One of the most frustrating feelings that any teacher can experience is the hopelessness that comes when students are so busy talking that they don't pay attention to directions or work productively. Unfortunately, having a class that is excessively talkative is one of the most frequent complaints that many teachers--experienced and novice alike-- share. It is disheartening at best to plan a wonderful lesson that no student can stop talking long enough to become interested in.
The problem of the talkative class is also one that is amazingly uniform across all grade levels and subjects. Large classes, small classes, very young students and sophisticated seniors can all be so talkative that little learning can occur.
Luckily, there are a few easy approaches that can help students take charge of their own talking patterns and learn to work well with each other and with you. Try some of these to help control the talking in your classroom.
· Be emphatic with your students when you speak with them about this problem. You should make it very clear when it is okay for them to talk and when you want them to work silently. If you are clear in communicating your expectations to your students, they will not repeatedly test your tolerance.
· Avoid the sound-wave effect of a loud class time followed by a quiet one followed by a loud one again. Be consistent in the way you enforce the rules in your class about excessive talking. Teachers who aren’t consistent spend their time getting a class quiet, allowing the noise level to build to an intolerable level, and then getting the class quiet again in an endless and ineffective cycle.
· Sometimes you are the problem. When your students are working quietly and productively on an assignment, don’t keep talking to the class in general. When you repeatedly interrupt their work by distracting them with your own conversation, you make it harder for your students to work quietly.
· Begin every class with an activity that will focus your students’ attention on the work they will be doing. This focusing activity will help them make a transition from the casual chatting they may have done on the way to your class to the purposeful work that you want them to begin.
· Teach your students that they must be responsible for their talking if you do not want to spend all class period “shushing” them. Use positive peer pressure to help them monitor each other’s behavior so that your own monitoring efforts will be more effective.
· Direct their conversation if you have a group that likes to talk. Get them talking productively about the lesson. If you are successful at doing this, their need to interact with each other and your need to have them master the material will both be satisfied.
· Try to figure out why they are talking excessively so that you can turn this problem into an advantage. They may be talkative because they are excited, friendly, in need of more challenging work, unsure of the limits that you’ve set, or many other reasons.
· If your students tend to talk when they have finished an assignment and are waiting for others to finish, sequence your instruction so that there is always an overlapping activity for your students to begin right away.
· Sometimes when students are very excited, allow them to spend a minute or two talking about it to clear the air so that they can focus on their work. Be clear in setting time limits when you do this.
· Stay on your feet when your class has a problem with talking. Eye contact, proximity, and other nonverbal cues will help. Persistent and careful monitoring will encourage students to stay focused on their work rather than on conversation.
· During a movie or oral presentation when students may talk instead of listen, prevent this by giving them an activity to do. Students who are taking notes or filling out a worksheet will not have time for chatter.
· If the noise level is too loud, give students quiet activities that require they write or read independently. These assignments should be designed to interest them, not just keep the class busy.
· Shifting gears from one activity to another is difficult for many students. Make transition times as efficient as possible in your class to avoid this problem.
· If the entire class persists in having a problem with excessive talking, chart their behavior for them to see tangible evidence of it. Create a bar graph each day where you rank their success at managing their problem with talking on a scale of 1 to 10. Sometimes students are not aware of the severity of a problem until they can see it in a format such as this.
· Move students who talk too much away from each other. Placing one of them near where you spend most of your time will help your monitoring efforts.