14th June 2013 at 01:00

The problem

How do you deal with students asking deliberately stupid questions to get attention from the class? For example, I had a student sit down for a French test and, after it had been explained that all the answers had to be in French, stick his hand up with a smirk on his face and ask, in front of the whole class, "Do we have to write in French, Miss?" He then looked round at his audience. I told him I was not going to answer the question, to which he replied that I had always told them to ask if they were stuck. At this point, the whole class fell about laughing and it took me five minutes to calm them down. This happens frequently in a couple of my classes. How should I prevent it?

What you said

This student thinks he has found a loophole in your behaviour policy, in that you can't tell him off for "just asking a question". He's wrong and you need to make clear to him that you consider this to be disruptive behaviour, just like any other. Call his bluff and punish him away from the attention of his friends - it won't seem nearly as funny.


At the start of my teaching career, I felt I had to answer every question because I had to help students, but now I quite often tell them to put their hands down, explaining that I'm not taking any more questions at that time. Obviously, this response is for when it's silly or disruptive students doing the asking. If it's low-ability students who may be genuinely stuck, I wait until everyone is getting on with the work and go to speak to them individually.


The expert view

Stay calm. Show them that the questions don't faze you in the slightest. Answer them if they're remotely sensible, then at some point say: "No more questions now" and mean it. If you have already explained something clearly then just drop a short sanction on them, instantly, because they should have been listening and focused. Once they see there's no sport - and plenty of pain - in the activity, they will stop soon enough.

Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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