NEVER ask a question that encourages an answer or response. Don't say things like:
- "Why did you say that?"
- "What good will that do?"
- "How could you do this?"
- "Why isn't your work done?"
- "Did you write that on the desk?"
- "What were you doing instead of this activity?"
- "Why aren't your notes filled out?"
- "Do you talk like this at home?"
- "Where are your supplies?"
- "How come you don't have your assignment?"
- And so on.
Instead, use statements. They are naturally more authoritative and don't invite responses. Then get back to leading the class in whatever you were doing before the interruption. Also, it is always better if your comments can be private between you and the student. He gains momentum by having an audience, but you gain respect by keeping his discipline private. Stand near the student and talk quietly just to him. It's OK if others hear you, but try to keep the conversation private. When he loses the audience, he won't really want to talk back because the show has ended.
- "That's enough, Jack. We can continue this conversation privately after class." To the class, say, "Now everyone, open to page 34 in your packet so we can continue."
- "Since your homework isn't complete today, I will write you a pass to come in for recess to get it done."
- "This is the third time you don't have your supplies (or homework). The school consequence is a phone call home and a detention. Some parents appreciate if their children tell them about things like this before they get my phone call. I'll give you that opportunity. I'll call home tomorrow so you have tonight to talk to them about it first."
- "I don't allow words like that to be used in my classroom because I feel they are disrespectful. Since my classroom is a respectful environment, please save those words for a more appropriate situation."
- "I noticed you didn't take notes or participate in our activity. We're going to have to do something about that. Don't worry about this right now, instead please do the practice problems. I'll let you know at the end of class what we'll do about your lack of class participation." This buys you time to think about what you want to do, and will probably get the student back on track and focussed, because he will not know the consequence. If you need more time, you can always say you'll let him know later. Not knowing what is going to happen is worse than knowing--he'll be trying to please you until class is over, in hopes of getting a less severe consequence. If you still don't know at the end of class, tell him you need some more time to sort it out, but you'll let him know when you know what's going to happen. In the meantime, he should be sure to remain as focussed as possible.