Let’s talk about a common challenge: managing a chatty class. We all know kids love to talk, and as educators, we enjoy communicating too. But how can we balance encouraging conversation and maintaining a productive classroom? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back! Here are 9 amazing tips for effectively managing a talkative class. Let’s dive in!
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 allow students to discuss it. Make sure to listen to what they are talking about. Then, I usually share 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 support 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 giving students directions as I am putting Chromebooks away at the back of the room and have to stop myself. I put down whatever I am doing and walk to the front to get their attention. It is best if you can be in a spot visible to all students where they can all be looking at you. Tell them this is where I will deliver 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 this blog post.
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 of 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
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!
Here are a few other simple ideas:
- close your eyes
- take 3 deep breaths
- count breaths for 1 minute
- play calming music
The more you model and teach these strategies, the more students will start to use them independently when they recognize they need to chill.
5. Keep your lessons short
The rule of thumb is that students have an 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. Even if my lesson needs to be longer than 8 minutes, I try to include movement, chants, or just a change of method so that I do not lose students with monotony.
Keeping direct instruction short is crucial to the success of my lessons. This 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. You can schedule these into your day or include them on an as-needed basis. A good rule of thumb is a short break after every full hour of learning.
Here are a few ideas:
- If you aren’t using GoNoodle, you need to start!
- I love these Would You Rather? Exercise Videos
- Whole class restroom break
- Digital Memory Games (try one for free!)
- Allow 5 minutes of chatting or coloring
- Directed Drawing
7. Explicitly teach and have reminders for talking expectations
Introduce voice levels, practice them, and reinforce them. I love this FREE voice-level poster by Leslie’s Locker. Include lessons about the importance of controlling your voice and listening through books! Check out these books about talking, listening, and calming down:
- Lacy Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne Jones
- Decibella and her 6 Inch Voice by Julia Cook
- My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook
- Teach You Dragon to Follow Instructions by Steve Herman
- Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow
- Belly Breathe by Leslie Kimmelman
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 during music class. They stayed silent! It was amazing and so soothing to my ear drums. Afterward, 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! Are students really struggling to be silent? Meet them where they are at. Start with a minute! And celebrate every small success along the way.
9. Shift your thinking
Ultimately, there are times we do need to let them get the chatter out. 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. A quiet or even a soft buzz can be productive. 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, or at dismissal.
I hope these tips can help you manage your chatty classroom! For more behavior management, check out how I use class incentives to motivate positive behavior.