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Kids love to talk. I love to talk. Most people I know enjoy communicating. It’s in our nature. But, where do we draw the line? How much talking can we allow without disrupting the productivity of our classrooms? And what can we do when our students are just talking way too much?
1. Start lessons with a focused but free discussion
Talking is learning and it is a teaching tool. Use it to your advantage! Start your lessons with a question and give students the time to discuss it. Make sure to listen in to what they are talking about. Then, I usually share out a few things I heard. Will you have students not talking about the question? Probably. But the more often you do this and the more supports you provide (vocabulary to use, sentence starters, partner talk expectations), the more students will be engaged.
2. Give directions from the same spot in the room each time
Admittedly, I am not the best at this. I will start to give students directions as I am putting Chromebooks away at the back of the room and I have to stop myself. I put down whatever I am doing and walk to the front to get their attention. You need to be in a spot visible to all students where they can all be looking at you. Tell them this is the spot I will be delivering instructions so I need your full attention. And practice what the room should sound like when you are doing so.
For more tips on getting students to follow directions, check out my blog post here.
3. Refuse to talk over students
This is tough because if you have a class that is talking non-stop, you might feel like you are wasting a lot of time waiting for them to quiet down before you speak. But, the more you continue to talk over them, the more they will continue to talk over you. Make it into a game: Time how long it takes them to get quiet when you are trying to command their attention. Then, each time after that, challenge them to beat the time. If they do, give them a couple minutes of free time to talk at the end of the lesson since they saved that time at the beginning.
4. Use calm down strategies before starting lessons–eyes closed, breathing techniques, counting breaths, visualizing
I love this video by Cassie Stephens for calming young children down in minutes. And I must not be alone since it has been viewed over 1 million times! The more you model and teach these strategies, the more students will start to use them independently when they recognize they need to chill.
Meditation techniques are wonderful classroom management tools.
5. Keep your lessons short
The rule of thumb is that students have the attention span equivalent to the number of years old they are. So, I teach 2nd grade therefore my students can focus for roughly 7-8 minutes. Keeping direct instruction short is crucial to the success of my lessons. Which leads me to my next tip…
6. Give frequent breaks
Taking breaks will increase productivity. A short recess every 1-2 hours would be ideal. Unfortunately many administrations are opposed to what is actually best practice for young children. But, we can still provide those mental breaks necessary. If you aren’t using GoNoodle, you need to start! Allow students to color, chat and use the restroom for 5 minutes after every hour of learning. You will see this investment return in their ability to focus. For more brain break ideas, check out this post from the Art of Education.
7. Explicitly teach and have reminders for talking expectations
Include lessons about the importance of controlling your voice and listening through books!
Books about talking, listening and calming down
Introduce voice levels, practice them and reinforce them. I love this FREE voice level poster by Leslie’s Locker.
8. Practice silence stamina
The other day, I picked up my class at music. Our music teacher said that my students talked the entire class. I wasn’t happy as negative reports were already becoming a trend and it was the 3rd week of school! After special, we always have snack time so I told my students it would be a “silent snack”. I set a timer for 5 minutes and explained that this was the consequence for talking for all of music class. They stayed silent! It was amazing and so soothing to my ear drums. Afterwards, we talked about how silence is necessary sometimes. They made it 5 whole minutes. I don’t think they have been silent for 5 whole minutes since school started. So, why not build on that? We will continue to practice silent stamina just like we do with reading and writing! Students really struggling to be silent? Meet them where they are at. Start with a minute! And celebrate ever small success along the way.
9. Shift your thinking
This is TOUGH. I used to want a quiet class all the time. Some years, your students talk more than other years. And as much as you want to control it, you might have to settle for managing it. I enjoy a quiet or even a soft buzz but there’s times I do need to let them get the chatter out. I try to step back and allow talking when it isn’t negatively impacting anything i.e. first thing in the morning, while they are putting their computers away, during a craftivity, at dismissal.
I hope these tips can help you manage the noise level in your classroom! For more behavior management, check out how I use whole class incentives to motivate positive behavior.