Session 315: Tips for dealing with disruptive pupils

Following the Twitter poll, this #UKEdChat session discussed tips for dealing with disruptive pupils.

The questions released during the chat include:

  1. Firstly, let’s define what ‘disruptive’ actually means. What’s the most irritating disruption you experience as a teacher?
  2. What was the best advice you ever received for dealing with disruptive pupils?
  3. How can teachers use their voice and manner when working with classes with a disruptive element?
  4. What are the differences between disruptive boys and girls, and how are these managed?
  5. How do you explore the issues that might be affecting the disruption?
  6. What actually works? What advice would you give to new teachers with regards to disruptive pupils?


The discussion begun which participants talking about what they viewed as disruption. Most people agreed that swinging on chairs, being late and calling out were disruptive to learning (although many felt that the root causes needed to be identified and addressed), but there was genuine disagreement about pupil interaction and banter with some UKEdChatters saying this was an inappropriate distraction, while others said they enjoyed and welcome this, at least to a point.

The discussion turned to the best advice received about dealing with disruptive pupils. Many chatters spoke about the importance of consistency, high expectations and being fair. For a full range of answers, see the archive.

On how to best use the teacher’s voice, the answers seemed to be universally the same – keep your voice low in volume and in tone, and keep it calm. Some chatters tweeted about the importance of keeping emotions out of one’s voice so not to escalate the situation.

The fourth question about the differences between disruptive boys and girls, and how are these managed was hotly debated. Many participants felt that boys and girls should be treated the same, others spoke about the tendency for boys disruptions to be short and simple (often involving a punch or a slap) whereas disruptions from girls tended to be more complex and come with a backstory to unpick. Yet others spoke about managing the differences of individuals, rather than a whole class or gender blocks.

The topic moved to discuss underlying causes of disruptive behaviour. Seemingly all participants felt that this was important to know to act correctly, but many felt that this was difficult to discover in many instances. Some UKEdChatters warned that knowing the cause shouldn’t excuse the disruptive behaviour, but was crucial to improving the situation. Indeed, one response added that some distruptive behaviour tends to stem from insecurities, low self esteem, therefore teachers should engage them with THEIR learning by unlocking self belief.

The session moved on to how a teacher/school tackles disruption. For a full range of answers see the archive, but these broadly fell in to looking at short term disruptions being managed or ignored by the teacher based on their professional judgement, and long-term and more intense disruptions where many UKEdChatters spoke about getting other colleagues involved, either informally with advice and ideas to improve the situation in their classroom, or formally through to behaviour management policy/system and possibility involving senior managers. A number of participants felt that involving the SLT was an important part of the behaviour management structure as problems escalate, but some people felt that managers were not always available when needed and the support was not there, meaning that the impetus of the crucial moment can be lost. Many participants felt that the role and involvement of parents was an important element, but some people felt that this can be a difficult thing to achieve effectively.

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