Improve the Sounds That Come from Your Class Clowns


teacher classroom management blog


Improve the Sounds
That Come From
Your Class Clowns



K-12 Keynote Speaker Ruth Herman Wells

Hi everyone. This is author and professional development trainer, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S.

In almost every workshop that we hold, a participant asks for ideas on how to manage class clowns.

You know the youngster. It's the student who may be the next David Letterman or Rosie O'Donnell, but unfortunately, their comedy can seriously deplete your limited contact time.

Some youngsters also use humor that would make even Lenny Bruce blush, and you may question whether the contributions count as humor at all.

The sounds that come from your class clowns can "make or break" nearly any class or group activity. Because of this, it is absolutely critical that students be able to manage their verbiage and conduct.

Although most schools and agencies want students to consistently manage their verbiage and conduct, very few sites have a formal, written-down plan to teach their youngsters the specific nuts-and-bolts skills that they need to comply.

So, self-control skills are expected in most schools and agencies, but not explicitly taught in most schools and agencies. Not surprisingly, students who aren't taught self-control skills, quite often lack those self-control skills.

Here are the initial few skills that your aspiring comedians and "wannabe" talk show hosts need to transform show time into school or work time.


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The class clown may be dominating your group with frequent or constant contributions. It is completely unfair to expect any child to discern the number of times to talk out in your setting, so have your group establish a recommended number of times to speak per hour or class.

Until given a quantifiable number of times to speak, many students will be completely unable to discern it. This will be particularly true for children with limited ability to do abstract or complex thinking; who are in crisis or have serious family problems; have disabilities or cultural barriers.

If you consult the class on how to manage this issue, you will get considerably more cooperation than if you dictate the procedures to them. To motivate your class clowns to consider the value of moderating the frequency of their contributions, have them list jobs that they may wish to do.

Elicit answers from talk show host to truck driver, then ask students to consider what can happen in each type of job, if an employee is dominating the verbiage so much that bosses, customers, guests and other workers can't get a word in edgewise.



The class clown may also keep going and going and going once started. While you may want students to limit the length of their comments, many sites have no plan to teach that skill. Again, the child is expected to comply with a nebulous standard that may not be readily discernable.

Think of all the times that you have listened to an adult drone on endlessly in a meeting. You may be expecting children to use skills that some adults haven't ever mastered.

So, be sure to have your group establish a concrete guideline. Use an egg timer, stop watch or wall clock to aid students to become more aware of the duration of their comments. Without your intervention, your most talkative students will talk more and longer, and your quietest students will talk less and less– exactly the opposite of what you wanted.



It may seem that your class clowns choose the most inappropriate times to make their contributions. It can take a bit of discretion to know what is the right time to make that comment or joke. You may not be able to teach discretion, but you can provide boundaries that will help.

Help students to identify the right and wrong times for these activities. You can have the class members make posters to illustrate the concepts. If your relationship with your class clown has become a battle for control, that is a big part of the problem, and you will need to end the power struggle before you get the improvement you want.


Your class clowns may make contributions that are of great concern because the content is wildly inappropriate, a guaranteed source of disruption.

Prior to expecting socially acceptable content, you must first teach your students this skill. That is the first of two steps. The second step is to work with the "audience," those students who instantly "lose their grip" when the class clown makes an inappropriate comment.

It is important to teach those youngsters to maintain self-control. With less reaction, the class clown will often become less motivated to say inappropriate things.

For both of these steps, you can again use potential job choices as a way to illustrate why it is important to choose appropriate content. Discuss what happens when people make inappropriate comments on the job, and what can result when co-workers become involved.

Be sure to note how vigorously sexual harassment, bias, and libel laws are being applied in the work place, that it has become quite easy to say something that results in termination, sanctions or legal action.


Class clowns are often viewed as a disruption, a threat, a hassle. Here's a completely different outlook for you to consider. If a young person has the poise, spunk and interest in enlivening ordinary activities, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

If you can help the child control frequency, duration, timing and content, then that youngster may develop tremendously valuable skills using humor appropriately in the work place.

Check out our Becoming a Prepared and Motivated Student: Behavior Change Handouts by clicking here. The worksheets contained in this book are delightfully different and work far faster than conventional approaches to turnaround class clowns and other class management problems.



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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.