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Classroom Management: Get a Grip on Whole-Class Misbehavior

Janelle Cox

It’s hard enough to try and control a few students who are misbehaving in class, but what about when it’s the whole class that is misbehaving? What’s the right way to handle it and what should you do? Should you turn over every child’s behavior card, write every single students’ name on the front board, or start yelling? The fact is that when you have more than a handful of students acting out at the same time, writing their name on the board or yelling just isn’t going to solve the problem. To fix the problem you have to do a few things. Here are some classroom management ideas to help you begin.

Classroom Management: Don’t Rush to Jump in

Your first reaction once you realize that your classroom is out of control is to jump in and do something about the situation to fix it. Don’t do that. Tell yourself to pause a moment and sit back and observe. Look at what the students are doing that you think they shouldn’t be. Make a mental note of the unwanted behavior taking place and think about what you next action will be.

Use an Attention Signal as Classroom Management to Gather the Students

Make the students stop whatever they are doing that you feel is inappropriate for that moment and get their attention. This is when a verbal or non-verbal attention signal is necessary. If you find that students are not paying attention to you still, then you know that you need another attention signal or need to work on the one that you have implemented.

Be Patient

While you may be infuriated that your attention signal isn’t working, you still need to be patient and sit and wait a few minutes. By waiting an additional few minutes you are allowing students to understand what they are doing wrong and how upset you are. This is a great way for students to realize (on their own) what they have done wrong.

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Refrain from Lecturing

Once you finally get your students’ attention, try and refrain from lecturing about how disappointed that you are in them. Instead, make sure everyone is in their seats and get ready for them to observe what they did wrong and how you would like them to behave.

Gain a Different Perspective

Have students watch and observe as you model the unwanted behavior that they just exhibited. This powerful tool of replaying the event that just took place will be a life changing lesson for your students. They will get the opportunity to physically see the behavior that you observed and how it wasted a lot of valuable learning time.  

Model Appropriate Behavior

Now is the time to model the expected behavior. If you observed the students misbehaving during learning centers, then take the time to walk them through what appropriate behavior during centers looks like. If it was during independent work or group work, then model the expected behavior during those times. Whatever the activity, it’s important to model the behavior for that specific one because not all expected behaviors are the same for each activity.

Have Students Practice

Practice, practice, and practice some more. Once students know what type of behavior is expected of them for each activity or transition, then you must practice it. Have students repeatedly practice until you are happy with what it looks like.

Allow Students to Prove their Ability

Once you get back into your daily routine, allow students to prove themselves to you. If you notice that they are behaving wonderfully then tell them. You don’t have to make a huge deal out of it, but you should at least acknowledge how well they are behaving.

A lot of the time, whole-class misbehavior is because of lack of knowledge and expectations from the students. It is important to stress procedures and routines in the beginning of the school year so your students will know what is expected of them,  as well as what is and isn’t tolerated at all times.

How do you handle whole-class misbehavior? Do you have any tips of ideas that you would like to share? Please feel free to share your comments in the section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.