Stop Yelling at Students: No-Scream Classroom Management Strategies Offer Improved Methods


teacher classroom management blog


Stop Yelling at Students:
No-Scream Classroom Management Strategies Offer Improved Methods



K-12 Keynote Speaker Ruth Herman Wells

In our workshops, in our email, and on the phone, we have been hearing the same complaint over and over and over: "I can't scream loud enough and long enough to control my class."

In the nearly 20 years that Youth Change has been a national resource for teachers and counselors with troubled students, we have never been so inundated with inquiries about how to scream louder and longer to get back in control.

My name is Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. O'm the Director of Youth Change Workshops. I'm also the trainer for Youth Change's live and online workshops.

What would you think if your son or daughter's teacher managed by screaming?

You would be appalled and demand the screaming stop. If you are one of the professionals who is screaming at kids, you need to remember that you are screaming at someone's son, someone's daughter.

If you wouldn't want your offspring to be yelled at, then you shouldn't be yelling at someone else's children.

When my daughter Meagan was told by her middle school music teacher that Meg was "a loser" and would be "a failure in high school," I confronted the teacher. The teacher replied "Meagan can take it."

It doesn't matter if students "can take it." Screaming at students is abuse, and abuse can cost you your job, your self-respect, and your career. Even more importantly, no student should have to "take it."

Think about this next sentence: You have no way of knowing if you are screaming at a child who was beaten or incested last night. Now, how do you feel about the screaming?


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Yelling is destructive and always inappropriate– unless you are yelling "Go Team" at a football game, or screaming "Stop" because a student is about to run in front of a bus.

Further, yelling is not acceptable in most work settings, and have you ever noticed that when you yell at students, you are using behaviors that you won't permit them to use?

Ultimately, your job is to prepare students for the real work place– and screaming isn't permitted there.

One more point: You have an obligation to report screaming if you hear it. There aren't exceptions given if it will be difficult or uncomfortable to report. Your first obligation is to your students not your comfort.

Finally, yelling doesn't work anyway. With that in mind, please consider these alternatives to screaming:


Improve Classroom Management Here

Anticipate and Avoid Predictable Problems

Many of the professionals who have been contacting us to say that screaming isn't working, have noted that they are struggling with the same misbehavior over and over and over.

If you know that students predictably struggle in a given area, then use that information to prevent it from repeating endlessly. That is how you would manage a chronic academic concern, and that is how you must manage behavioral problems.

classroom management poster 62Example Strategy:
Instead of continuing to have problems with inappropriate items coming into your site, train  your students on what to bring and wear.

If you use humor, students may actually absorb far more information. A non-confrontational approach will also result in much more success than an antagonistic one.

That is why this type of intervention can succeed when screaming has failed. Here's a very fun intervention to use. Have students name occupations, then list those jobs in a column on the board, Next, have students list items that shouldn't come to work for those particular jobs.

Encourage humorous contributions like a chef bringing worms to work at a restaurant. Now that students are relaxed and at ease, discuss silly items not to bring to your site, and the results that can occur.

Students can make a master list of Items Not to Bring to School. Our Poster #62 provides a visual example if you need ideas to get your group started.

Identify, Prioritize Then Teach Missing Skills

You would never yell at a student who lacked math skills. Yelling would not help the youngster gain math skills.

Similarly, yelling at students who lack specific classroom behavior skills will not help youngsters gain those missing skills.

In place of yelling, consider teaching the missing skills.

Where to start? Pick the one problem that interferes the most with your classroom management. Once that skill is mastered, move onto the next missing skill, and so on.

Example Strategy:
Teach students how to properly manage transition times. For example, perhaps students need to rehearse walking into the room without sounding like a herd of buffalo.

Once they can enter "quieter than a herd of buffalo," you can tell them that they've mastered the skill. Next, offer occasional rewards for good transitioning, especially for punctuality and quickly quieting down.

Teachers can give the first five students who are quiet and ready to work, passes to get out of class a few minutes early. A counselor can bring a pack of gum and give the five sticks out to the first five youngsters who are quiet and ready to work.

Be sure to teach the skills before expecting them though, and remember, re-stating the rules isn't teaching skills.


The Most Important, Fastest Fix

Teacher and counselor training still tends to be heavily theoretical instead of practical, and still tends to prepare professionals to work with compliant, willing students.

You may find yourself with few compliant and willing, and many non-compliant and unwilling. If your training hasn't given you tools for the non-compliant and unwilling, you need to update your skills to equip you to work with extremely acting-out youngsters, especially conduct disorders.

Until you do, nothing– that's right– nothing will substitute, especially not yelling. Conduct disorders are cagey, manipulative, smart, and devoted to playing you.

When you yell, they feel like they own you, that they are the boss of you. When you yell at conduct disorders, you have made a bad situation far worse.

We get many effusive emails and letters from teachers, vice-principals, counselors, and social workers saying that learning about conduct disorders "opened their eyes," to quote one principal. If you truly want the problems to stop, learn about your most misbehaved students, your conduct disorders.

Two follow-up links are provided in the next paragraph.

Example Strategy:
Conduct disorders care about only one thing. Do you know what it is? If you don't, classroom and group management will remain enormously problematic.

They care about only Me-Me-Me-Me. Every intervention you use with a conduct disorder must center on what the student loses by misbehavior or gains by good behavior.

Do not heed advice that others may give that you should just ignore this most unmanageable of all youngsters. Conduct disorders need you to be their "brakes". When you abandon or can't play that role, that student has all the control of a speeding car with no way to stop.

Yelling at this youngster has the same results as yelling at a speeding car. Upgrading your skills doesn't have to be time-consuming or hard. To upgrade your skills, go to the Blog menu at top and read our two Introductory issues that focus on this youngsters. We can also provide help to youth professionals who contact us at 1.800.545.5736, or you can email us.


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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.