Keeping a Rowdy Classroom Positive and Productive

rowdy classroom - ideas and advice

Keeping a rowdy classroom on track can be a challenging task, but years of experience have taught me some valuable lessons that I can share.

To be up front, I’ve had my own struggles with this. Innovative Arts class has open-ended projects and plenty of work time built into it, which has contributed to many classroom problems. It has taken years to develop a sense of how to best manage a classroom that may have more apathy or even hostility.

At the outset of this article, please understand that most of this advice is proactive and it is more difficult to make huge changes with an already very rowdy classroom. You’ll need to try, obviously, but really work on getting the groundwork laid for successful future classes with your proactive efforts. It has taken me years of struggling to develop my style and figure out what works.

With the right strategies and techniques, it’s possible to create an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration that will help your students stay engaged and focused on the task at hand. Here are some tips for keeping a rowdy classroom positive while still working towards a creative vision.

The first priority: Stay positive at all cost

Staying positive in an rowdy classroom environment can be a challenge, however it is essential to maintain. Keeping up a cheery attitude and soft but firm authority can help keep the room focused while retaining an enjoyable atmosphere – both of which are necessary for productive learning. Setting a good example by always being optimistic and patient will also encourage other members of the class to do the same. Showing that positivity is the only way to go. Remember all of the students who are there to learn and frustrated with their classmates, just like you might be frustrated. They are counting on you to be firm with their peers and recognize their positive effort.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying away from anger or showing your frustration to the class. For me, adding meditation to my daily routine was the best choice. It made me better able to detach my emotions and choose my responses, instead of reacting instantly.

After all:

Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice.


The rest of this advice will not be helpful if you cannot keep it positive. Soon, I would like to publish my experience starting to meditate. I wish I had started years ago, as it really helped me in the ‘rowdy classroom’ situation.

Disclaimer: this article is my understanding and method of dealing with my rowdy classrooms. Other teachers have other temperaments and classroom dynamics can make for impossible situations. Please understand that this is my attempt to help but this advice will not solve every problem.

On to the advice for a rowdy classroom:

Set Clear Expectations in a rowdy classroom

Setting clear expectations is key to managing any classroom, especially one with high energy levels. Be sure to discuss rules and regulations with your students as soon as possible so they know what is expected of them. Make sure you explain why each rule exists and how it contributes to a better learning environment for everyone in the class. You should also mention any consequences if these rules are not followed. Sometimes I will mention a few “a student once did ______, so we needed to do _______’ to make the cause and effect very clear.

Allow time for talking occasionally in a rowdy classroom

Giving your students regular breaks throughout class can help them stay focused throughout their lesson plan. Taking short breaks allows them time to relax, refocus their attention, and reset their energy levels before diving back into concentrating on their work. Perhaps practicing with a two minute task that you give three minutes to complete. You can talk about not rushing, giving the right amount of effort, and ‘practice’ giving me your attention again when the three minutes are up.

I have a doorbell in my room, the button hangs from the FOB that I wear around my neck. Ringing the doorbell means that “I was talking to everyone in the class, but not everyone was listening”. Saying it like this gets it very quiet, since all of the people who were chatting realizes that the chime was directed at them.

Provide Structure

Another way to manage a lively classroom is by providing structure. Giving students clear expectations helps them stay organized and on task throughout the school day. I even teach students what to do immeditely upon arrival to my classroom.

Setting up weekly schedules or agendas that detail what topics need to be covered each day can help ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes time for class discussions or group projects. Establishing rules at the beginning of the year can also help set boundaries for acceptable behavior in the classroom and ensure that everyone feels respected while learning together.

Be calm and consistent with your discipline procedures.

Consistency in discipline proceedings is vitally important for a successful classroom environment. If children expect and understand the processes for reinforcing rules and expectations, they are less likely to act disruptively in class. It shows them that you care about them and are attempting to keep everyone safe and focused while they learn. You can also use consistent disciplinary procedures to illustrate which behaviors will not be tolerated in the classroom and help students understand that breaking the rules comes with consequences. Keeping your disciplinary actions consistent has been shown to help reduce problematic behavior and create a more positive learning atmosphere from the start.

