I recently asked teachers on my Facebook page what their biggest classroom challenge was. At least half of the teachers responded that their biggest challenge was dealing with talkative students. I want to share my tips and strategies for dealing with a talkative class.
Let me start by saying, there is NOT a simple and immediate cure to the chatty class! There is not that one thing that you can do tomorrow that will instantly transform your classroom. If I am wrong, by all means, let me know!
That being said, I do think there are some things that you can do that will gradually change the chatty atmosphere in your classroom.
Don't Teach Over Student Talking
You deserve respect. You really do. When you just continue teaching while. students are talking, you are telling them that this behavior and disrespect are acceptable. On top of that, the students who are not talking and really want to hear your lesson are distracted and have trouble focusing. You aren't doing anyone any good by just ignoring the behavior.
Less Teacher Talk
I want you to really think about this question. Are you talking too much? Are you standing in front of the class and performing a monologue? If your teaching involves a lot of time standing in front of the class telling them what you need them to learn, then students are bound to get antsy and chatty! I know that this happens to me during some staff meetings! I just can't sit and be quiet for long periods of time. I want to interact. So do your students. Get them involved. Have students teach each other. Have students explain their strategies. Have students come up to the board. Have students work with partners.
Give Students Opportunities to Talk Regularly
This tip really goes along with the last one. If you give students regular opportunities to talk, they are much more likely to respect you when you take your turn to talk. I use Whole Brain Teaching Teach Okay. It is a form of a pair share. Students have been trained to teach their partner. When I call for a teach okay, students immediately turn to their partner and teach them. So I might say, "Teach your partner the strategy I used to solve this problem." I clap twice and call "Teach!" They clap back and call "Okay!" And then they turn and talk. I give my students opportunities to talk about their thinking about every 10 minutes. Giving them permission to talk has decreased their need to talk over me.
Keep Students Engaged and Moving
Often times, students are talking because they are bored. I don't consider a teacher's job to be a circus clown that entertains. However, I do know that engaged students are learning more than the bored student. Therefore, I go out of my way to create a classroom where students are moving, creating and laughing. If you need some ideas for increasing student engagement, check out the post below.
Have an Attention Getter and Practice the Procedure
You need an attention getter. Any attention getter will work as long as you have taken sufficient time to teach students the procedures and expectations. When they hear you call out, they should have a vocal response, but their bodies should also freeze. Their eyes should meet your eyes. If you don't practice this, then an attention getter just becomes something cutesy and ineffective. You may need to plan time to review the expectation every quarter. Also, don't be afraid to change the attention getter when it gets boring.
Change Up Your Positive Behavior Program
As the year goes on, don't be afraid to change your positive behavior program to keep it fresh and interesting for students. If you notice that students are no longer interested in clipping up your behavior chart, maybe it is time to try Class Dojo. If the marble jar is no longer motivating students, maybe it is time to implement brag tags. Have you tried the scoreboard from Whole Brain Teaching? Maybe a classroom economy is the answer.
Don't assume that you have tried everything! There is always something new and you have to be willing to experiment until you find that program that works for your class! It is essential that you are rewarding good behavior. Students are generally more motivated by positive reenforcement than they are by discipline. Be sure that you are thanking students who are quiet!
Be Firm and Fair With Discipline
It goes without saying that you need some form of a discipline program. Students need to know exactly what behaviors are punishable and what those punishments will be. Do some role playing with them! This makes it fun, but helps them to remember. Decide if students will receive a warning and what that warning will look like. Decide what happens after the warning and let students know ahead of time. Once you have explained the expectations, follow through every single time!!! At first, you will have more students who are being disciplined for talking. Just calmly and fairly do what you told them you would do. Yelling is not necessary. Within time, students will see that you were honest and that you are fair. Most students will chose to improve their behavior.
It may also be a good idea to warn parents. Let them know that classroom talking has become a problem. Tell them what your discipline procedure will be and warn them that there might be more clip downs or write ups during the next few weeks as students are learning the proper classroom behaviors. This might cut down on the worried parent emails and phone calls.
Noise Isn't the Enemy
I am very sensitive to noise. I just can't focus when it isn't quiet. It took me a long time to realize that all classroom noise is not bad noise. Take a step back and really reflect on whether your class is talkative in a disrespectful way or if the noise is just the sound of productivity. Are your students actively engaged and learning? In that case, maybe a little more noise than you are used to, is not a bad thing!