Managing behaviour in the classroom, for non-teachers: part two

In the second part of this two-part series for volunteer professionals in the classroom, our Lawyers in Schools team have put together some strategies for dealing with challenging behaviour.

The class teacher is responsible for students’ behaviour but, if you’re comfortable having some involvement yourself, here are a few troubleshooting tips that might help you to manage the group and keep the discussion on track.

What if a student is not responding at all?

Possible reasons

  • Lack of confidence
  • Shyness around their peers or new adults
  • English is not their first language.


  • Don’t force the student to speak
  • Try to minimise the stress and embarrassment that they might feel working in a small group
  • Ask simple questions so as not to put undue pressure on them, but instead enable them to feel engaged in the discussion
  • Explore something in particular that interests them and gains a response, and use that to involve them
  • Give them a specific role that makes them feel important (and that they will be able to do), eg handing out the activity cards or writing notes for the group
  • Offer encouragement when you do receive a response from them.

What if a student is being disruptive?

Possible reasons

  • Bored of the predictability of the sessions
  • Need for more creativity
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of understanding
  • Attention-seeking


  • Ask the student a direct question about the activity, to engage them back in the discussion
  • Try not to give too much attention to what the student is doing or saying. Instead, draw attention back to the activity and the students that are engaged
  • If it appears the activity is not engaging the group as a whole, move on to another activity
  • If a student is being too disruptive, ask the teacher to talk to them.

What if a student goes off topic?

Possible reasons

  • Lack of focus or structure in the activity
  • Lack of understanding.


  • Try to link in what the student is saying to the topic that is being discussed
  • Most young people are quite chatty and will be enjoying the rare opportunity to have a small group discussion with an adult they haven’t met before
  • Some off-topic conversation is fine, as long as the topic of the session is being discussed for the majority of the time.

What if a student gives a controversial or inappropriate response?

Possible reasons:

  • May want to shock or offend on purpose
  • Attention seeking
  • Moral maturity underdeveloped
  • Naivety
  • Opinions heard elsewhere (eg, at home or from peers) and repeated


  • If appropriate, ask the rest of the group what they think, and if they agree or disagree, rather than addressing it directly
  • Remain impartial and sensitive and ensure that you are being non-judgemental – be careful not to impose your own views and opinions
  • If the response is of a severe nature, bring it to the teacher’s attention.


Managing behaviour in the classroom, for non-teachers: part one

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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