follow this link for the second part of the article: Chatty Kids In Middle School, Part II

  1. (of a person) fond of talking in an easy, informal way.
  2. synonyms: talkative, communicative, expansive, unreserved, gossipy, gossiping, garrulous, loquacious, voluble, verbose; 
(of a conversation, letter, etc.) informal and lively.

The word, "DISCOURSE" is being thrown around a lot in education nowadays and teachers are being told; "Let the kids talk!" In my middle school classroom, the kids are generally allowed to converse with each other while they are working on their art projects or during small group discussions. It is one of the things that makes my job so interesting - it can be pretty entertaining to hear some of the things the kids say! 

However, kids can get a little too chatty, a little too loud, and a little too off-task. 
Talking seems like such a minor issue. However, if kids are talking over each other and the teacher they are not learning. The students' right to learn is sacred and should be protected! In my classroom, the number one rule is to "Be respectful." It is not respectful for students to talk while the teacher is talking, period. 

So, how do you teach the kids to control their impulse to converse at inappropriate times? 

How do you get the chattiness under control? 

Below are listed some strategies that I have found useful for the beginning, middle, and end of class. Believe me, I have had my fair share of chatty groups! Also, keep in mind that kids can pick up on your emotions and attitude very easily - if you attempt to manage them with any kind of negativity they WILL rebel, guaranteed. Stay pleasant, smile and laugh a lot, and let them know you care too much about them to allow them to misbehave. 

If you haven't tried any of these strategies before, be careful not to do too many different things all at once. You and the kids need time to practice and adjust. Also, if your principal disapproves of any of these strategies, DO NOT go against your school or district policy! 


1. LINE UP AT THE DOOR: the kids line up outside your door before the
bell rings. Greet them with a smile, but don't let them in the room until they are calm. If I see a couple of kids being really silly and giggling or if they are horse-playing in line, I gesture for them to stand over on the other side of the hall (separating them from the group). This usually gets their attention immediately and they sober up. 

2. WARM-UP: have a bell-ringer activity for the kids to do as soon as they sit down. This will help if the kids have a job to do instead of having time to just talk while they are waiting for the lesson to start. It also gives you a chance to check the seating chart for absences and document attendance.
In my classroom, I have been known to take this a step further (some years) and allow absolutely no talking the first 5 minutes of class. If a student chooses to talk, s/he will repeat the procedure of entering the room. Then, after we have practiced the routine for a few weeks, I give them a "ticket" as a consequence, especially if there are a lot of kids who are choosing to have conversations instead of working on the bell-ringer. 

Editor's note: This year I allow the kids to talk when they enter the room because the vast majority of kids are very respectful and will settle down when I ask them to. For especially difficult times of year, I may hold them in the hallway until they are peaceful and quiet before allowing them to enter. 

                                        STRATEGIES FOR THE LESSON:

1.  FRAME YOUR DIRECTIONS at the beginning of any segment of your lesson so that the kids understand when they can talk and when they can't:
Say, "Remember to raise your hand and wait for me to call on you before you speak during the whole group discussion. We can't hear anyone if everyone is talking - please be respectful of the speaker. When you get started on your paintings today you may talk to your friends as long as you are working, but not right now."
There may be times that you want them all to speak, such as reviewing for a test or going over answers to a study guide. I will say, "If you know the answer to this question, just say it - you don't need to raise your hand first."
The important thing is that you tell the kids what is expected during that part of the lesson, then hold them accountable for it. Make the invisible visible!

2. NOTICE THE POSITIVE things more than negative things - kids love attention, and they will act up more if you pay more attention to misbehavior. Don't misunderstand me, I am absolutely NOT saying to ignore misbehavior. Simply put, spend more time showing the kids that you are paying attention to their good behavior. 

3. NAMES ON THE BOARD: During the lesson, if kids call out comments without raising their hands and waiting for permission to speak, write their names on the board. If the student does it again, put a check mark next to his/her name. You can also carry a clipboard or post-it note to write names on if you are not teaching at the board. In order for this strategy to work, you have to be VERY observant of the students. Don't take your eyes off of them! There is power in this because you are documenting specific names and the kids know it. The "name on the board" serves as a warning. The students see this and know (because you have taught them) that if they don't get their behavior under control there will be a consequence.

