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Classroom Management: Handling Overactive Students

Janelle Cox

As teachers we have all had our share of challenging students. This is the child who has an extremely high energy level, acts impulsively most of the time, and is distracting to the other students. They may fidget a lot, blurt out during classroom instruction, or even play with their materials.

When working with these types of students, it’s important to keep in mind that most of the time these children are completely unaware that they are behaving in this manner. You can increase your own effectiveness by clearly defining and stating your behavioral expectations for all students, rewarding appropriate classroom behavior, as well as always being consistent in your consequences no matter what. Here are a few more classroom management ideas from the Department of Education for handling overactive students in your classroom.

1. Classroom Management: Choose Your Battles

Learn to choose your battles and ignore low level disruptions like minor fidgeting and playing with classroom materials. If it doesn’t derail classroom instruction, then simply don’t pay attention to it.

2. Encourage Silent Outlets

If you notice that an overactive student is always tapping their pencil and distracting the other students, then give them a silent way of getting their energy out. Give them a soft stress ball to squeeze or a piece of chewing gum that won’t distract the other students.

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3. Try a Personal Silent Signal

Together with the overactive child come up with a silent signal that will capture his/her attention when they are acting impulsively so that they know they have crossed the line and need to settle down. Role-play scenarios with the student and use your silent signal. Once you see him/her successfully responding to your signal make sure that you praise them.

4. Appoint a Supportive Peer

Together with the hyperactive child, choose a supportive peer to help settle down the child when he/she sees them getting out of hand. Meet with both classmates to discuss appropriate ways the supporter can help their classmate. A tap on the shoulder, or a secret signal may just be all the overactive child needs to get back on track.

5. Change their Seating

Sometimes all you need to do is change the child’s seating in order to keep them on track. Seat the student who loves to fidget next to a classmate who is not easily distracted. Sitting next to peers who are good role models is always a plus too.

6. Use Structured Prompts

A lot of the time students who tend to be overactive like to blurt out answers. Consider using a structured prompts like “After I ask a question, everyone gets 15 seconds to think of their answer before I will call upon anyone.” Keep using these reminders of expected behaviors throughout the school day.

7. Use a Brain Break

Studies show that when students get a brief “brain break” or “movement break,” they will show improvement in their behavior. Every few hours have students in class get up and get moving for a few minutes. They can do a few yoga stretches, a quick dance, or take a few minutes to play follow the leader and get their energy out. This is a great way to increase the focus of your entire class, not just the students who are overactive.

8. Remove Anything Distracting

Oftentimes, overactive students get easily distracted. The best way to hinder these students from getting distracted is to take away anything that is on, or near their desk that will distract them, including any students. Make sure all classroom materials that they do not need are out of sight, and place any distracting students on the other side of the classroom.

9. Implement More Movement into Your Lessons

Students with high energy levels do not like to sit for long periods of time. Offer students more hands-on activities where they can get up and moving instead of the traditional seatwork. Try more spontaneous learning activities that get students up and moving, like using their body to paint a picture or playing a learning game that uses all of their senses.

10. Monitor Distracting Behaviors

Have the student take a few moments each day to monitor their own distracting behavior. Then, meet with the student to figure out what’s distracting them. Together you can design a system that will benefit them.

Many children who are overactive benefit from accommodations that reduce distractions and help them stay on a task. Try a few or try all of the above suggestions to minimize disruptions in your classroom.

How do you handle overactive students in your classroom? Do you have tips or ideas that you can share with us? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

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 About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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Which types of articles would you like to see from us in 2020?
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Technology in the Classroom
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