Working with an Angry Student

Do you have a student who can't seem to get anything done because of anger or frustration? This post has 5 ideas for helping that student to cope and participate in class. #5 worked really well for me!
From time to time it is going to happen. When you work with tiny humans, or large ones for that matter, invariably there will be a point when someone becomes angry. This is especially apparent when student hormones are a-raging as they tend to be in school. Whether it is one student that is angry a lot of the time or a sweet student that lost their cool, here are five ideas for how to help them cope and be successful in the classroom.


Consequence seems to be a dirty word lately, but it doesn't need to be. Consequences should be natural to the situation that led to them. I have found that the best format is to use "If, Then" statements. For example, "If you do not turn in your homework on its due date, then you will not be able to participate in today's free choice time." 

These "If, Then" statements put the ball in the student's court and allow them to think about what the effect of their current actions might be when their anger may cause them to be somewhat short sighted. 

Cool Down

A cool down spot or strategy should be a pre-established routine. 

For a cool down spot, make sure that the selected area is safe, but in full view of the teacher. Try your best to keep the student in the classroom where you can keep your eye on them, and resist sending them into the hall. If a student has reached a point where they need some privacy in order to get themselves back on level work with other your coworkers, such as the school nurse, counselor, or librarian to ensure that the student has a safe place with adult supervision. 

Some strategies that I have used with students in the past that work wonders for cooling down are ripping paper from the recycling bin, blowing on a feather, a movement spot where they can run in place or flail a bit, a small space where they can be alone (while still under adult supervision), or a glitter jar. This of course isn't an exhaustive list, and each student needs something different to help themselves back to normalcy. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box and try something new. 

I Statements

Sometimes students, or any of us, get wrapped up in the little thing that is bothering us and kind of spiral out of control. A gentle reminder through an I statement can be just the thing to bring a student's feet back to the ground.

The trick to an I statement is to show the student how their behavior is affecting others, especially their ability to learn. For example, "I am having a hard time concentrating while that noise from kicking your desk is interrupting me."

It is okay to put a little bit of emotion into an I statement, but do not get overly emotional. You want to remain as calm as possible. 

Table the Matter

If there is a specific trigger that is causing your student to be upset or angry then move on and table the matter temporarily. You can simply ask the student to pick a time to talk to you about their troubles later, but that now is not the time. This does not always work, but it does with a great deal of students, because you are sending the message that you want to hear what is wrong, but that there is business to attend to now. 

The trick to this one is making sure that you hear your student out at the time they have chosen. It may not always be convenient, but your student needs to trust that you will hear what they have to say. 

Imagine and Explain

Do you have a student who can't seem to get anything done because of anger or frustration? This post has 5 ideas for helping that student to cope and participate in class. #5 worked really well for me!This strategy works particularly well when it comes to students feeling that a situation isn't fair. It might sound a little something like this,"I don't like it when I have to stop what I am doing to clean up, but could you imagine if we only did recess all day? Then we wouldn't learn anything new!" 

This is a strategy to make students think about the situation and possibly re-evaluate their viewpoint. It works especially well for students that get caught up in what they are doing and don't think about the big picture.

Wrapping Up

At the end of the day it is important to remember that when a student is angry it is our responsibility to help them work their way out of it and teach them coping mechanisms that will help them for the rest of their lives. 

Do you have a strategy for helping a student who is angry? Let me know in the comments!

Want to Know More?

Check out these books (affiliate links)  for more information on working with angry students.

For More Classroom Managements Ideas Follow My Smart Classroom Management Board on Pinterest!

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