Teaching Students to IGNORE

Categories: Interventions

There are some words that are ridiculously important to teach your students the meaning of. And one of those words may really surprise you. If my students didn’t know the meaning of this word, we would have a ton more disruptive behaviors and many of my behavior plans wouldn’t work as well. I really caught you’re attention, haven’t I? That would is ignore and if you can teach your students the skill or ignoring you are on the track to successful behavior management!


Why is ignoring so important?

Attention behaviors can pop up in a classroom like flip flops on the first day of warm weather. So many inappropriate and disruptive behaviors that our kids engage in are to get attention. And while you are doing you due diligence good-teacher mood and making sure you are teaching your students appropriate and prosocial replacement behaviors you also will want to ensure that the negative behaviors no longer result in attention. Sounds simple enough but when you have a class filled with eager attention-givers (ie. your other students), it won’t be so easy of a task.

This intervention is called planned ignoring and can be an effective method of decreasing inappropriate responses. The key to the success of this intervention is consistency. Many behaviors are done to get attention from peers. So you want to ensure as much as possible that the consistency of the intervention reaches all areas including peers.

Use modeling, role playing, reinforcement, and direct instruction to teach the skill of ignoring. My students LOVE role playing with this concept. One person pretends to have a “bad” behavior and we all practice ignoring. They find it absolutely hilarious. When it comes time to really ignore a behavior, prompt your students. This is also a good way to cue to your student with the behavior that his responses right now are not okay. Say, “If you scream out the a bad word, we are going to ignore you.” Provide subtle praise for the students who are ignoring. Avoid making a big scene out of the “ignoring” because that way the student will end up with ton of attention anyways. After the lesson or group activity, provide direct praise to every student who successfully ignored! Soon your student who is being disruptive will learn that attention will not come from his negative  behaviors but only from the replacement behavior you are teaching him!


Ignoring a behavior will not work without teaching a replacement behavior! Read more here!


  1. I love this idea and is super excited to try it. One other issue I have is teaching my assistant to ignore disruptive behaviors with out coming across as being a mean person. I know she means well but if she would just ignore the small issues I feel like the problem would go away. What can I say to her with out hurting her feelings to get her to stop sweating the small stuff ?

  2. I know exactly what you mean. Would roll out a “new” plan and list out exactly what to ignore and not ignore. Whenever I have a specific staff issue like that, I try to make a team plan that we all start following and I take ownership of some of the issues too ie. “I noticed I keep telling him to be quiet when he shouts and it seems to be making it worse so I am going to try to ignore those” I am a bit non confrontational so it helps me feel better about the discussion but going about it like that. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  3. I feel like I need to be better with my “team plans” and my communication with my paras – I tend to not want to make things confrontational either…sometimes I find it difficult

  4. Being a manager is SO HARD! And it’s such a major part of our job. Sometimes making it a team approach makes it less confrontational.


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