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Teaching Strategies for Disobedient Students

Janelle Cox

Dealing with disobedient students can be a challenge. Not only can they be disruptive, but many of them also lack motivation to learn. When you have one or more disobedient students in your classroom, their behavior can negatively impact the entire classroom. While there is no one special teaching strategy that will magically make these students behave better, there are a few teaching strategies that can help make a more productive learning environment for your classroom. Here are a few teaching strategies.

Teaching Strategies: Give Positive Attention Vs. Negative Attention

More times than not, disobedient students will take any attention they can get, which means they will act out just because they crave attention. Instead of giving them attention for doing something wrong, try giving them attention for what they’re doing right. For example, if you see them quietly working at their desk without disrupting anyone, then give them a tap on the shoulder and tell them what a good job they are doing or give them a pat on the back to acknowledge their positive behavior. A simple action like greeting the student in the morning with a high five can go a long way with a disobedient child. If you want to change their negative behavior, then you must focus on giving them positive attention.

Teach Students How to Behave Appropriately 

Model the behavior that you expect from your students. This means you need to act the way you expect your student to act. If you expect them to be kind and polite and not interrupt, then you too must follow this rule. Try having the students role play all of the positive behaviors that you expect from them. This will help them see how you want them to behave. This is a great way to not point fingers at one student who you know needs it, but rather teaching the whole class what you expect of them.

Designate a “Safe Space”

Every classroom should have a space where students can go when they need to calm down or take a moment to themselves. This is a place in the classroom that makes students feel safe. When you see a disobedient student acting out, and you know their behavior is going to escalate, then give them opportunity to take a moment to go to the safe space and calm down. When the student has finally settled down, then you can talk to them about what is upsetting them and give them some teaching strategies on how they can calm themselves down without acting out. These strategies include deep breathing or counting slowly to themselves.

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Control Your Reactions

You are in control of the way that you act and the way that you react. It’s essential that you stay in control of your emotions when dealing with a disobedient student because these students can be quite easy to argue with. Try not to get hooked into an argument, and avoid any unnecessary banter with the student. If you find that you are raising your voice, then take a moment to walk away and collect your thoughts before speaking to the student again. Again, you are a role model, and students are always watching for your reaction.

Always Take Action

When you see a disobedient student’s behavior start to escalate, you must immediately take action. The quicker you calm the student down, or get them out of the classroom, the better it is for the entire classroom. The key is to make sure that you approach the student in a calm and gentle manner to avoid any unwanted actions or reactions from them (hitting, yelling). Give them space to cool off and calm down. If you don’t have a space in your classroom for them to go to, then you can send them to the restroom or to run a quick errand for you. Anything that will take them out of the situation will help de-escalate the students’ behavior fast.

Managing disobedient students is not easy, and sometimes the only thing that will change their unwanted behavior is just a teacher who will listen to them. Take the time to talk to the student and show them that you are there for them if they need you. Remember, like everything in life, this will take time and patience.

Do you have any teaching strategies on how to deal with students who are disobedient? Please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.


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 @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.