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Classroom Management Strategies to Control Talking

written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • edited by: Beth Taylor • updated: 1/5/2012

What does a teacher do when the class is chatting away? Are there strategies that help to eliminate all the chatter? What really works?

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    Multiple Answers

    There are multiple teacher strategies to control talking in the class. Each teacher has his or her own trick of the trade. Since there is no one way that works perfectly, then knowing several approaches to the problem helps create a peace-filled classroom.

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    Ground Rules

    The best course of action is to begin the year by setting the ground rules. Students, who know what to expect, what is wanted and what the consequences are, behave better.

    Decide on a signal that lets students know that the level of chatter is too high. Some examples of signals are:

    • shutting off the lights
    • running a hand through wind chimes
    • turning on or off music playing in the background
    • tipping a rain stick from end to end

    Allow students to use these signals when they become aware of the talking. This fosters leadership, as long as the same child is not the only one asking for the talking to stop.

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    Other Ideas

    Some other options that help keep talking to a minimum include:

    • Changing students seats - sometimes separating to chatters is all that needs to be done
    • Giving students extra work to do - crossword puzzles, Sudoko, books to read, etc.
    • Circulating the room during quiet work - sometimes the presence of the teacher beside a talker will stop the disturbances before they happen
    • Stop Talking - when the teacher stops talking, waiting for silence, students notice
    • Quiet Game - allow students to talk for 3-5 minutes, once time is up, students work silently - teacher times the length of their quiet work (Since this is a game, have a prize that students receive after they complete several periods of quiet work.)

    Note: Students often talk because they finish their work quickly or they are bored. Supply these students with a basket or area where they find extra credit work to complete. The result is a win/win solution.

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    Older Students

    Older students argue that they are not talking, when they obviously are. This makes the teacher wonder if they know how to communicate.

    One way to stop students' "non-talking" is to give them a list of what "not talking" means. Lief Danielson, from the English Teacher, gives a list of that has a proven track record. He advises that once the teacher posts the list, if there is talking, have the student offenders write the list inside the cover of their notebooks. According to Danielson, most students only need to do this once.

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    Speaking Out

    Students often speak out, sometimes overriding others who are talking. This habit is as disruptive as an elementary classroom of chattering students.

    To prevent this, set the stage before asking the class a question. For instance, make the statement that questions are about to be asked of the entire class. Tell the students that everyone's answers are important, only those who raise their hands without speaking will be called upon.

    This simple strategy works well, especially with middle and high school students. Remember positive reinforcement is best. Tell students that if everyone complies with raising their hand, at the end of class there will be a reward such as an extra day to study for an exam.

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    Consequences

    If students continue to talk, taking away something that is a luxury is the best consequence. Removing a privilege, such as recess, works when not abused. Also, it is necessary to be consistent. If the consequence is no recess for 10 minutes, don't get soft hearted after 5 minutes and allow the student to go to recess.

    Never humiliate a student. This only creates future difficulties as well as causes the student emotional trauma.

    Positive reinforcement is best, so rewarding students for remaining quiet during quiet time has a more positive effect on the class, especially if the reward is something the students really look forward to, such as extra recess or an ice cream party. For older students, reward them with extra time to do an assignment or passes for extra computer time or library time.

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    Last Resort

    If there is a student who disrupts the class with talking on a continual basis, and all other teacher strategies to control talking in class have failed, then calling their parents is in order. Parents are often hostile when told their child is a problem, so approaching the issue by first telling them something positive about their child creates a more positive platform for discussion. For instance, begin with a statement like, "Jeremy is doing great work in science. I enjoy his ability to apply himself to a task during our science units. However, Jeremy is a talker." This is much gentler than, "Jeremy disturbs the class with his talking. I want it stopped."

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    References:

    • Some content is from author's experience.
    • Inspiring Teachers: Tips, 2011 - http://www.inspiringteachers.com/classroom_resources/tips/classroom_management_and_discipline/student_talking.html
    • The English Teacher: Stop Excessive Talking - http://teacher2b.com/strategies/stoptalk.htm
    • Classroom Management 101:Students Talking Out of Turn, L. McIntye, 2007 - http://www.classroommanagement101.com/blog/students-talking-out-of-turn-and-how-to-stop-it

    Resources:

    • State College of Florida: College Classroom Management Strategies, 2010 - http://www.scf.edu/Academics/ArtsLetSocBehSci/LanguageLiterature/FacultyHandbook/FacultySuccessResources/StudentEngagement/TeachingTools/ClassroomManagement.asp