How does one teach in a traditional but unruly class of 35 studentsI have problems in teaching a class of 35 naughty students, all age 13.  They are more interested in getting notes rather than...

How does one teach in a traditional but unruly class of 35 students

I have problems in teaching a class of 35 naughty students, all age 13.  They are more interested in getting notes rather than listening or discussing in the English class.


Asked on by jedaniels

32 Answers

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

If you structure the discussions, you might have more luck.  I choose an interesting piece of literature and have students make a list of 5 to 7 thought-provoking questions as they read.  Then we put the desks or chairs in a circle and I give them all poker chips.  How many depends on the size of the class, and since yours is large I would suggest one each.  The students pass around a ball or something else they can hold, and only the person holding it can talk.  Others are warned and then removed.  As a student asks or answers a question, he or she puts his chip in the middle of the circle.  Once everyone has spoken, anyone can talk that has the ball.  This has been very successful for me because kids love to talk and share their opinions, and they respect and understand the campfire-style structure.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Echoing a number of the points made my different contributors, I would say having 5 minute discrete activities is an essential for any class like this. I would also try to play along with the state of play in the class - by this I mean give group work and introduce an element of competition between the groups - with races or whatever. You can identify the natural "leaders" and place them in charge of a small group, giving them the responsibility to get their group to complete the activity first. Having a prize as a bribe also works miracles and you may actually find that they learn something :-)

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

My method has always been to create VERY strict classroom rules with definite consequences, but balance that with a lighthearted classroom environment.  For example, one of my rules has always been that the students must have their butts in the seats when the bell rings.  If not, it's an immediate detention.  I have ALWAYS given a detention for that infraction, no matter what.

How do I combine a lighthearted classroom environment?  I present the example of laughing together about rules like this.  We turn it into a game, with kids seeing just how far they can go, . . . as I literally stand there with my stopwatch.  It also helps that I make it a goal to make the subject fun for the students.  Without a good connection between teacher and class, it is all that much harder to teach.

Consistent discipline, . . . just like with toddlers.  ; )

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is something that worked well, however, it was done several years ago and I know that students are different now: 

Students had reading time in which they could read high-interest books--along with the teacher--for a short period of time (at the beginning of class). A couple of times a week, they wrote a letter to a classmate about the book they were reading, and the classmate had to respond.

Now, at first the notes were superficial:  "I really like this story" or "This book is not that interesting."  But, when there was a book that one really liked, the others, after reading the comments, wanted to read it, too.  Then, we worked on writing more about what transpires with the characters, their conflicts, etc.  I also had the students write to me each week in their journals.  

This idea is one that I took from Nancy Atkins who wrote a book about teaching middle school students writing skills.  Many of her tips did work.  (I'm sorry I cannot remember the title)

Nevertheless, the worst thing you have to deal with is the crowding--35 in a classroom is ridiculous! 

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I'll take a different direction with this problem.  Most of the above answers have focused on activities and keeping the students active and busy, etc., and all that is essential.  My students pick up any handouts/study guides, whatever, on their way to their seats so they don't have down time and time isn't wasted passing things out, for example.  Procedures are vital, as are relevant lessons, etc.  And all of the above suggestions have been wonderful.

But having worked in youth care and with at-risk students for years, I know there's another side to managing a class.  It's not all about setting up class each day so they don't have a chance to act up, etc.  If that were the main idea we could just show movies everyday, since that's probably the most natural way to keep a class quiet.

Class behavior is in large part determined by low tolerances and high expectations.  And these must be established immediately on the first day of class.  Students can be handed a list of rules and expectations before they're even through the door the first day, and then told immediately where their seat is.  I would never teach a class in high school without a seating chart, and it is installed before anyone ever sits in a desk.  The rules and expectations are taught, or "pretaught" really, immediately.  Preteaching is vital.  The students must know exactly what is expected of them and what will not be tolerated.  Inevitably one student will test you.  You must follow through with whatever consequence your system has in place. 

The point is that behavior should be what you expect no matter how you set up a class.  Students behave because you insist on it, and there will be consequences if they don't.  A teacher shouldn't have to face the pressure of perfectly setting up every class every day so he/she doesn't have behavior problems.

Of course, this applies to the entire school system you're in.  A system should have social skills training for the students starting at a young age, for instance.  Something like the Boys Town model for social skills. 



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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

It is often amazing how well even the younger students respond to debate. Oftentimes, the class will come to a silence whilst everyone focuses on what one student has to say - particularly if the student has been asked his/her opinions on the actions or motivations of a certain character. Students are often curious to hear what various class personalities have to say on the matter, and then to offer an opinion themselves. Try a class, or group, debate?

