Are You Boring Your Students Into Misbehavior?

Smart Classroom Management: Are You Boring Your Students Into Misbehavior?Your students love video games.

They love action movies and bawdy comedies.

They love snowball fights, skateboards, birthday parties, and action sports.

They love laughter and thrills, challenge and daring-do.

They want to leap off thirty-foot cliffs into murky water below. They want to go on zip-lines, amusement-park rides, water slides.

They want to score the winning goal, hang out with their crazy friends, and eat pizza seven nights a week.

They spend their waking moments thinking about, pursuing, or engaging in their desires.

And then they walk into your classroom.

Boredom Equals Misbehavior

I know, I know… It’s not your job to entertain your students or compete with the excesses of the world.

True enough.

But if you can’t grab their attention and enchant them with your lessons and teaching style, you’re going to lose them to boredom and disinterest.

And, as predictable as the rising sun, unengaged students misbehave, break rules, and seek fulfillment in less-than-acceptable ways.

Just the way it is.

Four Desires

The key to capturing your students’ attention, and keeping it, is to tap into four desires nearly every student has in abundance.

1. Adventure

Students crave adventure, and if you can give it to them, even in small doses and in vicarious ways, they’ll love being in your classroom.

Organize scavenger hunts and walking field trips and outdoor art lessons. Choose read-alouds that transport to other worlds. Act out scenes of scientific discovery. Perform your favorite book passages. Reenact moments in history instead of just reading about them.

Dive headlong into the dramatic stories of adventure behind the yawn-inducing curriculum you’ve been saddled with. Be wary of the current push in more and more technology, and get your students up and experiencing their learning.

2. Laughter

Bring regular doses of fun and laugher into your classroom, and your students will follow you to the ends of the earth. Besides storytelling, nothing compares to the rapport-building, behavior-influencing power of humor. Be open to it and you’ll find it everywhere you look.

There is no place like a classroom full of kids to find the comically absurd, the notably amusing, and the downright hilarious. No, you don’t have to abandon your rules or waste learning time.

The truth is, when your students are happy to be in your class, when they can have a good laugh once in a while, they’re less likely to misbehave and more open to learning.

3. Challenge

Among the happiest of people are those whose work challenges them—without it being unreachable, undoable, or discouraging. And this is what you must do with your students. You must continually give them challenges they think they can do, but aren’t absolutely sure.

The best way to do this is through provocative questioning: Who thinks they can teach the class how to perform the experiment? What group wants to try to tackle this problem? Which pair can do this the best, the fastest, or without making a mistake?

Your job is to know what your students can do so you can ask for a little more—in tempting challenges dangled before them throughout the day.

4. Fascination

This is where your skill as a teacher and showwoman (or showman) comes in. I’ve found that in every lesson and in every activity there is an opportunity to infuse a dose of fascination and wonderment.

This strategy can be so powerful and can be used in so many different ways, limited only by your imagination. Find the one thing in your lesson that is unique, unusual, magical, shocking, incredible, secretive, special, exclusive, or in some way different and use it to lure your students in.

Now on the surface this one thing might not be very compelling. The trick is to visualize your lesson objectives through the eyes of your students. Find the one thing that stands out and then make it compelling. Make it something your students can’t ignore, even if they tried.

Teach To The Heart

If your classroom doesn’t include these elements, if you’re simply following along with the paint-by-numbers curriculum you’ve been provided, then classroom management will be a never-ending struggle.

And academic progress will be teeth-pulling slow.

When you regularly tap into your students’ natural desires, however, when you speak and teach directly to their hearts, rather than into their ears and over their heads…

Then their eyes will widen, their backs will straighten in their seats, and they’ll be filled with the love of learning.

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23 Responses to Are You Boring Your Students Into Misbehavior?

  1. K September 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    I would love to be that kind of teacher. But how do you suddenly change your ways? All it takes is one funny comment and my middle school students are completely out of control. If I ever took them outside, they would probably run off. I spend more class time breaking up fights than I do teaching, so I don’t know how I would zero in on their fascination and desires. This all sounds like so much fun, but I don’t think it’s realistic…at least in my world 🙁

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      Hi K,

      That’s just it. If you’re not making your classroom a place your students look forward to coming to every day, you’ll struggle with classroom management. When they’re bored and uninspired, they misbehave. I recommend starting slow and easing into this style of teaching. I think you’ll find that not only will you like your job a lot more, but your students will be happier and less likely to misbehave. If it’s new to you, ease into it—introduce your lessons through storytelling, add more passion to your teaching, enjoy building relationships with your students, and always combine it with strict accountability.


  2. Paula Lee Bright September 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Oh, Kathy. Fun in your classroom would make it infinitely easier to manage. I’m at ChildWillRead on Twitter. Drop me a line anytime and we can chat about possibilities. Or contact me on Facebook or my blog. Seriously, I’ve coached lots of teachers about this. Free, of course. No selling here! I don’t sell this stuff. It’s changed a good friend’s life. She now hopes to teach for years to come, but was leaving. ;D

    I wish I knew where to contact the author, but see no links. 🙁 I love this stuff!

