An Ounce of Prevention: Stopping Disruptive Behavior Before it Starts

An Ounce of Prevention: Stopping Disruptive Behavior Before it Starts

Welcome back to a new series on Classroom Management!  I hope that you have found some of the tips useful in your own classroom already.  I skipped a few days of posting due to some birthday celebrations here on the home front, but we are back at it today with some tips on preventing disruptive behavior before it starts!

If you are tuning in for the first time, you might want to check out a few other posts from the series:

Classroom Management

An Ounce of Prevention

You’ve heard it said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that couldn’t be more true than when it comes to children!   It’s much easier to maintain control in the classroom then to try to reign back in a gaggle of giggly and squiggly kids.

One of the best methods I’ve used for preventing disruptive behavior has been the seating chart.  There is some serious prevention power in strategic seating.  Now, as we have touched on before, you will always need to plan for new kids and friends, so you’ll need some flexibility, but the real key is separating talkers.  One teacher I read about changes her seating plan monthly.  This would allow for some new friendships to develop as well as keep things fresh in the classroom.  However, if you have rotational teachers, I would encourage you to keep the same seating plan for at least a whole quarter (ideally two) in order to keep some consistency for all the teachers.

In our Children’s Church, we simply write names on index cards and tape it to the back of the chairs.  If it is shared space (like our room!) be sure to also make a seating chart for your own reference in case the adult Sunday School decides to move a few chairs around.

Five More Prevention Tactics (and a Video!)

Assigning seats is a great place to start with preventing disruptive behavior, but you might want a few more tools in your arsenal.  Here a few more ideas for you to consider:

Prevention Tactic #1: Keep Expectations Clear

As mentioned before, posters are your friend in this department.  Make sure the class expectations as well as the class schedule are clearly displayed where all students can see them.  If you have pre-readers in the class, it’s a good idea to add pictures alongside the words.  Here’s a look at a schedule we had up during our midweek program last year:

Classroom Schedule Poster

Prevention Tactic #2: Engage!

I did a little research into the whole brain teaching method and while I still haven’t completely made up my mind, I do love how ENGAGING it is.  As Chris Biffle, pioneer of Whole Brain Teaching, writes,

“We must involved our students’ whole brains in peaceable learning or lose them to their own dark entertainments.”

It is true that most disruptive behavior begins when kids are bored.   Teaching in an interesting way is great beginning, but we must also work to engage with children as individuals.  Be sure to learn names and use them as you are teaching the lesson. Ask questions to specific children or work a child’s name into the story if you see them drifting. Whenever possible, involve the kids directly in the teaching of the lesson, either by having them hold a prop, dress in character, or even by writing key words on the board.  If they have made a comment or answered a question, refer directly to comments they have made (“As Mary pointed out earlier…”) to let them know that they are valued and appreciated.

Prevention Tactic #3: Keep it Moving

It’s no surprise that kids (and usually adults too!) learn best when they are active during a lesson, so plan for a little movement during your lesson.  Of course, this will require a little transition time to gather kids back up and into their seats, but I find it’s well worth the investment.  A few ideas include:

One leg jump race (Mebby) (1)


  • Placing pictures coordinating with the lesson on the white board or wall as they are introduced in the story
  • Rumbling hands on the table to give the effect of a storm or earthquake

You get the idea!  Even these small bits of movement can regain a child’s attention and draw them back into the lesson.  I love to engage the senses in a lesson whenever possible and I would encourage you to do the same.

Prevention Tactic #4: Arrive Early, Stay Late

A hoard of kids entering a teacher-less room is a certain invitation for chaos! Always arrive in the classroom before your students do.   If you have some last minute prep work to do, be sure to allow double the time you need, because you never know when the glue sticks will be lost, the copier will be jammed, or when someone will stop by the classroom to chat “just for a minute”.   It’s better to have extra time to breathe or pray than to be scrambling around in a fury at the last minute.

When you are relaxed and the class is in order, you can easily greet the kid as they arrive and help them to both feel welcome and valued.  In the same way, it’s a great practice to dwell in the classroom for a few minutes after dismissal in case a few kids want to hang back and talk.    Some of my best conversations with the kids in my ministry happened during these laid back times when I simply sat down after class instead of rushing to clean up and head out the door.

Prevention Tactic #5: Keep Calm and Carry On

Kids often will mirror your own emotional state, so try your best to keep calm and continue on with the lesson in an orderly way whenever possible.  Growing frustrated and unsettled will only cause to stir up more restlessness among the kids. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Okay, things are a little rowdy.  Let’s take a moment to settle down.”, but don’t try to shout kids into submission.  It’s demeaning and not very effective.  Instead, keep calm and carry on!

See it in Action!

While doing a little more research for this post, I stumbled upon this video which provides some great in-class examples of preventing disruptive behavior.  Take a look!

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