How to Settle the Troublemaker Without Breaking Their Spirit

At some point in their career, every teacher meets a troublemaker. There’s usually one in every class. Whether they’re loud, boisterous, or even unkind to other students, there are ways to settle even the most disruptive students without stifling their energetic personalities.

Come prepared with a lesson plan, and stick to it!

It’s easy to be thrown off-course by a disruptive student, but coming prepared with a lesson plan will help.

At the start of each lesson, tell your class what they’ll be doing and how long each task will take. Leave a little time at the end of lessons for fun activities, and explain to the class that anyone holding up the earlier stages of lessons eats into fun time at the end! Give students the chance to earn back lost time, so they can see that there are rewards for good behavior.

Don’t be afraid to single out the troublemaker.

It may seem like singling out a troublemaker could only make things worse, but it all depends on your approach. If the student can’t sit still, ask them to hand out materials for the next activity. If they’re noisy, make sure each lesson has a section during which everyone is to work in silence. When a student behaves, make a point of praising him or her, and finish each lesson by highlighting to your class what they’ve have done well that day.

Listen, and request the same in return.

Some students act out because they need to express something. Perhaps they struggle with a certain subject, so they don’t enjoy it. Perhaps they’re feeling unwell or something upsetting has happened at home.


Let your students know you’re willing to listen, and remind them that you expect the same respect. Encourage them to raise their hands to ask questions and to tell you if anything is unclear.

Rearrange seating.

Some students can cause more trouble when sitting near others who are also disruptive. They can also be distracting to focused students. Spread troublemakers across the back of the room, with a buffer of attentive students. Putting enthusiastic and hardworking students near the front sets a positive example for those behind them.

Organizing activities that require the class to split into groups is another good opportunity to separate disruptive students and place them with those who are more focused.

Share what’s great about school!

Arrange students’ desks into a circle, and encourage them to share what they enjoy most about school. This could include their favorite lessons, craft supplies they love, or the best meal in the cafeteria.

Use personalized tumbler kits, so your students can transform their designs into keepsakes that will remind even the most disruptive class members why school is fun. Keeping in mind what your students like most can help you create future lesson plans that engage your class more effectively.

Handling troublemakers can feel like a battle and too often results in punishment. It may be a long road, but by carefully planning and demanding respect, you can become the authority in your classroom and retain a peaceful and fun working environment for all of your students.

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Nona Taut

Nona Taut is Sales Director for Makit Products, located in Dallas, Texas.

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