How Do You Manage Low-Level Disruption?

29 November 2022
Happy kids in a classroom

I have a few full classes of 30 pupils in which there are no specific pupils causing major problems, but there are several pupils, maybe as much as two thirds of the class who are consistently causing low level disruption. I am having to raise my voice to get them to listen. Have you got any advice on how I can deal with this? (Anonymous)

It is fascinating that ECTs are expected almost immediately to stand in front of the class and for the entire class to pay attention to them for long periods.

However, the children are not used to paying attention to this new teacher and they haven’t even had the experience of doing that in small groups. Now suddenly you’re trying to undertake one of the hardest things for even an experienced teacher and that is to talk to an entire class and engage them for a significant period.

If you get groups of children used to listening to you, you start to do less whole class teaching at the beginning, you allow the children to get used to your voice. They begin to understand that when you speak, they’re quiet and when they speak, you’re quiet and you build that up, rather than going straight in standing at the front of the class.

If you are trying to get the entire group to listen to you, give a token to each child who falls silent. Don’t do this forever and a day but just as you are teaching this new routine.

You could also write the names on the board of the children who fall silent immediately, you’ll then watch the others start to fall silent too.

Rewards & Sanctions

Practice and give out rewards and sanctions with those who are both quiet on time and not quiet on time. Also include some visual countdowns perhaps, maybe from YouTube, you can have 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 minutes, however long you want.

Very often if the voice isn’t working then musical cues start to work, visual cues start to work, and the reinforcement techniques start to work.

If you stand in front of the class and they fall silent by Christmas you’re doing really well. Don’t expect that to happen in the first two weeks and don’t set yourself up for a fall by trying to do a lot of teacher talking at the children in the first few weeks.

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