No matter how interesting and well prepared our lesson may be, it can be ruined by a confrontation with students.

Author: 
Clare Lavery

A bad atmosphere can result. Here are some strategies for ‘telling off’ students and still avoiding confrontations.

The way you reprimand will have an effect on classroom atmosphere so:

  • Anticipate misbehaviour. Keep scanning the room during the lesson. Be aware of times when students may be distracted e.g. when you are writing on the board, helping individuals or when you are changing activity.
  • Use non-verbal signals first. Delay the need to intervene by walking close to disruptive students, catching their eye or involving them in your questioning.

If the above avoidance strategies do not bring about good behaviour then intervene with care:

  • Keep calm. Use a firm but calm tone, no matter how outrageously the student is behaving. Remember that they may wish to provoke your anger. Use your calm voice to maintain authority. If you lose it, you will lose respect.
  • Be fair. You need to be absolutely clear in targeting the troublemaker(s). Some pupils may be reacting to others who are disturbing or distracting them.
  • Don’t get personal. Make it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable, not the person. This helps avoid building up a negative relationship with a student
  • Don’t compare. Avoid making comparisons between students and classes as this is unfair. For example: My other classes don’t make as much noise/made more effort/enjoyed this.
  • Avoid empty threats. Don’t threaten to do things which you will not be able to carry through. For example: The next person who talks will be sent to the Head. Avoid threatening punishments which you would not wish to implement!

When you need to reprimand it can be best if you:

  • Keep it private. Before making it public, try speaking discreetly to the troublemaker. A quiet word is less embarrassing for the student and less disruptive to the others (if they are busy doing a task).
  • Avoid confrontation. If the student seems tense, agitated or likely to explode it is best to postpone the reprimand until the end of the lesson.
  • Defuse confrontations. Faced with a very angry situation and shouting, maintain a calm tone and recommend dealing with things at the end of the lesson. Never get involved in a shouting match.
  • Reprimand the troublemaker not the whole class. Avoid blaming everyone for the bad behaviour of a few!

Useful links
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/classroom-management-0

Find out more about managing difficult situations in our teacher development module Understanding lesson management 1.

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