Friday, March 23, 2012

Year 2: Week 27 – Stop Talking

One of the most challenging parts of classroom management is to get kids to quiet down. It’s something I struggle with every day and an issue that is present even with experienced master teachers.

Part of dealing with this students talking in class is understanding that developing minds before and after puberty do not have full control over their impulses. I expect that students will talk out of turn in my class to some degree. I call them out on how they are rude, but I still expect it to happen because they are kids and they are learning how control themselves.

One thing you have to think about is your priorities. Getting a class to be completely silent isn’t really that hard. You let them get out their cell phones or ipods and tell them be quiet or they will be punished. Chances are you may have to quiet some kids down but kids will happily sit in silence if they are entertained. In this situation none of the kids are actually engaged in learning anything, so what’s the point?

A teacher who can keep a classroom absolutely quiet is nothing to admire. It’s doesn’t take any real skill to scream at kids into submission or threaten them with punishments when they talk to keep them quiet. But I don’t think classes should be out of control either.

I like a classroom with energy. I love it when a teacher asks a question and a kid is so excited to offer and idea they blurt out. Yes, they need to learn how not to do that, but it’s a sign that the student feel like they are in a safe learning environment. While I enjoy this, this can easily get out of control so how do you strike that balance between energy and submission?

Here’s a couple ideas that I keep in mind:
  • Don’t quiet a class down unless you have something significant and important to say to your class. While your class is chatting, get your thoughts together and then quiet them down and then speak. If what you say actually means something to them, the next time you quiet down they will simmer down faster. However, if you don’t have anything for them, they really need to hear, it’s going to be a constant struggle to keep their attention.
  • Be consistent: I often see teachers be very inconsistent with their standards. The most common example I see is when a teacher insists everyone does not interrupt or speak out but provides positive feedback when certain students provide good answers but without waiting to be called on. This is not cool. Your need to have a student respond to your questions does not supersede basics of their behavior. A student interrupting with the right answer is being rude just like a student interrupting with a non sequitur.
  • Model: If you don’t want your kids to interrupt you, don’t interrupt them. You may think that you don’t but you may. Video tape yourself teaching and see if you are responding to your student when they speak the way that you want them to respond to you. This is important, students can smell hypocrisy a mile away.
  • Most importantly, figure out why you're students are talking.  Really think about it.  Student talk in class because they are distracted, confused, dealing with emotional problems, feel discouraged because the class is too hard, feel bored because the work is too easy and a multitude of other reasons.  Most of these reasons can be dealt with through creative teacher and better planning.  
I'm not a master teacher, but I've found that by keeping those four points in mind, I've been able to keep my kids with me enough to enjoy teaching and working with my students.  There's no silver bullet to getting kids to stop talking but by treating your students as individuals and figuring out the why behind their misplaced words, you're halfway there.    

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