Top tips for minimising classroom disruption


Low-level disruption can significantly impact a lesson; whether it is friends passing notes, talking off-topic, chair rocking and fidgeting, all these things can cause interruption during lesson time and disturb other students’ learning.

Despite these factors appearing minimal, if low-level behaviour isn’t dealt with right away then it can become more serious and could result in suspension or exclusion. According to the teachers’ union, NASUWT, this is a growing concern for staff and is recognised as the most common form of poor behaviour.

This is an ongoing issue that needs to be tackled head on. Back in 2014, the watchdog said that students could be losing up to an hour of learning each day, equating to 38 days a year.

With the concern around low-level disruption increasing, Ofsted guidance was tightened to place greater emphasis on the issue in routine inspections.

It’s inevitable that teachers will be faced with some form of distraction during lesson time, so it’s about minimising this as much as possible, and sticking to school behaviour policies and processes to remain consistent at all times. From my experience as an ex-teacher, here are some simple steps that can help to minimise disruption from the get go:

Take control

You need to set expectations before your students have even stepped foot in the classroom. They need to know exactly what is expected of them, and what will, or won’t, be tolerated. Line them up outside in the first instance and tell them where they will be sitting. Do this at the start of each term to avoid any ‘playing up’ by students claiming they don’t know where they are positioned. It also ensures that your students know how every lesson will start, so they’ll begin to accept the routine.

Strategic seating

Traditionally, teachers created their own seating plans on paper, however this caused a major headache as soon as a class changed, or a student left, as the whole process had to be started again from scratch. Yet, with the ingenious technology available today this can easily be achieved and rectified on a regular basis.

Creating a seating plan will help teachers get to grips with students’ behaviours, friendships and attainment levels quickly, and data can be assembled to assess who will work best with whom. The typical alphabetical or boy, girl, boy plans aren’t always the most effective so having this data to hand will help create a more effective working environment. Reviewing the seating plan can be done regularly, every half-term for example, or on an ad-hoc basis, whenever a child’s behaviour suggests that they may benefit from being moved away from potential disruption.

Praise the positives

Often, a student will misbehave in class to get a reaction from the teacher, or fellow classmates. However, focusing on this disruption may only trigger more negativity. Instead, consider praising the positive behaviour and reward those students who are performing effectively. The disruption will soon ease when they see their peers who are behaving well being allowed to sit next to a friend during a lesson.

Of course, each class is different and every teacher will undoubtedly take a different approach when it comes to classroom organisation and layout. The important thing to remember though is to remain consistent, and adhere to the policies in place. Only then will students recognise there is a process to follow, and understand that there are consequences for any misbehaviour, no matter how small.

The layout of your classroom may seem insignificant when looking at the bigger picture of teaching practices, but ultimately if you’re in control of this, then you’re in control of your students. Having factors in place will help tackle the disruption head on, and encourage a more positive and productive learning environment.

Allie Palmer is an ex-teacher and training and support manager at MINTclass, a seating planner and development service suite that centralises student data and reduces teachers’ workloads. For more information, visit www.mintclass.com or contact iain@mintclass.com.