Do you have a chatty classroom?! It’s supposed to be quiet work time and the volume keeps growing and growing. But how do you stop it from happening in the first place? And what do you do when things start to get too loud? Here are a few ideas.
- Start out the year with class rules (and review after breaks)
Starting out the year with a class discussion of the rules and expectations is essential for a successful year. It helps set the tone from day one. Whatever you decide for rules is fine, just make sure you establish an expectation of how your room will function when it’s time to work. There will be times you need absolute silence (testing), and times when a whisper voice is appropriate. When you’re doing group work, a normal speaking voice is okay. Sometimes, there will be another expectation of the noise level. I like to use a noise meter during activities so students know what the expected speaking volume is (think traffic light, red = no talking, yellow = whisper noise, green = normal indoor voices). When the noise is too loud, you need to establish routines to get the class back on the track, keep reading for more ideas! Post your classroom rules on the wall as a visual reminder for kids to always refer to. This will ensure you set your classroom on track for the year. It’s also a good idea to review classroom rules and expectations after a long break so students can easily get back into the routine.
Hint: Here is a link to a FREE classroom noise meter, ready to print and go.
- Respect all the kids in your class
This one is a no brainer, we respect all of students…don’t we? We often THINK that we are treating all of our students the same, but we might be experiencing some implicit bias. Some bias towards the kids with good behavior, or away from the kids with poor behavior. These are biases within our subconscious that we really aren’t aware of, but can be. The more we recognize these biases, the better teachers we will become. There’s always that one kid just gets under your skin, won’t listen to you, takes more of your time than any other student in your class, and has behavior issues all the time. Spend more time building a working relationship with the kids who seem to need a little extra care and compassion. When kids know that you care about them, they are more apt to work for you and follow your class rules.
Hint: Interested in learning more about your own implicit biases? Check out this Harvard survey to learn more about yourself and your social preferences. Trust me, this is unique and will start to change the way you teach.
- Create a unique signal to get kids back on track
It’s inevitable that things will get out of hand, and that students will get more chatty than you’d like. In these times, it’s helpful to have a universal signal to get kids back on track. Something as simple as the quiet coyote signal that you hold up and kids do too silently reminds each other that it’s quiet work time. You can also use an auditory signal. When it’s work time and the noise level is too high, try clapping twice, then say, “Class, class”. Teach students to respond, “Yes, yes.” followed by silence, so they are ready to hear directions. This works great not only in noisy situations but it also works great on field trips!
- Allow kids movement breaks
Students need to wiggle and move so let them. I really believe that moving helps learning so give Brain Breaks and have students move then get back to work. When your group is super chatty, stop and have everyone stand up and do physical movements. Set a timer and do this for maybe 1 minute. Then it’s time to get back to work. Sometimes this breaks the cycle of chatting when they should be working.
- Accountability Charts
You can have each student keep track of their own behavior. You can say, “Time to evaluate”. Ask students to evaluate their behavior. Ask, “How are you doing? Are you working and doing the right thing? Is your voice level appropriate?” There are any many ways to implement this. You can just verbally ask students and they can self reflect on their behaviors. For some classes, this works great! Other classes might need a little more concrete visual. There are lots of different styles of accountability charts out there that work for each kid to keep track of their behavior throughout the day. If students need a little extra help in honestly evaluating their behavior, you can choose to sign off on their behavior chart.
Hint: Want to get started with behavior charts? Here is a link to some editable behavior charts, easy to customize to best fit your classroom!
- Allow socialization time throughout the day
It’s human nature to want to chat, and that’s okay at the appropriate times. So, make time to allow students to chat! This helps control unwanted chat during inappropriate times because they’ve already gotten it out. I like to allow time first thing during the day. This allows kids to talk to each other about what they did over the weekend, the exciting thing they did the previous night, or just to catch up with friends. I also like to set a timer so students know when chat time is over (see #12 for more info on the timer). I think building in time throughout the day for partner talk and small group talk is important during lessons. This allows appropriate socialization regarding the lessons at hand.
- Moving kids might not be the answer
Students who have big personalities and those who love to talk won’t necessarily be silenced just because you move them to a new location. Students don’t like to be separated from their peers and moving them might make the situation worse. Those students who are super chatty might need to have a simple behavior contract to help them monitor their chatting. Again, set a goal for the student that is meaningful.
- Class points
You can give class reward points for doing the right thing. I like to make my teacher life simple so I set up a simple T chart with C (for class) and R (for Mrs. Renz). If the expectation was followed, students earned a tally point, if not, I earned the tally point. At the end of the day students did the math to see how many points they earned and lost. Students subtracted their points from my points and the difference (reinforce the language of math) they equalled the points they got to keep. Add the day’s points to the class running point total and write it on the whiteboard. It was simple for me to implement and keep up with. We set a goal of 4 points earned per student. So if we had 24 students, when the class earned 4 x 24 = 96 points, students earned a class party. The party doesn’t have to be a huge party full of food and movies. It could be as simple as an extra 10-20 minute recess that day, getting to watch a 30 minute educational video, getting 30 minutes of silent reading time, etc.
- Provide activities for students who are fast finishers
Fend off chatting by making it clear what to do when the task at hand is finished. Make a list of choices and ask students to refer to the list if they forget.
Hint: Here is a link to a blog post I wrote, all about how to challenge your fast finishers.
- Have student leaders help monitor group behavior
Students monitor their own behavior when they are all working together, and best yet, your job gets easier! Set up an incentive program and have student groups earn points toward a goal. Better yet, have students help decide what the goal and rewards are going to be. Students can take turns being the group leader role.
- Use a noise meter
Giving students a visual helps them know the expectation. Maybe a student came in after the directions were given. If you’ve got a visual reminder posted or displayed of the noise level expectation, it sets everyone up for success. You can use a poster or an online reminder.
Hint: Use Bouncy Balls noise meter, it’s FREE, and allows you to change the theme, sensitivity, and provides reminders when it’s too noisy!!
Hint: Here’s another free noise meter
- Use a timer to count down quiet work time or socialization time
It really helps to give kids a set of rules and expectations for the time frame of noise levels. If you want your classroom silent, kids may get antsy about when they can talk again, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and hour? This can cause kids to start to whisper, and all of the sudden the noise level is at an unacceptable level. Set a timer. This visually shows kids how much longer they are expected to be quiet, whisper talking, etc. It helps set a concrete expectation, and kids have less anxiety and impulse to talk knowing when it is acceptable again.
Hint: Here is a link to a great set of classroom timers that you can pick with animation and audible alerts that kids love.
Remember, whatever you choose to do within your classroom, make sure it’s consistent. When you’re consistent, students will understand the expectations. Cheers to a quiet(er) classroom!