Any middle school teacher who has been in the classroom for more than a minute can tell they’ve had a chatty class. It’s inevitable.
There are two ways to handle a chatty class.
I used to yell and get frustrated. Sometimes, I would even ignore it and let it happen. Finally, I learned to manage it.
Managing a chatty classroom is a skill that any middle school teacher must learn. These seven tips will help cut the talking and use valuable class time to teach!
When you decide how to implement and communicate structure, will help you cut down on the amount of unnecessary conversation going on in your classroom.
Being a teacher myself, I have found several ways to manage that chatty class. My students are not well behaved angels all the time. But I found strategies and tools that help me keep the talking to a minimum.
Here are SEVEN tips to help you get your sanity back!
1. GET THEIR ATTENTION AND SHOW THEM WHAT YOU EXPECT.
This may sound simple, but tell them how you’ll get their attention. I raise my hand and say, “I need your help.” Will you use a doorbell? Will you use a countdown? Tell them. Then, and this is the magic key, show them what to do! What does giving you their attention look like and sound like? I expect kids to turn, face me, stop talking, and put one hand up also. I tell them and we practice. Over and over and over.
Gently correct students who do not follow the procedure. If a certain student is resistant to following the procedure, talk with them to reset expectations. If that doesn’t work, call home.
2. MAKE A SEATING CHART
First, if you can put your students in rows, do it! When they’re not facing each other, they’re less likely to talk. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but it’s more inconvenient. Then put those guys in a seating chart. Tell them where to sit. You can fix this tomorrow. This is your classroom and you set the boundaries. Seating charts are a necessary tool in my classroom to manage unnecessary chatting.
There is a little bit of strategy to this. Try placing your biggest talkers in the front where you can keep an eye on them, and then try putting them in the back so they’re not tempted to turn around and talk to other people. There will not be one right answer, but keep switching it up.
3. BUILD TALKING INTO THE ROUTINE
No matter how hard you try, they will talk. Your students are social and would much rather be talking to a friend than listening to you. So build it in! Stations and movement are one of my favorite ways to do this.
Use Stations For Regular Tasks
Can you break down a worksheet into four stations and have students answer three questions at each station? What about having them fill in different sections of notes at a different station? I’ve put students in concentric circles where they work on a task with the person across from them. They move one seat over every couple minutes to work with a new person.
Listening is important too
This is not to say that they should never listen. There is always a time and place for listening. If my students have to do a lot of listening or working independently in one day, I try my best to build in an activity where they have the freedom to talk in the next day or two. They know they’ll get a chance to talk soon, even if they don’t get to today.
Reward students for doing the right thing! You can pit classes against each other by giving them tally points for following classroom procedures (that includes quieting down when you ask for their attention). At the end of the week, tally the points and reward that class. Maybe it’s 10 minutes of free time that next Monday. It could be candy… whatever it is, make sure your students want to win it. If you’re struggling with one class in particular, you can do a teacher vs. student version of this as well.
Josie from Maniacs in the Middle uses this idea in what she calls Jolly Rancher Wars!
5. BE CONSISTENT AND FOLLOW THROUGH.
There are going to be kids who talk without being distracting. Allowing them to continue sets a bad precedent for your expectations moving forward. When someone is talking inappropriately, tell them what the expectation is for that moment and redirect them. If you give them a second warning, tell them the consequences.
Being consistent might sound like this
This sounds a lot like, “I’ve already asked you to stop talking. So the next time I ask you to stop, you’ll have to move seats. If we have to chat after that, I will call home after school. You can choose to stop now, or continue. It’s up to you.” When you address this consistently and follow through on what you say, it can be helpful to manage talking overall.
6. CONTACT THEIR PARENTS!
Leading from the last point… actually contact their parents! Parents are on your side and generally want to help. Additionally, following through will tell students you really mean what you say. I want them to know school and home are not separate, and they’re held accountable for what they do in my classroom. If you want to read up on tips for talking to parents (and get some free parent communication email templates), you can read my blog post here!
7. ASK YOUR ADMIN TO OBSERVE
I know this sounds scary. You might not believe me, but your “chatty class” may be one or two really chatty students. Admin can help identify where the problem is and how to handle it. Another set of eyes in your classroom will help you see what you’ve been blind to. Don’t dismiss their expertise! Invite them in!
BONUS. GIVE YOUR STUDENTS SOME GRACE!
If we’re being completely honest, our students literally would rather be doing anything else than sitting in our classroom. The last time I went to PD, I think I talked through the whole thing (I extend my sincerest apologies to the presenter). I did not want to be there, and what I did find interesting, I wanted to talk about! You will never have a perfect classroom. Manage what you can and embrace what you can’t. You’re still a good teacher.
Want to read more about teaching middle school? Read about the Ten Things No One Told You About Teaching Middle School!
For more ideas to teach middle school students, check out my Pinterest account!