Avoid power struggles with students.

It can be frustrating when students resist following instructions, but it’s important to remember that power struggles aren’t conducive to learning. The best way to foster an environment that allows everyone to thrive, including teachers and students alike, is ensure that you remain calm and rational in trying situations.

My most common technique for me is to keep it clear/concise but clearly better if a student does the right thing. For example, if a student is refusing classwork or a direction, I can just say ‘I hope this will get done here in class, otherwise I can go over this all over again during lunch/after school/in the office/with your parents.’ And follow through – calmly call parents or make arrangements with the office for that student. The calm way that you make that parent meeting happen will make it much less likely to happen again in the future.

We can show our students that we respect them and their opinions while still being firm in our expectations of responsibility and discipline. This leads to better cooperation, allowing for more positive interaction between teacher and student. It’s essentially a win-win situation: the student gains confidence and understanding of certain behavior expectations, while the teacher is firmly in control of the classroom.

Talking and connecting with individual students

Getting to know each student in a classroom can be daunting, especially if they tend to be more rowdy than usual; however, this is often due to lack of understanding or underlying issues. Building relationships with the students and having meaningful conversations can go a long way towards helping them understand acceptable behavior within your space. Being sure to talk to them about what you see, and validate their feelings will go far in expressing empathy and helping them better understand and adjust their behavior – all while making sure they feel heard and validated. Taking the time to get to know each student on a personal level is important for a successful learning environment!

Keep your sense of humor

Keeping your sense of humor in a rowdy classroom can be a challenge, but it’s worth it. When children are being disruptive and it seems like things have gotten out of hand, having a lighthearted attitude allows you to react with more patience as you kind yet firmly remind everyone to focus. This can prevent the situation from escalating and help each individual get back to the tasks at hand. Even though it’s not easy, maintaining your composure and making jokes can positively affect the entire atmosphere of the classroom – and isn’t that what we all want? Fun plus concentration leads to success!!

Find ways to wear them out

If you find yourself faced with a more rowdy classroom than ideal, why not take them outside and get them moving? It could be the perfect way to wear out those excess energy levels, while also providing some healthy exercise and team building. Games like tag or even just a good old fashioned race could provide the challenge required to use up any excess energy. Allowing your students to let off some steam in this manner also provides an outlet for any residual frustrations they may hold from within the classroom itself. So next time you’re looking for ways to get your students energized yet contained, try taking them out for a quick sprint!

If there is a field or long block, a fast way to get them moving is to let them go ahead of you (‘Run to the stop sign!’) and then turn a corner or even turn around, calling them to catch up. The people with the most energy will definitely spend the most energy!

Have an explicit trade-off between silent, in your assigned seat time and end-of-class freedom

Building off the simple notion of trading good behavior for earned freedom, implementing an explicit trade-off has been an incredibly effective tool in managing classroom dynamics. By incentivizing excellent behavior throughout the lesson, students are much more likely to stay focused. Furthermore, when students are rewarded with a certain level of freedom when they may be tempted to take advantage of it, most opt instead to express their newfound freedom responsibly. This consistent balance is part of what keeps classrooms productive while giving youngsters a chance to let off some steam as well. It’s no small task taking on the role of educator, but this sort of system provides students with clear expectations – fostering respect and responsibility along the way!

I have to make a big deal about the first time we have the reward or freedom. “Everyone is just going to be relaxed and quiet-ish. It’ll be nice because you’ll have some freedom without anyone getting in trouble for wrestling, running. yelling, etc.”

After they are successful in that little bit of free time, use it! – Example: “I was really impressed with your class, we had a few minutes and it was just nice and relaxed. Everyone was able to hold it together and I feel like I can trust you with more freedom in the future!:

It’s so rewarding when we can offer students the chance to balance structure and freedom in the classroom. Allowing for a specific amount of silent time, combined with some end-of-class liberty, offers a healthy compromise that allows our pupils to explore creative learning opportunities while fostering an atmosphere of respect. It brings us joy to watch them take ownership over the learning process.

