How To Handle Misbehavior Outside Of Your Classroom

Here at SCM, we’ve received a number of emails asking how best to handle students who misbehave outside the four walls of the classroom, but while still in your presence.

Smart Classroom Management: How To Handle Misbehavior Outside Of Your ClassroomIn other words, how do you respond to rule-breaking while walking to lunch, for example, or at an assembly?

It’s a thorny issue, because you can’t very well send your students to time-out.

Pulling them aside for a talking-to is a SCM no-no.

Ignoring the behavior and just letting it go isn’t an option either.

Because as soon as your students learn that they can misbehave away from the classroom without consequence, the floodgates will open.

They’ll stray from your rules every time you venture out into the hallway.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is to hold them accountable the same way as you would if you were in class. Only, with one small difference.

Here’s how:

1. Teach

The first step is to teach your students that class rules apply wherever you are and that they’ll be enforced just the same.

The one small difference is that any consequence will be delivered after you return to class.

This is a key distinction and the reason why it works.

Be sure and model common misbehaviors like pushing in line and talking during assemblies, as well as how you’ll respond when it happens.

Your students need to know exactly what will happen if they misbehave while you’re away from the classroom.

2. Observe

As soon as you leave your classroom, it’s important to stay in position to observe closely and make sure your students are behaving to your expectations.

This is critical, because if you daydream, chat with other teachers, or forget about your class, then you’re going to miss something.

You’re going to be inconsistent, which is one of the biggest classroom management mistakes you can make.

Just knowing that you’re watching, and that you always follow through, will dissuade your class from straying from your rules and routines.

3. Enforce

If you notice misbehavior, it’s best to stay where you are and watch it play out. You want to be clear about who is involved and what the misbehavior entailed.

If you’re going to be away from class for a period of time, like an assembly, then it’s smart to bring along a notebook for documentation.

This will help you remember who to hold accountable when you get back to class. The notebook also serves as a reminder to every member of your class that expectations haven’t changed.

It effectively avoids arguments from those who may have forgotten, or pretend to have forgotten, their transgressions.

Now, it’s important to point out that you can and should give initial warnings, if possible, when the misbehavior occurs.

Subsequent consequences, however, would be enforced when you return to class.

It Makes No Difference

Students tend to misbehave away from the classroom when they’re unsure whether the class rules still apply.

They test and push boundaries. They become silly and excitable. They behave as if you’re not even in their presence.

The easiest and most effective approach is to simply extend the rules and expectations of the classroom to wherever you are.

Teach and model your classroom management plan using common scenarios both inside and outside your classroom.

The only difference being the slight delay between the first and second consequence.

When your students know before leaving the room that a) you’ll be watching and b) you’ll enforce every rule every time . . .

They’ll behave no different than when they’re in the classroom.

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28 Responses to How To Handle Misbehavior Outside Of Your Classroom

  1. Mark E May 7, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    Excellent. This IS an issue where I am at. Primarily the hallways.
    For those seeing this comment, I’ve started the book and it is FANTASTIC! Highly recommended!

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2016 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks Mark!


  2. Sarah G. May 7, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    I teach 80% of the 8th graders in my school – that’s around 160 kids. When we have assemblies, they’re by grade level, so all of my kids will be in the assembly. The culture of our school indicates that there’s no consequences if the kids talk, etc. during assemblies so they can become very noisy. I’m sure I’d fill a notebook with student names and still not get them all. How do you address large-scale behaviors like this?

    Also, because I only teach 8th grade, I don’t know most of the kids at my school. How do you address bad behavior during passing periods and breaks if you don’t know the names of the kids who are misbehaving?

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2016 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Sarah,

      I’ll cover this topic as part of a future article.


      • Chuck May 7, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

        I was going to post the same thing. I teach about half of the 8th graders at our school, but we have a group of 8th graders that are causing problems all year round. They are not my students, though I know of them through infamy.

        Just yesterday, someone set off a fire-cracker before school on the basketball court, where the kids were playing WITHOUT supervision after having been told that there is to be no one up there when there is no one to supervise. I was on my way to my classroom when I heard it, and kicked EVERYONE off the basketball court.

        No one had done that to them before, so all of these students who I didn’t know the names of were indignant with me, but I held my ground and delineated who was the authority and who was the student and kept them off of the court.

        I reported the incident to the principal, as well as the likely students who would have done it (based on the reports of a few students, and where they were sitting in proximity to the fire-cracker). My p couldn’t do much without evidence. 🙁

        I got called a few names by some students for keeping them off the court, though they did it discreetly. I didn’t let it affect me at all: they were angry, so what? They knew the rules.

        I feel like there is such a lack of accountability right now at our school, and I know it’s not my principal’s fault; the district and the ed code is tying her hands behind her back. So any tips about how to hold students you don’t know, accountable would be fantastic.

    • Terri May 8, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      Good questions. I look forward to this reply from you, Michael.

  3. Geri Keskeys May 7, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for your nuggets.

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      You’re welcome, Geri!


  4. Renee J May 7, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    This is great! But what about in secondary schools when the student is not in your class?

