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Classroom Management for Noncompliant Students

Janelle Cox

Noncompliant students can be a quite a challenge to teach. Not only can they be disruptive, but many of them lack motivation to learn, so they end up performing poorly. This behavior can negatively impact the entire classroom and your classroom management strategies. While there is no one special trick or teaching strategy, there are a few classroom management techniques you can utilize to help reduce classroom disruptions and achieve a more productive learning environment.

Classroom Management: Give Positive Recognition

Oftentimes, noncompliant students crave attention, so that is why they tend to act out. Instead of giving them attention for doing something wrong, give them attention for what they are doing right. If you see the student working at her desk for even two minutes without disrupting others, tell them what a good job they are doing or give them a simple pat on the back to acknowledge their positive behavior. Even a simple action like greeting the student in the morning with a high five or a handshake can even go a long way with a disobedient child. Positive attention and recognition is your goal to change the unwanted behavior.

Model Positive Behaviors

Your ultimate goal is to teach the student how to behave in an appropriate and positive manner. The easiest way to do this is to model it yourself. Act the way you expect the student to act. If you think the whole class can benefit from a little role playing, then make it a class activity where students practice positive behaviors. This way you are not pointing fingers at any one student, but rather teaching the whole class what you expect of them.

Give the Student Time to Calm Down

When you see a noncompliant student acting out, and you know their behavior is going to escalate, give them a few minutes to calm down. Allow them to go to the restroom or get a drink of water. You can even designate a special “Relaxation” area in your classroom for when students need a minute or two to themselves. When the student has finally settled down, then you can talk to them about what is upsetting them and give them some strategies on how they can calm themselves down. Taking a few deep breaths and counting are just two strategies that can help students in this situation.

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Do NOT Argue with the Student

A student that is noncompliant can be easy to get into an argument with because most of the time they will raise their voice or cop an attitude with the adult. Stay in control of your emotions and don’t get hooked into an argument. Also, try and avoid any unnecessary banter with the student. If you find that you are raising your voice, then take a moment to walk away from the student and collect your thoughts before speaking to them again.

Be an Active Listener

Sometimes, all a noncompliant student needs to change his behavior is a teacher that will listen to them. A lot of the time these types of students lack communication skills, which makes it hard for them to express their feelings to the teacher. Take this into consideration when speaking with the student and be sure to actively listen to all of their concerns. Try repeating what they are saying to make sure that you are understanding what they are trying to get across. When you sum up key points of what the student is saying, you are showing them that you actively listening to all of their thoughts and concerns.

Ask Questions

One of the best things that you can do to help a noncompliant, defiant student is to talk to them and ask them open-ended questions. Questions help you figure out why the student is acting out and what you can do to help them. Ask simple questions, like “What do you think happened with …” or “What do you think made you upset when …” Try to avoid any questions that will blame the student because your goal is to help them, not make them more upset.

De-Escalate Unwanted Behavior Quick

When you see a disobedient student’s behavior starting to escalate, take action quickly. The quicker you calm the student down, the better it is for the entire classroom. Make sure that you approach the student in a calm and gentle manner to avoid any unwanted actions from them. Give the student some space and encourage them to take a few minutes for themselves to calm down. You may send them to the restroom, into the hallway for a drink at the water fountain, or off to run a quick errand for you. Anything that will take them out of the current situation will help de-escalate the student’s behavior.

No one ever said that managing noncompliant students would be easy. You have to remember that like everything in life, it will take some time and patience. However, when you implement these teaching strategies (more than one at a time is recommended), then you can change a student’s unwanted behavior.

Do you have any classroom management tips on how to deal with noncompliant students? Please share your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.


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 Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.