Behavior Management In the Classroom or Academic Instruction: What Comes First?

classroom management

A popular viewpoint among educators is that discipline must come before instruction. Because student disruptions create a ripple effect across a classroom, teachers often feel forced to immediately deal with every misbehavior, resulting in a significant loss of instructional time. Teachers report losing as much as 144 minutes of instructional time on average to classroom behavior management and behavioral disruptions every week, which is roughly three weeks of a school year.

Of course, simply correcting behaviors to keep students on-task does not mean students will be successful in mastering new learning. Teachers must plan for the reciprocal nature between effective instruction and classroom management. When too much of a teacher’s attention is focused on correcting students’ misbehavior, then instructional time suffers.

Some researchers have found that teachers using the lowest (< 33rd percentile) amounts of active supervision, engagement, and feedback have students that are 27% more likely to be off-task and 67% more likely to be disruptive (Gage, Scott,, 2018).

Classroom Behavior Technique: Identify Opportunities for Academic Success and Engagement.

Students who are primarily disruptive during academic activities are a cue for teachers that there is possibly an aspect of the learning activity that is too challenging or frustrating for the student. Most teachers understand that to tailor instruction to students’ needs, they must provide students with learning activities that are neither too difficult nor too easy.  Adapting the instructional strategies used in the lesson can significantly increase student’s success and rate of learning.

Instructional Design Can Become an Effective Classroom Behavior Management Strategy.

High-quality academic instruction has consistently proven to be an effective classroom for technique minimizing disruptions by reducing problem behavior and promoting student engagement. One of the most effective ways to do this is by “chunking” lesson instruction. 

Chunking instruction (or instructional scaffolding) helps keep students engaged and on-task by providing ample opportunities for distributed summarizing and practice and organizing lessons into manageable pieces of information or Learning Activities. These smaller chunks are more meaningful to students, as individuals can only hold so much information in their working memory, and too much information without time to process can interfere with learning. 

Creating a series of Learning Activities can also help reduce behavioral issues from students who are acting out in response to feeling overwhelmed, bored, or frustrated

“Chunking” with Distributed Summarizing

In addition “chunking ” should also occur within each Learning Activity, using Distributed Summarizing to create opportunities for students to frequently stop and process new learning. When students summarize, their confusions, misconceptions, or misunderstandings surface, and these can be addressed accordingly. This will help keep students engaged and motivated throughout the lesson, as well as move them beyond recall by asking that they represent knowledge and skills in their own words. 

Watch our Distributed Summarizing video for more information on why this top Research-Based Learning Strategy is a “must do” for every student and in every lesson. 

And to learn even more about how instructional design can become effective classroom management strategies, contact us, or visit our Lesson Planning resources.


Gage, Scott, Horn, and MacSuga-Gage (2018). The Relationship Between Teachers’ Implementation of Classroom Management Practices and Student Behavior in Elementary School. Volume: 43 issue: 2, page(s): 302-315. Issue published: February 1, 2018

Lindsey Hampton

During her 20+years as an educator, Lindsey served various grade levels and subject areas. For 8 years she led inclusive classrooms and taught advanced placement courses. Following her classroom years, Lindsey spent 10 years as an instructional coach, professional development specialist, and district administrator of new teacher induction. She has presented at numerous conferences, including the Florida Association of School Administrator Conference, the Tennessee Principals Association Conference, and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Today, she works directly with teachers and school leaders in the implementation of the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.


  1. Zoila.Lopez on June 16, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Very good, it is important to consider the amount of information the students can retain at a time and how focused they will be if we continue the lesson and don’t give opportunities to check for understanding. Chuncking is essential in any given lesson. The paractice of distributed sumarizing using pair share, should be done every single day so students benefit from each other.

  2. The Teacher Treasury on November 15, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    I agree! It is really important to consider the learners in creating a classroom management system because this will really be a huge factor if they will be able to follow instructions and coordinate with their classmates.

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