Getting Through a Lesson WITHOUT INTERRUPTIONS!

If you are having trouble getting through a lesson without interruptions, you’ll be happy to hear that this is a classroom management skill you can learn by changing just a few things!  Here’s a collection of teaching habits that allow you to control the flow of the lesson. So here are my best tips on dealing with interruptions, blurters, potty needs, and many other things!



I bet we’ve all been there.  Imagine this:  You’ve just started a lesson.  Someone raises their hand to ask to use the restroom.  Then someone else also wants to go.  You begin your lesson again.  A child starts to whine that they are tired or hungry.  Another raises a hand to ask for a tissue.  You start your lesson again.  A child hits or kicks someone because the other child is looking at or breathing in their direction.  And on it goes!

Tips for Getting Through a Lesson Without Interruptions

A lively and determined group of children can easily divert a lesson and drive it down another lane if you do not have a few procedures to help get back on track.  But here are a few things I do to ensure that my lesson can proceed and the children do not manage to divert the class’ focus down some other rabbit hole!

1. Tell kids you’ll take questions at the END of the lesson. 

I tell kids they must put their hands down while I’m giving a lesson.  Questions must wait until the end.  Of course, if it looks like there is something amiss, I will call on a child!  But generally, I tell them I will not call on them if they raise their hand.  If a hand goes up, I just shake my head at them and mouth the word “No.”

I do this because very often when young children raise their hand to speak in the middle of a lesson, it’s to tell a story or make an off-topic comment rather than to ask a question.  And, of course, if I allow one child to do this, then there will be three or four more children who would like to do the same.  And that rabbit hole will take us down somewhere other than where the lesson should go!

This system also solves the problem of tattling during lessons as well.  If something important happens, they will not forget to tell you at the end of the lesson.  If it was not very important, they likely will forget by then.

The Tattling Song from our Music for Classroom Management Collection is available on our Video Streaming Site.

Always remember:  Just because a hand is raised does not mean that you need to call on a child.  

2. Make sure kids know the best time to use the restroom.  

Of course, there are a lot of variables here. Depending on how your classroom is set up, you may have a bathroom that is easily accessible, and maybe quick bathroom trips aren’t a big deal! However, this is not always the case, and sometimes, a child heading to the restroom can be a distraction to everyone.

I tell my TKs (pre-k here in California) that I expect them to use the restroom before school starts and at recess if possible.  I tell parents the same thing at the beginning of the year and ask them to take their children to the toilet RIGHT before dropping them off!  And sometimes, we still experience restroom troubles, which is to be expected with young children. You should always allow a child to use the restroom when needed, but I find that a quick signal (see more about this below) or even a whisper to the child asking minimizes this. Ideally, your lessons are engaging and quick-paced, so students aren’t even thinking about the restroom. I also like to remind my repeat offenders during recess or any other unstructured time you deem appropriate that using the restroom now is a good idea! This might cut down on interruptions later on during direct instruction.


These are the lyrics from “The Potty Dance” on HeidiSongs Classroom Management Video Collection.
A child that really needs to go usually does “the potty dance” and is visibly squirming, etc. And sometimes so much so that they have been avoiding using the potty because they are having so much fun in class! It is important to reinforce physical cues for using the restroom, which helps both sides. Your frequent fliers identify when they REALLY have to go, not just when they feel bored. It also helps your kiddos who wait until the last minute to feel in their body when it’s time to go.

3. Establish some non-verbal “secret signals.”

I’ve always used the secret signal of one finger up to ask to go to the bathroom, two fingers up for a tissue, three to get a drink, and four to put away or get a jacket.  This way, you can always give permission for any of those things (if you wish) silently, without ever missing a beat in your lesson.  Most of the time, I found that by giving permission with eye contact and a simple nod of my head, usually the rest of the kids never even noticed that another child was just given permission to do something, such as go to the restroom or get a drink.  This solves the problem of others wanting to do the same just because they see that one child was given permission.



4. Suggestions for Constant Blurters

Most classes have rules about raising your hand before speaking; that’s not new. But when children forget, what can you do?

Over the years, my most constant, continual blurters and interrupters all responded to incentives for remembering to either raise a hand or be quiet for a small, set amount of time. If they really struggled with this, we kept track of it using this behavior form I created, which went home and back daily. I’ll attach a copy of the behavior contract for you here.



The best way to break the cycle of the constant blurter is to reward a child for raising a hand or being quiet for a set amount of time. (Example:  the child would have to be quiet or raise a hand -and wait to be called on- for ten minutes until a timer goes off.)  If the child blurts out something without permission, you simply say, “No.  No interrupting.  Try again; you can do it!  Let’s restart your timer.”  There is no penalty other than the child having to restart the timer.  If the child blurts out again, you can remind them of the reward.

And speaking of rewards, I used to let a child put a chip into a jar every time he was good for a set amount of time.  At the end of the day, he earned a prize if he had a certain amount of chips!  The prize was provided by his parents.



Now, the kicker of this method is that you must be able to tolerate a timer constantly going off.  I started this one year with a child who simply didn’t respond to anything else, and it really worked!  A few years ago, I tried it again, and it came in handy, but I needed it for TWO kids at once!  It was challenging to manage with two kids simultaneously, for sure. I have never tried it with three at once, and I hope I never need to!  But the timer going off continuously for one severe discipline problem is tolerable, provided that it makes a difference.

Here’s the Interrupting Song from Music for Classroom Management!

Dealing with Discipline Problems Mid-Lesson

Children act up during lessons more than any other time.  Unfortunately, when children are unengaged in a lesson, they become creative in finding ways to entertain themselves.  And kids are now used to a LOT of exciting stimuli in the form of computer games, television, tablets, etc.  Sadly, this leaves teachers in the unfortunate position of needing to put on “a show” to capture the attention of their little students.

To handle this situation proactively, be sure you are ready for each lesson and do not have to leave your students to find supplies, etc.  Also, be sure to tell children WHY it is important that they learn a new skill.  Relate it to their life so that it is meaningful to them!  Involve them in the lesson as much as possible, and be sure to include MOVEMENT in your lesson, whether through music or something else.  Giving children permission and a reason to move during a lesson can solve a LOT of problems before they even start!

Your students may still present discipline problems during lessons despite any proactive efforts.  If this happens predictably during a specific lesson that the child seems to dislike (such as every day during phonemic awareness exercises, etc.), do NOT stop the lesson for more than a moment when the child misbehaves, or you will reinforce that behavior!  Stop briefly and put the child in time out, tell him or her you’ll talk about it later, and then proceed.



Sometimes, in cases like this, I have the child do the part he or she “missed” with me one-on-one during playtime.  This is usually a very effective deterrent for the child to repeat that behavior!  Remember, most behavior has a function or purpose.  If you can figure out the purpose and work on fulfilling or solving that problem, you are more than halfway there to solving your discipline problem!

For more information on Behavior Functions (or the underlying purposes or motivations for a child’s behavior), click here. Also known as QABF, these Questions About Behavior Functions can help you figure out WHY a child is doing something and help you solve the underlying issue that is causing the problem.  If you search for QABF, you’ll find much more information!

I hope this helped! Check out my post here for more classroom management and behavior blogs, tips, or ideas.




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