5 Tips on Handling Students Who Won't Stop Interrupting


Finding a graceful way to deal with students who keep interrupting is a tall task for any teacher. Check out these techniques that will help you keep students in line and prevent disruptions.

Dealing with Interruptions

Dealing with interrupting students is just another part of the job when it comes to teaching. Children are impulsive and frequently feel compelled to call out answers or questions, regardless of whether it's a good time to hear them.

While interrupting is to be expected, sometimes it becomes a recurring problem, at which point you'll need to take action. Knowing how to navigate interruptions is a vital skill for all teachers, and the following list contains some helpful tips and tricks that will keep students quiet and keep your lessons moving.

interrupting students

1. Use Nonverbal Cues

When a student wants to contribute but you're in the middle of a lecture, it can be tricky to find a way for them to notify you without causing further disruptions. Acknowledging interrupters verbally also sets the precedent that blurting out will get attention. For this reason, the use of hand signals can be essential in keeping a lecture moving.

Instead of calling out and informing the entire class that they have something to say, students can make a gesture or hand signal to alert you that they wish to speak.

Raising a hand is a traditional way of calling for attention, but it forces you to either acknowledge or ignore your students. For this reason, you can also designate an acknowledgment signal that sends the message 'I see you, but I can't stop now' so that your students will know that they are not being ignored. A wave of the hand or a thumbs-up lets the student know that you'll be getting to them soon, but also does not require you to cut yourself off.

These signals work great for impulsive students who simply need to voice their opinions or who feel left out if they don't get to speak their mind.

2. On-Desk Reminders

For students who repeatedly interrupt and have trouble staying quiet, feel free to use more personalized measures to send a message.

Using an on-desk reminder serves as a constant refresher not to blurt out. Examples of these reminders can include a counter that students use to keep track of their interruptions or a written warning not to speak out of turn.

Interruptions often stem from poor impulse control or an urge to demonstrate intelligence, so placing an easy-to-see reminder can help students remember to control themselves.

3. Don't Acknowledge

Depending on your teaching style and general temperament, you may want to try simply ignoring students who blurt out answers or questions while you're speaking. Ignoring interrupting students helps you avoid confrontations and power struggles in the classroom.

While the natural reaction is to respond to a student, ignoring sends the message that your words are important and your lesson will not be disrupted by any one student. When students see that calling out has no effect, they will be dissuaded from making similar efforts in the future.


Many students also misbehave because they crave attention and refusing to give them this attention removes the incentive to cause problems in your classroom.

Using this method requires patience and a cool head; you'll need to be able to resist the urge to respond. Once the student knows you've been rattled, their actions will be validated, but if you can keep your composure, you stand a good chance of preventing future interruptions.

4. Repeat Clipped, Quick Phrases

If your instincts compel you to respond to interrupters, answering verbally is okay if you do it in a controlled manner. Without stopping the flow of your own lecture, settle on a short response like 'hold that thought' or 'one moment, please' that lets students know that now is not their turn to talk.

Repetition is important here because consistently using the same sayings helps students associate interruptions with the same response. In time, they will come to learn that calling out will not give them a productive answer, which will (hopefully) encourage them to remain quiet.

confident teacher

5. Speak Privately

If you suspect that ill intentions motivate interruptions, or if a student fails to respond to passive measures, it may be time to get a little more serious with your efforts to curb this kind of behavior.

Pull students aside and address your concerns in private. Explain how their actions are disrupting the entire class, try to find the motivation behind the interruptions, and work on an action plan to prevent future issues.

Ideally, the serious tone of the meeting will impress upon the student how serious the situation is, but if they still refuse to cooperate, you'll need to have corrective measures ready to deploy. Whether it's a disciplinary system or a model that rewards good behavior, make sure that you have a backup plan if your student is uncooperative.

Every case is going to be different depending on the student, so it's a good idea to have a diverse array of tricks up your sleeve. These techniques should prepare you to deal with all kinds of interrupters, from misbehaving attention seekers to impulsive and inquisitive students.

By Bill Sands
February 2018
teachers classroom management

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