Children act out in school for a variety of reasons. The management methods used to handle those disruptive students must take the specific causes of the disruptive behavior into account to be effective. Generally speaking, children are disruptive when they feel overwhelmed, bored, angry or afraid. Clearly, an angry child must be handled differently than a child who is being disruptive out of boredom. In addition, the individual personality and learning style of each disruptive student must be considered.
Teachers can best handle disruptive students by collecting as much information ahead of time as possible. Students with problems at home are going to need to be handled differently than a student who is acting out due to feeling overwhelmed by a specific assignment. The HALT method is a useful tool teachers can use in evaluating disruptive behavior in the classroom. The letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. If a student is hungry, they simply cannot control themselves or learn their lessons properly. Students can be angry about any number of things, but this behavior is relatively easy to identify. Lonely students are often the shy members of the class and they tend to suffer from low self-esteem and they act out in very subtle ways, often causing themselves harm. Students who don’t get enough sleep frequently act out in ways that are similar to a child that is hungry. They are easily frustrated, unable to concentrate and easily distracted.
Handling the disruptive child always involves educating them about themselves. It is not simply a matter of telling them that they must behave a specific way to gain desirable rewards. Gold stars and good grades pale in comparison to out of control emotions. The calm support, even temper and firm guidance of the teacher is crucial in these situations. In the same way, the dignity of the student must be maintained. Disruptive students generally do not have the emotional self-control they need to manage, for themselves, whatever is causing them to act out. Teachers must help the disruptive student to identify the cause of their unacceptable behavior and poor choices and then help them to find solutions.
Beyond the obvious problems of hunger, lack of sleep and problems at home, teachers must ask the disruptive student, and themselves, a series of questions designed to identify the problem: Are the assignments too hard? Are they too easy? Does the child have learning disabilities? Do they need to sit in a different location, closer to or further from specific other students? Each of these conditions is easily remedied.
Another cause for disruptive behavior is a lack of social skills. This can be resolved through class wide lessons that allow the disruptive student to remain autonomous and blameless, yet gain the skills they so desperately need. In each case, the disruptive child must learn that they are valued members of the class. Special assignments that allow the disruptive student to shine, instead of being the frequent focus of discipline, can very often turn a child’s disruptive behavior into powerful leadership skills, personal pride and greater self-control. Teachers can ask the disruptive student what interests them, be it sports, animals, a specific movie or television show, and then invite them to create something for the class that the other students will admire. Generating a positive focus on the disruptive student and challenging them to Show What They Know will, very often, eliminate the unmet emotional need that caused the disruptions in the first place.