Students Won’t Stop Interrupting? Try these Simple Tips.

At an early age, students learn how good it feels to receive attention. But sometimes students have the mistaken belief that they don’t count unless they are the center of attention at all times. Teachers can foster a sense of belonging and significance in the attention-hungry student by handling interruptions in ways that show respect for his needs as well as those of others.

Tips For Handling Interrupting Students

Keep control of your schedule. For instance, let students know that you are available to go over homework from 8:00 to 8:30. Give them specific times when you will answer questions regarding certain activities.

Use nonverbal signals to show that you are aware of the desire for attention. Introduce the idea of “three than me”, that is, let three other people talk before you say your comment. If necessary, once you have finished speaking, you may address your student’s concerns. Some teachers hold up an index finger to acknowledge student’s request. The student learns to be patient because the teacher has taken notice of their needs.

Put interruptions on the class meeting agenda as your concern. Students enjoy role-playing these situations, with one of the students playing the teacher. Afterward, ask the students who played the roles what they were thinking, feeling, and deciding in their roles. Also, ask the other students for their observations. This increases everyone’s awareness of how frustrating and disrespectful interruptions can be. Finally, have the class brainstorm for ways they can deal with this problem.

When the student interrupts, remind him that you have an agreement to spend some special time with him at 2:15 and tell him that you are looking forward to it.

When you tell a student, you don’t have time now, let them know when you will have time. If a time for sharing has already been set up, ask the student, “What is our agreement about when we can talk”

Do the unexpected: Act as though the Act as though the interruption is extremely important. Stop class, and give interrupters time to finish what they are saying or doing. The tone you use is very important. Sarcasm will lead to additional power struggles or to revenge cycles. Assume a lighthearted manner as you say to the class, “Excuse me, everyone. Stan seems to have something to say that can’t wait. Will you give us a few moments? You may ask Stan whether he would like the whole class to hear what he has to say, or you may leave the room with him for a minute. If two students are talking, try saying, “Stan and Sally seem to have something very important to discuss. We will wait until they’re finished.” Remember, this is effective when you use a respectful tone of voice; don’t try to humiliate. When interruptions are treated as a big deal, it often makes students think twice before interrupting.

Share what you see, and share your feelings about it: “Sheena, I notice that you’re talking to other people. I’m standing here feeling discouraged. I would like your help in working this out.”

Be aware of how you may become engaged by students’ interruptions. Don’t be sidetracked. Remind students that they can use the class meeting agenda for questions or concerns When a student interrupts, say “That sounds like something you might want to put on the agenda”, and say no more.

Positive Discipline A teacher’s guide. Nelsen, Escobar, Ortolando, Duffy, Owen-Sohocki

To Prevent Future Problems With Interruptions:

  1. Notice when the goal of interruptions seems to be advancing beyond a need for attention and developing into a quest for power or revenge. Use your feelings as a source of information: If you’re simply annoyed by the interruptions, the student is probably vying for attention. But if you’re starting to feel angry and challenged or hurt, take this as a clue that you’re now dealing with someone who believes she needs to be in charge or who is feeling hurt because something is threatening her sense of belonging.
  • Invite students to write down things they would like to tell you (so they don’t forget), and then share these things with you during the times when you aren’t occupied with lessons or specific tasks. It’s helpful to establish times during the day when you are available to anyone who needs assistance or has something, they would like to discuss with you.