4. SEPARATE THEM: If a student continues to talk even after being warned, (perhaps after you have put a check-mark by their name) separate him or her from the group. You can put the kid at a different table, put him or her at a specific table in the room reserved for this purpose (I like to call mine the isolation table), or tell the student to go to the hallway. (Make sure this is okay with administration and that you can still see the student in the hall.) This seems like it isn't a big deal to us, but to a middle school kid, isolation is not pleasant. It is also uncomfortable for the student to have to get up and move to another table. They do not want their friends to see them separated out! Also, if one of my students is assigned to the "isolation table," s/he completes the "Think Sheet" instead of the art project. 

Finally, if a student is especially disrespectful, argumentative, or chooses to break more rules AFTER s/he was separated out, the student receives a discipline assignment to complete at home (with a parent signature). After that, I will refer the student to the principal if s/he continues to misbehave. 

5. TEACHER PROXIMITY to the students is very important to curb misbehavior, whether it is side-talking or horseplay. If you are moving around the room while you teach, it encourages the kids to behave. Observe the kids while you are teaching, too, don't just focus all your attention on your demonstration. How are they responding? Are they interested? Are they following along? Where are their eyes? Are they looking at you or the table? 

6. "A" "R" "T": A wonderful whole-class system to manage both talking and off-task behavior is the A-R-T idea. You can find more information on our page entitled, "NOISE." 

image used with permission from theteachingpalette.com


1. GET THEIR ATTENTION! Transitions can be one of the toughest times to do this, and counting down is my favorite strategy. I will hold up 5 fingers and say, "Five, Four, Three, Two, One!" The best classes will get quiet immediately, and with more challenging classes sometimes I will have to wait even after counting all the way to "one" (and then issue warnings to students who insist on continuing to talk). Other ideas for attention "getters" include using a bell or turning on music for transitions. Also, Michael Linsin says to simply say; "May I have your attention."  

2. WAIT until you have their attention and they are QUIET before giving any clean-up directions. I have made the mistake many times of talking while the kids are still talking, and every time I have to repeat the directions for those kids. Also, I will call my weekly Art Aides over and explain to them what their job is for the day before I give directions to the whole class. 

Finally, I highly recommend these wonderful articles by Michael Linsin, educator and author of www.smartclassroommanagement.com:

Also, Jessica Balsley has a terrific article on her website, www.theartofed.com

Essential Tips to Help Your Students Enter the Classroom Quietly

This article was written by Mrs. Anna Nichols
The pictures used are 8th grade comedy/tragedy ceramic masks in the style of Ancient Greece.


Lauren Fowler said...

Chatty kids, never...right?
I do the one two three. One stop talking, two look at me, three listen, most times this works, or I use this next strategy in the middle of class. Once quiet, then they get whole class warning. Never speak out above them, they just won't listen...or at least mine won't.

For the end of class:I have borrowed from my kindergarten teachers, in that they have a clap they do, the class then repeats it. I modify this, and make it harder, sometimes changing it from one beat to another, they love trying to get it right. This gets them to focus and free up their hands, now clean up... easy!


Thank you, Lauren, for reminding me of the clap system. I had forgotten about that one and it is a GREAT attention-getter!

Kristin Bloodworth said...

Our principal would like us to get away from hand-raising, and call on students randomly.
I used to do A-R-T, with silent art as the final punishment. Now if I find it annoyingly loud, I just call for silent art, 10-15 min., so we can hear ourselves think and get some work done. Not a punishment. There are students who tell me, “thank-you!”
When students get too chatty in a whole-class discussion, I go to think-pair-share. Give them a question to discuss with the person next to them for a set time, a minute or two. Then ask if anything came out of those discussions that is really interesting to share with the whole class.


Hi, Kristin!
You made a great point about having a period of silent work simply because many times it is conducive to success! It definitely doesn't have to be a "punishment."
Thank you for bringing up some highly relevant ideas!