Little annoyances need to be handled quietly or ignored

It can be tough to stay upbeat when minor problems arise in a rowdy classroom. However, adopting a cheerful attitude is the best way to handle a tricky situation like this. Though it may not seem like much of a difference at first, maintaining an optimistic mood can truly turn the tide, ensuring that the right attitude remains intact and the learning experience continues. That doesn’t mean all issues should go ignored, however; when dealing with more specific difficulties, bring it up in private conferences or one-on-one conversations in order to calmly address any difficulties as they occur. By refusing to get caught up in counterproductive negativity and instead looking for solutions with genuine optimism, our classrooms can be a much better learning environment.

Celebrate successes, big and small, with your students.

Celebrating successes, big and small, with students is a great way to build morale and create an atmosphere of positive encouragement. Watching kids feel proud of their achievements spikes the enthusiasm level of the entire class. It can bring smiles to even the most stoic kids, allowing them to become more invested in their academic work. Besides specific recognition for hard work, celebrating together allows us all to have a moment of camaraderie that can lift spirits and encourage further growth. By celebrating successes, big and small, we demonstrate that feedback doesn’t have to be solely focused on areas improvement but instead can also be used as a source of joyfulness–which is an invaluable lesson for any student!

Have faith in your students and believe that they can achieve great things!

It never ceases to surprise me how incredibly capable my students are when given the chance. I always have faith that they can reach amazing heights and it fills me with such joy and pride whenever one of them does. For example, I had a student recently who struggled for ages to achieve his goals but with determination and perseverance he surpassed what he thought he could ever do – this was just so inspiring! Having faith in our students is integral for enabling them to bridge any educational gaps and set higher expectations for themselves. Believing in them truly does wonders for their self-esteem and makes all the difference in helping them reach the goals that they have set for themselves.

Encourage Creative Thinking

Creative thinking exercises can help keep your students from getting bored or frustrated. Encourage your students to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems or projects. Ask them to brainstorm ideas or use group work to create something new. You can also assign tasks that involve problem-solving or require research, as this will help keep their minds engaged and focused on the task at hand.

If you are in a creative role, this site has a lot of resources to help with this. Here are some of my best resources:

Provide Positive Reinforcement

When your students do something right, don’t forget to give them positive reinforcement! Positive reinforcement will motivate them to do better next time and will show them that their hard work is valued and appreciated. This could be anything from verbal praise, to awards or rewards (like stickers), or even just giving extra attention when they have done well on a task.

Encourage Collaboration

One way to keep students engaged is to foster an environment of collaboration. Encourage students to work together on projects, brainstorm ideas, and discuss different topics. This will help them develop critical thinking skills while also teaching them how to work in teams. Additionally, it’s important for teachers to model positive behavior by encouraging collaboration in their own classrooms. When students see that the teacher is open to different ideas and willing to collaborate with them, they are more likely to do the same with each other.

What about fun activities?

I know I want to avoid fun activities with a rowdy classroom. The only way to pull them off is to prepare and teach the expectations for that activity before it happens. Tell stories about a rowdy classroom from the past who lost privileges from their behavior and remind them of past times they were successful in having a fun activity without any problems. If possible, have a plan B for students who try to take advantage of the activity – new seat, or less freedom. Sometimes it works just to explicitly say call out what you are seeing and switching back to a positive attitude as quickly as possible.

This site was created to distribute resources for creativity

If you think it would be helpful in your class, check out the resources below:

Keeping a rowdy classroom postive can be challenging, but it is possible! By encouraging creative thinking, providing positive reinforcement, and engaging your students in fun activities, you can create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable and safe while also having fun! Remember that teaching is an art form—and by taking these steps into consideration you can create an amazing learning environment that both you and your students will enjoy!

I am creating this site to advance student creativity and help students to take ownership of their learning. The resources on this site are intentionally open-ended and a part of my Innovative Arts curriculum.

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