It was my first year of teaching and a kid was being disruptive.  He was yelling out while I was trying to teach, bothering his classmates, screaming “I don’t need to know this!” at the top of this lungs – it was like he read the book on classroom management and decided to be all of the “what if” scenarios rolled into one.

classroom management
See below for a free download of this printable tool

He was getting the entire class off topic and I could feel myself losing them quickly.  I needed to change the situation.

“Joey?  Step out in the hallway.”

“Ooooh….” went the class as Joey stood up, kicked his chair and then slammed the door.

The class’s eyes were focused on me and they were sitting quietly.  Well this is a victory! I thought to myself.  And then I remembered – Joey was in the hallway.  I couldn’t just leave him there.  I would have to go out and talk to him.  But what would I say?

I tried to put it off for a little bit so I could decide how I’d handle it.  Would I reprimand him?  Would I talk to him calmly?

Finally a student raised her hand. “Um…Miss P?  Isn’t Joey still out in the hallway?”

“Yes, yes he is.  I was just going to get him,”  I told her.  I headed out to the hallway, hoping Joey wasn’t like a hound dog that could smell my nervousness.

He was slumped against the wall.  He looked up when he saw me and I squatted down to be level with him. At first, I just stared.  I think I was hoping that by sending him out to the hallway I would have caused some epiphany on his end.  It didn’t happen. After talking at him for a few minutes, I let him come back inside.

Have you ever looked back on your old middle school class photo and laughed with embarrassment at yourself?  That is how I feel now when I look back on my first year teaching.  My classroom management has matured and changed so much since that first year.  One of my proudest improvements is how I handle disruptive students.

I created a Quick Check-in form and when a student is being disruptive for whatever reason, I quietly give a form to the student and have them step out of the learning environment so they can fill it out.   Below are the reasons why I LOVE this new method.

Built in Data Keeping

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First, it is super easy to take a finished form and drop it into my students’ folders.  Second, every form has a spot for the date and time.  This really helps me notice a pattern.  I also like to write the time the student chooses to rejoin the learning environment at the bottom so I can see if there is a trend in how long the student takes.

Encourages Introspection

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With my old classroom management style, I would have asked a student why they were being disruptive and they would have shrugged.  Having students identify what they are feeling helps them understand how their feelings can impact their actions.

Quick Example: I had a 5th grader who was being disruptive.  When I reviewed his sheet, he had indicated that he was feeling excited because he has having a birthday party that evening and he was wound up.  This helped both of us realize that he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to me, he was just feeling excitement and didn’t understand how to handle it.

Students Take Ownership

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As a teacher, I understand that it is my job to help my students.  But over the years I have realized this isn’t a one way street.  In order for me to do my job, my students need to have an investment in their education.  The bottom portion of this sheet encourages this by having students think about what could really help them.

Teacher Tip:  If your student writes “nothing” I think that is okay.  Sometimes as they fill out the sheet they realize that it was just a momentary thing that came over them and they are resettled.  I don’t force them to write a suggestion if they really don’t have one – however, then I do expect them to be ready to learn on their own.

Other Perks

  • Sometimes students need a break, too.  Think of this as a “focused break.”  Instead of sitting out in the hallway stewing over being “kicked out” they are able to focus on what just happened.
  • On the form, I indicate that students can take as long as they need.  I also let them use the form as a hall pass.  I have had students who were really sad and took the form with them to the bathroom so they could cry in privacy.
  • I’ve toyed with the idea of making this digital – and I think I will for some of my students who have trouble writing – but for the most part, I think the physical act of writing can help them process what is happening too.  It’s like a mini-diary.

Click here for a free download of my Classroom Management Check-in.  Let me know what classroom management tools work for you!