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davidroberts1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

13-year old students are not too young to begin to take more responsibility for their learning. The more engaged they become in their learning, the less unruly they will be or, what used to appear as unruliness might now be evidence of their grappling with the "messy problems" presented in authentic learning units.

Middle school students are capable of becoming more self-directed in the learning process. Problem-based learning tasks can be effective ways of increasing student learning and guaranteeing its relative authenticity.

You might also begin or continue to differentiate your instruction to make sure your students are learning in the ways most appropriate to them.

Best of luck!

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ggunkel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

With difficulty. You shouldn't have 35 students in a class, especially if they are "general" students or lower. I had basic classes in the upper twenties and lower 30s, and the only way to keep them from total disruption is to give them plenty of hands on stuff. 2,3, even 4 worksheets or assignments per class periiod. A lot of grading involved, but that's what it takes. Plus review games, etc.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Dear JeDaniels

This generation of millenial learners cannot be taught the traditional way, and that is prob. where the problem begins.

Millenials need to operate in three ways  a) independent research,  b) cooperative learning ands c) in rotations where they move from work station to work station in your classroom.

Just do whole class instructions the first 20-30 minutes of first period to explainn the "game plan" for the day, where you list ALL the goals of the day in a checklist.

Then, have one-three activities in 5 separate locations within the classroom. Each activity is either enrichment or remediation for the lessons.Time  them for 20nminutes each center, and give them a water break to then come back and continue

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clstockdale80 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Having taught in difficult teaching settings for the past five year, currently instructing on an American Indian reservation, I can give some short and simple advice. The "naughty" students need to have clearly defined boundaries and when they act in a way other than in line with those parameters, there need to be immediate consequences. This advice, is of course, in addition to the helpful solutions posted above. Good luck!

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

There are some great suggestions here. I had a similar class a few years ago and my first step (once I had worked out all else failed!) was to involve them. We had a discussion about why we were there and what we all wanted to get out of being in class. Rude/difficult responses were discussed with parents and student until they got to the needing to learn part. Then we agreeed class rules and thought about what we were interested in. I suggested topic titles and they helped select what each topic was. I then organised my teaching points using resources on that topic. Grammar exercises are still grammar if they are about basketball.

All students value some control in their learning and like to have a voice. At 13 they are malleable enough to respond to small freedoms and encouragement. Humour goes miles and consistency is key. I now agree classroom rules with every class I teach: they usually surround mutual respect, mutual preparedness resulting in mutual outcome - their learning and my sanity.

A last point. Are there really 35 naughty students or does it just seem that way? Divide and conquer by getting to know individuals will improve relationships on both sides.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I had a couple of tactics for this note-passing and disruptive behavior at the start of every term (having learned the hard way in terms past!) I decided I would start with every new class with an 'etiquette briefing' for the first ten minutes of their first English lesson. They had to write down my 'rules' and write a sort of pupil'teacher agreement summarizing them for homework. I drew attention to these disruptions before they started to head the students off at the pass. My rules for these included no note passing unless you were happy to come up and read it out to everyone, no flicking, pushing items of the desks of others,no interrupting and top guarantee the right of every student to learn without disruptive stress.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think all of these posts have been fairly strong.  I would concur that breaking the class into segments would be critical.  For example, instead of a 40 minute class period, perhaps devising activities which go for 8 minutes at a time with some built in time for transition would allow for smoother sailing.  At some point, I think that investigating collaborative opportunities for learning could also break some of the monotony, enhancing active learning and minimizing the disruption by putting it on them.  However, this is contingent on where you are in your curriculum, as well as where your building and administrators are in such an approach.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Proactive approaches in meeting the students where they are might be more uplifting for both you and your students. Make  positive parental contact about the positive things kids are doing in class, instead of waiting and making a negative phone call. Active learning is a must. Brain research has shown that most minds can only be still and patient for a relatively short amount of time before a break is needed. Traditional 55 to 90 minute blocks extend beyond this time. Find out what types of lessons most interest the students, and then build lessons that meet both student needs and curricular needs. This might be out of your comfort zone, but teaching is about the kids anyway.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Find ways to keep the students active in the learning process, it is very difficult for a group of 13 year olds to sit and listen to a lecture type lesson. Look for ways to make them more involved in their own learning process. Also lok for contemporary authors and books for them to discuss with you and the class.

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