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      Hi Renee,

      We’ll be sure to cover this in a future article.


  5. Kevin Sullivan May 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Outside the classroom indeed presents a challenge. Due to the popularity of soccer among my students I started carrying around yellow cards in my shirt pocket. At first it seems like a cute idea, but the effectiveness is amazing. First of all, you can be way out of earshot of the students and the message is clear because just like the referee you are clearly giving a consequence. Also just like the referee you are just following the guidelines set forth for the game. It is just like the time out, they get to return to play (after the 15 minutes) and they fully understand that the next yellow card is a red card. Red card no more play that game, no next game. Classroom translation is letter home. You can even copy the letter on red or pink paper to keep up the context. They know they are at the edge and can avoid falling off by heeding the warning and falling into line. The beauty is the visual of the yellow card. You can even pull out the pen and write directly on the card to keep track of exact transgressions (just like the referees), date and time, location. Later these will serve as your documentation when you enter data in discipline records or have conferences with parents. You can more easily separate yourself from the emotional aspect because it is not you, it is the game and it has rules and it’s only your job to make the game run smoothly. The amazing thing about assemblies or field trips is that you show the card to a group of students and write down some info, but no individual student is sure if it was then or not. I call it the hand grenade effect. They have to wait, until an appropriate time and come to you to find out who got put on the card, once again just like soccer where they have to go to the referee to plead their case, but must be done in a manner that does not necessitate an additional infraction. Just checking your pocket to ensure you have the yellow card as you line up to leave the room, reminds the students that nothing changes, the classroom discipline plan goes where you go. Always, everywhere. You have such an awesome service. I have no idea how I functioned for 30 years teaching without the weekly classroom management tips. It fires me up every weekend to go back. Thanks so much

    • Michael Linsin May 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

      Great idea, Kevin! Thanks for sharing.


    • Rhonda Howard May 8, 2016 at 2:22 am #

      When I started reading your post, I was not even sure what a yellow card was. I plan to do some sports research because I think your plan is brilliant! I especially love the part where students do not even know if it was them, but they have to plead their case. Brilliant!
      Clearly this is a middle or high-school method, and a yellow or red card means something different in elementary, but I think I may be able to explain the cards in a different way that will have meaning for some of the students.
      Thanks for sharing. If you have any ideas for the littles, please respond.

      • Terri May 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

        Yellow as in the yellow caution light at an intersection. I use red, yellow, green cards all the time. Green reminder, yellow no more warnings, red, that’s it.

  6. Angia Macomber May 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi! I am a new subscriber to SCM, learning lots of helpful things, and I was intrigued by your statement in this post that “Pulling [kids] aside for a talking-to is a SCM no-no.” I’d love to learn more about this! Could you give me a link or tell me where to find out more? Thank you!

  7. Ramzan May 7, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    This is what we notice in our daily routine in teaching profession and the given solution is the most appropriate. Well done.

    • Michael Linsin May 8, 2016 at 7:25 am #

      Thanks Ramzan!


  8. Diane May 8, 2016 at 9:06 am #

    I thought the spirit of the question was about disciplining students you don’t know at all. Students who misbehave in the hallway, in a cafeteria or in an assembly. It seems unwise to be more strict than the administrators. It seems like it makes the teachers look foolish when their discipline attempts are overturned.

    • Michael Linsin May 8, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Diane,

      No, the email questions we received from readers were about how to deal with your own students/class while away from the classroom.


  9. Elizabeth May 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    The resource teachers at my school (PE, library, music, and art) notice a lot of difficulty with students transitioning to/from resource. Our 4th graders in particular are very disruptive in the hall going back to their homeroom. As the art teacher, despite having a signal and giving reminders, I also have a hard time getting the 4th graders and sometimes other grades to clean up and line up, which leads to further disruption. I give points when the correct procedures are followed, but obviously the reward doesn’t mean enough.So, since we are not able to follow up with these kids because they are back with their homeroom teacher, any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin May 9, 2016 at 6:56 am #

      Hi Elizabeth,

      It’s a big question that I don’t have the time or space to cover here. I’ll try to figure a way to incorporate the topic into a future article for all teachers.


  10. Charmaine May 9, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    What about specials? I don’t want to be there every time to observe, and they are trained teachers.

    • Michael Linsin May 9, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

      Hi Charmaine,

      The article refers only to when you are with your students. We’ll cover other situations in future articles.


  11. Kate May 10, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    What about students who say they don’t care no matter what the consequence? What about parents who claim the teacher is picking on their child when the child says others were doing the behavior and only they were singled out. What about students who lie and say whatever they were doing didn’t happen?

    • Michael Linsin May 10, 2016 at 11:04 am #

      Hi Kate,

      We’ve covered all these topics extensively. Please visit the archive when you get a chance.


  12. Mary Mattheyer August 13, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    Do you have a special site for prek teachers?
    And how do you “draw a line in the sand” wit?h prek

    • Michael Linsin August 14, 2016 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Mary,

      No, we do not have a website particular to preK. As for your question, you do it with rules/boundaries that protect learning.


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