Dealing with disruptive or difficult students

Dealing with disruptive or difficult students

Whatever kind of teacher you are, be it a maths teacher, an art teacher or a teacher of karate, there will come a time when you will have problems managing your class/group of students and if you cannot find a way to do it effectively your students can become uninterested, unmotivated or quiet, and will seldom reach your desired goal. By using rules, teachers can create a more motivating and rewarding classroom environment.


Set rules from day one so that the students know where they stand and won’t be surprised if you have to discipline them at a later date. The rules need to be reasonable, culturally sensitive and promote a positive learning environment. If you set rules that are too severe or too lax and therefore easily broken, the students won’t even try to follow them. The teacher must also abide by the rules. Rules are caught, not taught which means if some students stick to them, the other students will follow.


Students tend to imitate their teacher so if the teacher is hardworking, softly-spoken, and polite, the class will act in a similar manner. If you are loud and bossy and do not give your students a chance to speak they will react the same way, both towards you and their classmates. If you want a quiet class, demonstrate this by speaking quietly so that the students will strain to hear you and be more attentive. Shouting at a disruptive class or student will make them more unruly.

Starting the Class 

At the beginning of the class, wait for all the students to be quiet and focused on you before you start speaking in order to ensure you have their attention. If students are still talking or not paying attention when you start, they will think that what they have to say is more important than what you’re saying. Do not compete with them for attention though because they outnumber you and will more than likely shout louder. It is important for the whole class to be focused on the teacher before the teacher begins so, if your students are being noisy, don’t speak. Inexperienced teachers tend to get louder when the class gets louder but all this serves to do is to make the students louder with nobody listening. Every student deserves the chance to learn and if one or more students are talking, they are spoiling it for the others.


Learning to control difficult or disruptive students before their behaviour  spreads to their classmates is quite important and, as with setting rules, this needs to be done at the offset so that the students learn they cannot simply do what they want.

So, how do you grab the attention of students who are doing everything except listening to you and how do you make sure that your students get the most out of your class?

Plan an Interesting Lesson 

If your lessons are dull or monotonous your students will lose interest pretty quickly and that can make them troublesome. Planing an engaging lesson which all the students can participate in will make certain everyone pays attention and make them less likely to be disruptive. It could be a good idea to elicit ideas for lesson plans from the students as, that way, you’re teaching them what they want to be taught and have less reason to be uninterested. Having said this, it won’t be possible to keep all of your students interested all of the time since you will have learners in your class that really don’t want to be there – they’re learning because they have to, not because they want to.

Don’t Lose Your Cool 

One thing to remember in every class is that if it isn’t going how you want it to, don’t get angry. Keep calm, be rational and don’t shout. If the students think you’ve lost control you won’t be able to get them back on track. So, if you feel you’re losing their attention get it back by changing the activity to a more engaging one. If you have a student who is acting up, try to get to the root of why they are doing it and deal with them before your next class so that they’re not being continually disruptive.

As I stated at the start of this post, the above applies to any kind of teaching (when teaching groups as opposed to one-on-one) but leans towards teaching kids and teenagers since adults aren’t really inclined to exhibit bad behaviour. At Oxbridge TEFL, the majority of students are adults, therefore, you wouldn’t have too much of a problem controlling them. If this appeals to you, click here for a no obligation interview.

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