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Monday, December 18, 2017

Classroom Management Series: Strategies for a Chatty Class

Are you looking for some time-tested, evidence-based ways to enhance your classroom management?  Would you like to calm a chatty class without having to resort to threats or punishment?  Then my post on how to calm a chatty class is for you!

This is the second post in my Classroom Management Series.  If you missed it, be sure to check out the first post:
Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started

Classroom Management Series: Strategies for a Chatty Class

The To-Do List

Teach Students the Difference Between Class Discussions and Group Discussions
There's a time to talk, and there's a time to listen.  Students need to be explicitly taught what your expectations are for those times.  Just because a student "should know" the difference doesn't mean that they do.  My rule is that when I'm teaching the whole class, there is no talking until I tell them to turn and share with their group/partner.  When I'm talking, their only job is to listen.

Use the "Stand-in-the-Front-Quietly-Until-Everyone-Quiets-Down" Technique 
This can work wonders, especially if you've tried to ignore the talking in the past with poor results.  Positive peer pressure will often kick in when a few students realize you're waiting and begin to shush their counterparts.

Try a Visual Cue:  When Arms Go Up, Voices Go Down 
Teach students that when you raise your hand, you need them to be quiet. When they see you with your arm raised, they should also raise theirs, get quiet, and be ready to listen.

Try an Audible Cue:  Count Down
Start counting down from 5-4-3-2-1.  Once again, positive peer pressure should kick in once students realize you are counting.

Select a Period of Time During Which There is No Talking
It could be the first or last five minutes of class or while you are teaching the whole group.  This helps establish boundaries for when it is appropriate to talk and when students need to be listening.  As an added incentive to be quiet during this time, I play instrumental music if it's independent work time.  It helps set the tone as a "serious study time".

Once Students are Quiet, Thank Them for Being Respectful. 
Let them know you will always give them your whole attention, as they are worthy of respect.  This is part of relationship-building, and showing students respect goes a long way towards improving classroom behavior.

Start Whispering
I have found that if I lower my voice and speak in a quiet voice, students notice the difference much more quickly than if I raise my voice to try to talk over top of them.  When I was an elementary teacher, I used the "If you can hear my voice, clap once" strategy.  Now that I'm a secondary teacher, I say "If you can hear my voice, you should be encouraging those around you to SLANT".  As part of my beginning of the year practices, I teach students to:
Sit up
Lean in/Look interested
Ask question
Track the speaker

The Don't-Do List

Raise your voice to quiet students. 
You will get louder and they will get louder in response.  This is the opposite of what we're going for.

Allow Talking Across the Room Unless It's Class Discussion Time
I make sure to stop talking/teaching every time it happens because it quickly turns into a free-for-all.  Students need to raise their hand in my class and be called on before talking, so I simply stop the students who are talking across the room by reminding them that they need to stop and raise their hand before speaking. I also don't try to talk over top of them.  I just stop and look at them until I have their attention.

Closing Thoughts
Not all of these techniques will work for every class, so don't lose heart if you have to try a few of them out before you find one that works.

You might have to review these expectations often, especially after holiday breaks.

What works for you when it comes to quieting a chatty class?  I'd love to hear about it!

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