9 Strategies for How to Deal with Disruptive Students

9 Effective strategies from a veteran teacher that can be used in any grade or setting

1. Proximity

Proximity is the teacher spidey-sense that makes you get closer to them.  You often do this without knowing why you’re doing it. The closer you get, the more they realize what they’re doing is a distraction.  

They have received your attention, and then they should get the clue. Sometimes you might even end up sitting on their desk before they realize it’s time to pay attention!

2.  Don’t yell at them

Don’t yell at them, but don’t be afraid to use your big teacher voice if you have to.  

If you use it too much students will start calling your bluff. Yelling at kids is also a quick way to establish “me against you,” instead of “me with you.”  

Yelling at kids that have experienced trauma at home can make them feel unsafe. This can trigger the same emotions they’ve felt last time an adult yelled at them, and is not the best environment for a child to learn and grow in.  

3. Lower your voice

I’ve heard from many veteran awesome teachers that by talking quieter and calmer works very well.

It lets the students know you are a calm adult who is in control of any situation – your mood and demeanor aren’t determined by a loud kid.  


4.  Send them out of the room

This is effective if they aren’t a student who will wander once they’re out.  It tends to be most effective if used only once for a student. Once you’ve done this more than once, it loses its bite.

Make sure to (once the students in the room are working on something) hang halfway out the door and have a respectful conversation with the student. 

Make sure you’re not lecturing them.  Let their voices be heard – listen to them.  Sometimes we all need to be heard and believe what we say, or how we feel matters. 


5. Early, constant contact with parents

This might be the best way to deal with disruptive students.  Get in touch with the parents or guardians early in the year through a phone call, email, or a back-to-school event.  

Make sure you set a positive tone and have something good to say about their child. Stay on top of the disruptive behaviors early.

 This lets the student know you’re not afraid to keep in touch with their parents and that  you care about their success in class.  

Next time you ask them to get on task or do something, they know you mean what you say.  It shows them that you will follow up with mom and dad if you need to.

6. Ignore them

Sometimes the best strategy to deal with disruptive students is to ignore them.  

Don’t give them the attention they’re seeking. When you don’t give them attention, it tells the rest of your class to follow your lead and ignore them too.  

This doesn’t always work, but it works well enough for it to be in your toolbelt.

7. Send them on “errands”

This is a creative way to have those students get rid of the disruptive energy they have.  This also gives you and the rest of the class a break.

You need to create a pact with another teacher in advance.  In this pact you’ve established that a student can always go to their room to “deliver” something. This can be something of value or something with pretend value – it doesn’t matter.  

This special professional covenant can work both ways too!

8. Make a seating chart where they’re far away from everyone else

This can be the simplest solution sometimes.  

Keep trying new seating charts until you find one that fits.  Keep trying until you find one that isolates the child from other students who laugh or give them attention.

You want a seating chart where everyone can actually focus on their learning and the task at hand.  

9. Build a relationship with them, learn about the whole child, and use every resource available to address those needs.  

This is by far the most effective and meaningful form of dealing with disruptive students: love them.  

Every student has something going on in their life that we as educators could hardly imagine.  Take the time to try and understand why they are acting the way they are.

Talk with the school counselors, other teachers, past teachers, their family and relatives. Have conversations with those students outside of the classroom; maybe in the hall or at an assembly.

 Get to know them.  Show them you care about them and don’t want them to “be quiet” all the time in class. This is sometimes very hard to do, especially when you have a hard time forgetting how they were acting and what they were saying in class.

This strategy can more often than not have the longest and most profound impact on them.

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