I’ve often found that those students who ‘need’ to show off and crave attention benefit from being given the opportunity to do exactly that – albeit in a controlled way. Please understand that this classroom management strategy is not about condoning or encouraging inappropriate ‘calling out’ from students but if a kid has a tremendous sense of humour it should be (sensibly) encouraged as long as you can do so without losing your control, and without creating a disorderly atmosphere of ‘anything goes’.
Teacher: “Jonny, I’m fed up of you messing about! If it happens again you’re in detention.”
(Jonny carries on behaving like an idiot to gain approval from his peers).
Teacher: “Right Jonny, that’s it, I warned you, you’re in detention.”
The teacher calls Jonny outside class before the lesson starts.
Teacher: “Hey Jonny can I have a quick word? Listen, you’ve got an incredible talent. Do you know what it is?”
Teacher: “You’ve got an incredible talent for making people laugh – you’re very lucky. It’s a very worthwhile skill and will make you very popular. But we’ve got a bit of a problem. When you do it in the middle of the lesson or when I’m trying to get the class to work it distracts everyone because they all fall about laughing (teacher smiles). Right?”
Student: “Er, yeah.”
Teacher: “So how about this … I give you a set time for your comedy routines and cabaret but the rest of the time you keep quiet. How would that suit you?”
Student: “What do you mean?”
Teacher: “I’ll give you five minutes somewhere in the lesson – either at the beginning, the end or somewhere in the middle if we need a break and you can tell some of your jokes. But there are a couple of rules: the jokes have to be clean and non-racist; you can only start when I give you the signal; you have to stop when I give you the signal. If you can’t do that then we’ll have to go back to the detention thing and I don’t think either of us really wants that. Ok?”
Hopefully, you can see from the two classroom management strategy examples that the attitude of the teacher when dealing with challenging and attention-seeking students is crucial. It can make a small problem much worse – or it can turn it into a learning opportunity.