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Trouble Controlling Chatter in Classroom

Question:

I teach 1st and 2nd grade (combined classes).  I am having trouble finding inventive ways to control the chatter while I (or a student) am trying to talk.  Please help!

Answer:

Following is an excerpt from our book Positive Discipline: A Teacher's A-Z Guide on Yakkers (we needed a Y topic).  My favorite suggestion for all classroom problems is to use class meetings to let the kids find solutions. They are good at it.  They are motivated to follow suggestions they help create, and they learn problem-solving skills.  Our book Positive Discipline in the Classroom focuses on class meetings.  You might even want to attend one of our two day workshops on this subject.  (Please check the workshop schedule.)

YAKKER/GABBER

DISCUSSION

Yakkers come in all age groups.  Sometimes we find them delightful. Effervescent, bubbly, and lively are words written on Megan's report card by teacher after teacher.  Megan possesses a healthy dollop of charm to divert her teachers from the fact she just plain talks all of the time.  She loves to talk and has lots to say about everything.

 

At other times we find the yakking Megans or the Mikes of this world annoying. Sometimes we become angry with them or are shocked when they seem to blurt out things at inappropriate times.  Problems occur when this potentially delightful way of being infringes on the needs of the situation-- another person is speaking or the schoolwork needs to get done.

 

Whether teachers see the yakker as enjoyable, irritating, or rude, it does not eliminate the fact that the "gift of gab" is a talent. Teachers can value this talent while guiding students with the "gift of gab" to use their aptitude in ways that enhance the learning in the classroom.

SUGGESTIONS

  1. Give the yakkers verbal jobs in the classroom.  Let them know you see that they have a gift and you have faith that they will use it in constructive ways during classtime.  It could be their job to introduce new students, make announcements, and to draw out students who don't talk very often.
  2. Set up a signal with the student.  You might agree to pull on your ear or put your hand on your heart when they are talking so much that it is interfering with the needs of the situation.  This is effective only when the students agrees in advance that a signal will be helpful to them.
  3. If you notice the student talking at an inappropriate time, wait, and watch before jumping in.  Students will often stop yakking when they notice you are waiting patiently.  It is even more effective if you explain to the class in advance that you intend to stop lessons until all students' attention is focused.
  4. Yakking students miss instructions.  Initiate a discussion saying that you noticed at both spelling and math that day they had not heard the instructions you gave.  Ask what, why and how questions to help them recognize the way their talking interferes with their ability to follow along with the class.   "What happens when you miss instructions?  What causes this to happen? How does it affect the teacher and other students?  What ideas do you have for solutions?"  This shifts responsibility for this behavior to them.
  5. Emotional honesty helps.  Remember to use the "I feel _____when________  and I wish___________" formula.  In the case of a talkative student it might sound like this;  "I feel frustrated when I repeat directions several times and I wish that I only had to give them once." (Notice that this example does not include a "you" statement.)  Keep the focus on your needs and observations and not in how to change or control the student's behavior.

PLANNING AHEAD TO PREVENT FUTURE PROBLEMS

  1. Students prefer to cooperate and to do what is in their own best interests.  But if you treat them disrespectfully they are willing to suffer great personal pain to show you that you can't boss them around.  Use the mistaken goal chart (see Hat Messages) to decipher why a child chooses to talk incessantly.  Is he seeking attention, displaying power, getting revenge or covering up anxiety over feeling inadequate?   Use the last column of the Mistaken Goal Chart for effective responses.
  2. Teach a talkative students how to control themselves instead of you trying to control them. Help them make a list of things that need to be done before they engage in the fun of conversation.  When talking is an interference ask them to check their lists to see what needs to be done.
  3. Help gabbers see the long range-results of  their behavior when it stretches the limits of appropriateness.  Ask them what happens when they miss instructions, what happens when they don't get their work done, and how others may feel if they don't have opportunities for equal air time.  Students need information and will listen when they are involved in the process by thinking through answers to questions asked in a friendly manner.  They tune out lectures.
  4. In a class meeting, set up a roleplay to show what happens when someone is talking continually during classtime.  This could be followed by brainstorming for suggestions to solve the problem.
  5. Develop a speech program and offer talkative students frequent opportunities to speak before the group.
  6. Encourage the loquacious students to run for student office where oratory skills and a willingness to speak in front of others are assets.

CLASS MEETING SOLUTION

Mr. Lindberg was continually irritated by students yakking during his lectures.  He decided to put this on the class meeting agenda.  During the class meeting, he explained how he felt and then he suggested that a roleplay might help everyone to understand his situation.  He asked for volunteers to play two students and one to play Mr. Lindberg.  He handed the student playing him a book and asked the student to pretend that he was giving a lecture on nouns.  The other students were asked to talk while the instruction was going on. 

After the roleplay, Mr. Lindberg processed the roleplay by asking the students involved what they were thinking, how they were feeling, and what they were deciding.  Once the processing was completed, Mr. Lindberg felt hopeful that his class understood his needs and would respond accordingly.

The students showed a noticeable sensitivity while he read his notes to the class the next day and contained their chatter. But the topic had not finished unfolding.  A few days later, one intrepid student hesitantly suggested to Mr. Lindberg that perhaps if he talked a bit less and allowed the kids to join in more it would be easier to sit quietly.

His mouth opened in surprise, but he quickly realized that his lengthy lectures were contributing to his problem. He also appreciated the fact that class meetings opened many eyes--and not necessarily just those of students.