esteem is the cause of all sorts of behaviours in your classroom.
Children, particularly younger children, evaluate their worth through the eyes of others. That requires attention. If students don't get attention, they need a vehicle by which they can generate an audience. For the class clown, it is usually poorly executed humour. I am sure Benny Hill was a class clown! And he went on to amass a fortune.
The class clown 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. He is the kid who is allowed to play their games but is often not invited to birthday parties. In an effort to become noticed by and by a part of the group, the class clown resorts to outlandish behaviours. He interprets the laughs and giggling as peer acknowledgement and approval. In fact, it seldom is.
The insecurities of not belonging brings a lack of self-censorship. He just does not know when to stop. The craving for attention elicits even more ridiculous behaviours. Class clowns desperately seek approval from others and are genuine in their desire to be liked.
The class clown does not care about the feelings of others. They are usually selfish and ego centric. But these silly behaviours often mask inherent anxiety and insecurities. They lack the social skills to interpret responses from others which often causes situations to go too far.
Managing the class clown.
Class Clown and Attention
There is no doubt that the class clown craves attention. The teacher needs to give attention for positive behaviours and acknowledge such attention to the group. Give attention on your terms.
"Raymond has been working so well for the last 30 minutes, I think he deserves a round of 5 fairy claps."
Vary rewarding attention from quiet one-on-one attention to group acknowledgement so that the class clown is weaned from the need for group admiration.
Ensure that others receive the same acknowledgement. This ensure that all students feel a part of the class community.
Class Clown and Non-verbals
Use one signal for stopping. Train the class clown to recognise this signal.
The teacher puts the hand signal for stop and the class clown responds with the same signal to acknowledge he has seen and understands the message.The behaviour must stop.
Finger to the lips followed by a mirrored response from the class clown indicates that noise must stop. Build in limiting signals for other inherent behaviours.
If necessary, use peer support for these behaviours. Have student mentors use the same signals to be used in small group work situations.
Class Clown and Performing
Choose the class clown for class performance. Use their desire to entertain for the benefit of the whole class. Feed the inner clown by providing opportunities for attention.
Class clowns can sometimes by wonderful masters of ceremonies. The danger in the situation is that while some class clowns like attention in unstructured circumstance (calling out in class) they may not respond to structured circumstances (class morning talks)
Class Clown and Audience
Class clowns often do not understand the difference between the concepts of laughing at and laughing with. The class clown 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. Isn't that right Barry?"
Class Clown and Peers
Stop the class response to the misbehaviour of the class clown. The class clown 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 class clown 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 class clown 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 misbehavior incidents.
The class clown 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.
Class Clown and Space
Use classroom space to remove the audience.
Don't place the class clown 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 class clown will be seen by those behind. If he wants the stand and wiggle his bum, the whole class will laugh.
Place the class clown 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.
Remove the clown from the class or remove the class from the clown. If misbehaviour proves in tolerable, 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.
Actions that don't work.
Taking no action is counter productive. Provide feedback to the class clown as appropriate with "I" statements. Give him attention but on your terms. This kind of behaviour won't go away by itself. It needs your interaction to improve.
Don't take the actions of the class clown personally. Often the teacher resents the class clown and this reaction is picked up by the class.
Don't embarrass or ridicule the class clown. This creates a battle and only generates a situation where no one will win.
Don't use humour to compete with the class clown. It will set a dangerous competitive situation not unlike Dueling Banjos.
Don't over-react. This plays right into the hands of the class clown. Over reaction validates his position of power.
Don't try using anger or sarcasm.
Every teacher understands sometimes no approach will work with some class clowns. Persistent and willful misbehaviour needs further investigation. Almost certainly there will be deeper causes.
Anxiety and stress come from somewhere. It is easy to put the blame on the home, or parents or siblings. Sometimes professional counseling is required to help the class clown become an accepted member of your classroom.