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4 Foolproof Strategies for Disruptive Behavior

November 18, 2015 by Emily

4 Foolproof Strategies for Disruptive Behavior

Guest post by Tiffany from

4 Foolproof Strategies for Disruptive Behavior

We’ve all experienced it. You are trying to teach a great lesson or do an awesome activity in your classroom that you have spent so much time preparing for, and then IT happens. Your lesson is interrupted one or more times by – you guessed it – disruptive behavior! Suddenly your teaching momentum, your lesson, and your students’ attention get lost in the chaos. As teachers we know it is bound to happen occasionally, but disruptive behavior can be a serious problem if it happens frequently. You don’t even have to be a teacher to experience this. If you are a parent or work with children in any capacity, we all can relate to the challenges of disruptive behavior.

We all learn in different ways and we all face different challenges, and children are no exception. As parents and teachers, and for anyone who works with children, we have to be creative in the way we meet the needs of all children, including those who challenge us more often than we would like.

Here are some simple strategies to try when faced with some common challenging behaviors.

1.  Talking Tokens

You know the child that ALWAYS has something to say and never waits their turn to speak. They often talk out of turn, talk about something completely off topic, or dominate the entire conversation. It seems no amount of reminders can stop the continuous talking. One of my colleagues had a wonderful strategy she shared and I still use today. Give your student talking tokens – maybe 3 to use during a given lesson or activity. Every time the student wants to share something, they must give up one of their talking tokens. When they run out during that activity or lesson, they can no longer share anymore. It is a great visual to make students aware of their actions, and it also helps the student decide if what they have to say is important enough to give up a token.

2.  Rewards

I know there are many people who say we should not reward children for doing what they are expected to do. However, I believe that what is fair, is not always equal. In other words, some children just need different tools to help them do their best, and if that tool is giving them something to work towards, then I say use it! Rewards work best when you find out what motivates a child – is it something tangible like a prize, or are they more motivated by a special activity such as additional computer time, playing with a friend, etc.? We need to know our student well in order to make this work AND the expectations must be consistent and understood. Choose the behavior that is most critical, and work with the student to change it. Keep a visual of what the student is working on (the target behavior). This can help the child remained focused and motivated.

3.  Assign a Special Job

Sometimes the child that is most disruptive is the child that desires the most attention. Even though this student may be getting negative attention by being disruptive, they are still getting attention. Although it may be difficult at first, we need to find a way for the child to get attention from something positive they are doing. One way you may try is giving the child a special job in the classroom that makes them feel important. You may ask that child to be a helper to another student, or allow them to help you do jobs in the classroom. This helps to build their confidence and as they are praised for a job well done, they will start to enjoy the attention they get from doing a great job.

4.  Address Sensory Needs

Finally, we all have sensory needs. Maybe you twirl your hair, bounce your leg when sitting, tap your pencil, or chew gum. Those are all things that we do to fulfill a sensory need that we have. Children do not always recognize their needs, so we may have to help them find an acceptable way to manage their sensory needs without it manifesting as disruptive behavior. In the classroom, taking frequent short breaks to allow students to move around or incorporating movement into learning is a great way to help all students. There are also many tools that can be used to help our students such as chair balls (look like the exercise balls, but students use them to sit at their desk) that allow for more movement. We can also provide hand fidgets to keep their hands busy while listening. Of course, all of these tools need to be introduced as actual tools with rules that go along with them. With proper education, students can learn to regulate their sensory needs and help replace disruptive behaviors with acceptable sensory strategies.

Working with children who exhibit disruptive behavior can be challenging, but with some patience and creativity, we can help these students reach their maximum potential and create a more peaceful learning environment within our classrooms and elsewhere.

You can find materials to make your own talking tokens as well as visuals for targeting specific disruptive behaviors for FREE in my TPT store by clicking on the image below.

Tools for Behavior Freebie

Do you have any strategies that you find particularly helpful in changing disruptive behavior at school, home, or elsewhere? I’d love to hear your ideas! Remain Inspired!


Tiffany has been teaching for 19 years as a special education teacher and now works as a Title I Reading Specialist for first grade students. She is a wife, Mom of three, blogger at, and TPT author. For more teaching ideas, resources, and inspiration visit her at her TPT store, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Tiffany from Remain Inspired