Ah … those exciting (yet loud!) first days of school. Are you ready for them? Kids hurry to school with a summer’s worth of topics to discuss, vacation details to share, camp memories, and more. Before the chatter gets out of control and you pull out your earplugs, try these tips from NEA Member Benefits and our helpful teacher audience.
1. Establish ground rules.
At the beginning of the year, make sure students know the rules and routines of the classroom and expectations for their behavior. You’ve likely come up with the way you want your classroom to be run, so communicate that with your class from the get-go. These ideas for setting rules and routines are a great resource. Allow kids to get involved and even add their own list of classroom rules, too.
2. Give students a time to talk it out.
Sitting silently is no fun for anyone, especially little kids that have a lot on his or her mind. Designate a time when chatting is allowed and welcomed. “I like to offer free time every now and then at the end of lessons for students to chat if the class has behaved. I write the amount of free time on the board at the beginning of class and start subtracting every time they get too loud. Even five minutes is a good motivator.” —Morgan C. via Facebook
3. Use YOUR “inside voice.”
Sometimes the best way to make things quieter is to whisper. Students don’t want to miss instruction and feel lost, so if they can’t hear you, chances are they’ll stop the talking. “Lowering my voice helps, but I have to admit my knee jerk reaction is to get louder. I move closer to one of the most talkative students and lower my voice.” —Meg M. via Facebook.
4. Validate their concerns.
Students love to share (and often over-share) the goings-on of their lives. Whether it is about their family pet, their new baby brother or their upcoming birthday party, they want to be heard. Make them feel important and validated by listening to them, but also teach them there is a time for sharing. If it is in the middle of teaching time, tell them to save it until class is over and then allow them to share. Find more classroom management tips we love.
5. Keep disruptions under control.
When talking does get out of hand, have a game plan. Avoid power struggles and find ways that work for you and your specific group of kids. These classroom management techniques from fellow educators are extremely helpful.
6. Consistency is key.
From the very first day, students need a roadmap for navigating the classroom. Post daily activities and procedures prominently so they know what they need to do from the moment they come into the classroom until the last bell. If they are chatting instead of getting their tasks done, calmly remind them of the classroom procedures that you’ve posted. These strategies for a strong start to the school year will ensure a blissful first few days.
7. Encourage sharing—in a productive way.
If students are struggling to stay quiet, find a way to make it productive.
“Do a game or activity that requires them to talk to each other about a certain topic or lesson. Keep each kid in the group accountable by giving them roles such as writer, reporter (to the class), speakers within the group, etc.” –Megan M. via Facebook
“Turn it into a writing assignment. Use ‘what they did for summer break’ as the topic.” —Diane C. via Facebook
8. Change your perspective.
Often, it’s not exactly the chatter that is the problem, but the disruptions. If you are struggling with chatter, but it isn’t exactly detrimental to your classroom management plan, change your perspective. “I once had a class that was so chatty, nothing I did would curb the talking. I realized that they were still getting their work done and doing it well, so I changed my perspective on chatter: if they didn’t get loud and were still getting their work done well, I didn’t care. While exhausting to listen to all day, it truly made everyone happier.” —Elise M. via Facebook
9. Allow them to go off topic…sometimes.
Every so often a topic might come up that’s worthy of switching up your daily agenda. For example, maybe there was a recent classroom assembly or news story that is relevant to their lives and learning. Take a few moments in class to have a healthy discussion about it. This way, they can get all their thoughts out at that time and won’t be chatting about it during your math lesson.
10. Stay positive!
It’s a fact…kids will respond better to positive reinforcement. We love these techniques of positively curbing classroom chatter. One teacher hands out tickets to the students that were quiet and listening. Before she knew it, she had a classroom of students that limited their chatter. Sometimes just a small token, a piece of candy or extra recess is all they need to keep their lips zipped.
Here’s to the start of a happy and chatter-free school year!