What to Do About Disruptive Behaviour - Part 1

Disruptive Behaviour 1

What to do about… Disruptive Behaviour

A few years ago we published a fantastic guide on how to deal with disruptive behaviour in class. Due to it’s popularity, we decided to serialise this brilliant resource on our blog. All 4 parts are now live, and you can read part one below.


A significant priority facing class teachers today is how to effectively manage the demanding range of disruptive behaviour which confronts them on a daily basis.

It is highly taxing work attending to the dynamics which can occur in the classroom at any given time. Teachers may feel drained and weary with the ongoing demands. Frustration can set in when the learning environment is affected by constant disruptions.

The school’s behavioural policy may encompass strategies for tackling more severe problems, but there are those relentless low-level disruptions which do not respond to existing approaches.

This series of articles does not focus solely on the behaviour, but looks beneath the surface at the mood that triggers it. Our aim is to add to a teacher’s repertoire of skills and strategies, both in understanding and addressing disruptive mood and behaviour.

Although the skills and strategies are mainly targeting Key Stage 2, the principles can be adapted to work with Key Stage 1.

Part 1: Understanding Disruptive Behaviour

In order to respond more effectively to disruptive behaviour, it may be useful to examine the behaviour from a broader perspective.

Two significant issues which can be overlooked in the management of disruptive conduct are the context in which it occurs, and the feelings or mood surrounding it.

The contexts of disruptive behaviour are outlined in the following sections:

  • Child factors
  • School factors
  • Environmental factors

To expand the concept of mood or feelings surrounding disruptive behaviour, it may be helpful to explore the following illustration. Imagine this familiar scenario. An angry incident has erupted in the playground and, once the children involved are back in the classroom, it is evident that they are hostile and unwilling to focus on the scheduled maths lesson. Attempts to get them to settle down are not effective and the three children concerned become increasingly disruptive and unresponsive to the measures which the teacher adopts.

What is going on here? It would appear that the hostile feelings resulting from the incident in the playground have not been adequately resolved and are rumbling away in the background. An escalation in disruptive behaviour is taking place. The approach taken by the teacher in not proving to be successful in this situation. Perhaps there has not been an effective evaluation of what is causing the disruptions and an appropriate strategy has not been selected for resolving it.

Within the humanistic field of educational psychology, it is generally recognized that feelings or mood significantly affect behavioural outcomes. The example already used illustrates that when hostile feelings are not taken into account and attended to, they may generate disruptive behaviour.

When putting strategies into place, the teacher would find it helpful to look at the context in which the behaviour occurs. Equally, the feelings that precede and accompany such behaviour, can inform the teacher and help them to handle the situation more effectively.

Child Factors

Psychological Development

The way a child develops can be a significant factor in relation to disruptive behaviour. Delays in psychological development can affect conduct. A poorly developed self-structure and a confused framework for evaluating life experience can lead to immature behaviour.

Children who experience their value in the context of dysfunctional family systems may develop a range of behaviours which are difficult to manage in the classroom. Children whose parents are rigid and controlling may, in turn, try to control their peers by being bossy or by bullying them. This can lead to volatile and disruptive interactions.

Parents themselves may be emotionally disturbed, suffering from anxiety or depressive states. Unintentionally, they may cause their children to experience neglect. Such conditions at home may result in children being anxious and withdrawn, or aggressive and volatile at school.

Physiological Issues

Physiological issues can affect conduct. Children can experience a range of unpleasant conditions such as asthma, eczema and ear, nose and throat disorders. All of these may trigger disruptive mood and behaviour.

School Factors

Teacher/Class Relationship

Each teacher and class develop their own style of relationship. Sometimes the relationship is working well, at other times it may be working less well. When it’s working well there is often a lively stimulating atmosphere where meaningful work is produced. When it is working less well, interruption and disruptive incidents can occur.

Curriculum Issues

Different aspects of the curriculum can be stimulating for some and draining for others. There are those children who dread Maths, others for whom it is an adventure. When a child is fearful or disinterested in the particular aspect of the curriculum, it can create difficult behaviour. Also, the teacher may find different aspects of the curriculum stimulating or draining.

Lesson Planning

When a lesson is well prepared with planned learning objectives, it is less likely to generate disruptive behaviour. In lesson preparation, disruption is minimized when the content and presentation are interesting and dynamic.

Classroom Management

If there are strategies in place that reduce the need to walk around the classroom looking for books and pencils etc., potential trouble spots can be limited.

Classroom Dynamics

Group dynamics play a significant role in determining how the class functions. The way individuals and clusters of children relate to each other can spark off disruptive behaviour.

Environmental Factors

Times and Seasons

Different times of the day affect mood and behaviour. Energy levels fluctuate both for teachers and children. When children are tired and restless they can be irritable and disruptive. Seasons are significant. Christmas events and holidays can lead to excitable, demanding behaviour.


Weather affects children’s moods and behaviour. Wet playtimes, windy days, heatwaves! Medical research into S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) indicates the link between depression and the winter months. Weather affects the way we feel.


Changes influence classroom behaviour. There are some children who love change and some who are resistant to it. Change can be unsettling whether it’s change of routine, absence of particular children or teacher.


Crisis events do not happen every day but they can range from a child being sick in assembly to an intruder in school. They are usually unpredictable and take everyone by surprise. Extreme behaviour can be a reaction to a crisis.

Disruptive Behaviour - Triggers


The copy in this blog post was taken from the book ‘What to do about… Disruptive Behaviour’ written by Judith Warren and published by Primary Teaching Services.

To download a PDF copy of the entire Disruptive Behaviour guide, please email us at chat@primaryteaching.co.uk

View our brilliant behaviour management schemes here.

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