  3. Jessica September 26, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Great, inspirational advice!!

  4. Ann February 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    I really love your site, I am unexperienced teacher and I have some difficulties for controling misbehaviours. on the other hand students are bored with my class, please introduce some ways for making my class fun and enjoyable for them

    • Michael Linsin February 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Hi Ann,

      Please read through the archive. There are dozens of articles that do just that.


  5. Linda October 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Great advice. It will take some effort at first to get creative with the curriculum. But I’m confident once I make it part of my lesson plans, it’ll get easier. I love being creative. I was amazed how fun and engaging it was to have the students act out a story without a lot of instruction or planning. I feel like I’ve just been given the go ahead to really show off.

    • Michael Linsin October 5, 2012 at 6:30 am #

      Hi Linda,

      In time it will come naturally to you.


  6. Ashley October 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I would like some strategies for dealing with student questions. I am glad that most of my students are engaged in my lessons and will raise their hands to ask or answer questions. However, every so often a student not completely focused will ask a question about a completely different topic. How can I curb this behavior? I don’t know if the question will be off topic until I ask the student to speak and then it feels like it sends the lesson in a different direction. Sometimes I choose not to answer and tell the student I will talk about the topic later – but it still seems to through things off. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin October 17, 2012 at 6:40 am #

      Hi Ashley,

      The best solution is to simply teach it. Model for your students what being on topic and asking appropriate questions looks like. Define it for them. Give them a chance to practice. And then don’t accept off-topic questions. Instead, have them wait until an any-question Q & A time. Have you read the article How To Stem The Tide Of Student Questions?


  7. teachut October 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    thats the pity today, teachers have to become “cool” and “entertainers”. Your advice is definitely not what I need.

  8. Tiffany January 2, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I completely agree with your advice about the importance of engaging lessons. The problem is that I feel like I exhaust myself and stress myself out with trying to come up with more creative ideas. I used to teach history, but I currently teach 7th grade English. With history, there were lots of ways to make it fun. With English, I find it much more challenging. Sure, great literature is easy, but I struggle with how to make the rest of it (structured writing, grammar, etc.) exciting. Any suggestions?

  9. Priyanka March 13, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Hi, I’ve been reading your articles. I am teaching 6th graders and i just cant handle them. I teach computer, they are interested in lab class, but the theory class is not much interesting; and i honestly don’t know how can I make it interesting. I say one funny thing and they are out of control. They don’t care to listen what I’m talking about, no matter how enthusiastic I sound. I am totally at a loss. It seems nothing work with them!What can I do?

    • Michael Linsin March 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Priyanka,

      I have a book coming out in May for specialist teachers like you. It’s called Classroom Management For Art, Music, and PE Teachers, but it’s really for anyone who teaches multiple classes of students every week.


  10. Jason March 15, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    Do you have any advice for creating stimulating classes for beginning ESL students?

    • Michael Linsin March 15, 2014 at 7:24 am #

      Hi Jason,

      I’ll put it on the list of future topics to cover. 🙂


  11. K April 30, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    Hi, I just want to really thank you for taking time to write these articles. I’ve been reading them for straight 3 hours, and I am learning so much as I am trying to start my teaching career.

    I agree that you have to be able to engage students and make each lesson interesting for students. The thing that I generally struggle with is being able to make people laugh. I enjoy people’s sense of humor, but I think I lack the ability to make good jokes and so forth. I am just not wired that way, unfortunately…which I know is making my teaching experience tougher. Do you think there is a way to be an effective teacher without relying on making students laugh? Or do you think I just have to work really hard to become a funnier person in general?

    • Michael Linsin April 30, 2014 at 6:17 am #

      Hi K,

      No, I don’t think you have to be funny. As long as you’re pleasant, you being yourself is good enough to have exceptional classroom management. This is written about in a few places on the blog and in Dream Class. 🙂


  12. Gary May 1, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    “I’ve found that in every lesson and in every activity there is an opportunity to infuse a dose of fascination and wonderment.”

    You would have to be joking cobber!

    I basically love your writings and am reading and noting all of them, almost channeling Michael Linsin you might say – and in my four days of teaching after two weeks of holiday reading, reading your site every day, my performance and enjoyment and confidence have lifted significantly. You clear up a lot of issues.

    So a teensy bit of exaggeration can be easily overlooked. But to search for one unique magical thing in every single lesson sounds not only impossible but exhausting. And most kids are happy to work hard, learn something new without experiencing fascination in every single lesson. Impossible goals can be disheartening.

    But u have great ideas overall.

    • Michael Linsin May 1, 2014 at 6:22 am #

      Hi Gary,

      Indeed the quote seems outlandish, but actually doing it isn’t so difficult. In fact, in time the strategy becomes something you do naturally, habitually, without much thinking. I’ll be sure and write more on this topic in the future. In the meantime, here are a few articles to get you started: How to Use The Preview . . . How To Use Mystery . . . How To Introduce . . .

      I’ve also written about this in my new book, which should be out in a few days.