Chatty Kids In MIddle School, Part I

When it seems like nothing is working, as if no matter what you do the kids are still talking way too much, remember that it takes time to train and teach the kids your expectations. 

If you try a new strategy, like carrying a clipboard around with you (writing down names of kids who are talking out of turn) or writing their names on the board, they may only be quiet for 10 or 15 minutes and then it seems like the strategy failed when they get loud again. 

This is what happens (in my experience):

1. The kids immediately get quiet when names go on the board. There is a hush in the room. They look down at their work (instead of at each other) and realize that, yes, the teacher is holding them accountable. They are thinking about their own behavior! This may last for 10 seconds, 2 minutes or 15 minutes.

2. Then, a few kids, the ones who are either gifted with strong leadership traits or are extremely insecure, afraid, or angry, will try to test you. Sometimes kids will push you to show off to their friends, too; they want to prove their power. 

3. At this point you have 2 choices - follow your plan (continue writing names on the board/clipboard and separating the kids), or ignore it.

 What should you do when the kids test you? 
Whatever you do,
When the kids see that you WILL NOT BACK DOWN, that you will continue holding them accountable no matter how nasty they get (and some can *really ruin your day), THEN you will see a permanent change come over your groups. 

It will not happen in one day, or even in one week. 

You have to be patient.

 It is vital that you consistently hold the kids accountable in a calm, firm tone of voice that is not confrontational. 

Also, remember that you are disciplining the students in order to protect their right to learn. You are not "power hungry," you are correcting their behavior because you care too much to allow them to misbehave. No learning can take place in a chaotic environment!

If a student says, "WHAAAT! You can't make me go sit over there! Everybody else was talking! Why do I have to move?" You just repeat your direction, like a broken record, calmly and firmly, without getting upset with the student. 

Don't sabotage yourself by taking it personally - the kid is just trying to squiggle out of trouble and it has nothing to do with you, believe me! Also, don't make the mistake of trying to explain why you told the kid to move. They know why. The arguing is just an attempt to manipulate you so they don't have to do what you said. You can assign another consequence if a student talks back or argues, such as a note home (mine is a discipline assignment) or an essay about respect.

 Finally, it is extremely important that you also watch the
students closely, focusing on acknowledging the ones who are doing right. 

1. You can do this with a ticket system, (click on the link to read more),

2. Or it can be verbal:

"Thank you, Mark, for sitting quietly and working."
"I appreciate your effort! 99%of success is hard work."
"Thank you for being polite - I love to hear those kind words."
"Thank you for entering the classroom quietly."
"Thank you for your help! I couldn't do my job without people like you who are willing to ...(sweep, pick up paper, organize the scratch paper cabinet, etc.)"

3. or your acknowledgement can be non-verbal:

Smile at students who are working quietly,
Nod at them, 
or give a thumbs up, etc.

The kids need to know that you are not just noticing them when they misbehave. They will seek attention no matter what, negative or positive. It makes your day much better when they are seeking your positive attention! Create an environment for student success by focusing on the good in your students.

 I would start small, with only one or 2 things that the kids have to get used to. Don't try too many strategies at once for your own sake and theirs. Good luck! Chatty students will always be there to make our classrooms a more interesting place, keeping us on our toes!

Two final notes: 

1. Sometimes I get complacent and I feel lulled into a false sense of peace when the classroom seems so tranquil. Before I know it I am forgetting my classroom management plan and the kids' behavior gets out of hand! It is so important; VITAL even, to be extremely consistent. You are either consistent or you are not - there is no such thing as "sort-of" consistent. 

2. Remember, there are 2 sides to the discipline "coin:" accountability is one, but motivation is the other! Michael Linsin says that kids will only be truly motivated to behave (and learn) if you are creating a class they love to come to!


**Georgia art teacher Amy Zschaber manages chatty middle school kids in this YouTube video clip: "Drawing my Wayne Thiebaud Cake."

**This link takes you to one of Michael Linsin's articles on www.smartclassroommanagement.com - "How to handle students who will ruin your day if you hold them accountable."

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols; all pictures are of 7th and 8th grade student drawings

We absolutely believe that many times there are circumstances in the classroom that are beyond any teacher's control, especially when serving at-risk populations or in environments where those in administration fail to provide effective leadership in a school. Sometimes, regardless of the prevailing theories about teacher responsibility, the teacher is not to be blamed for out of control students. Finally, we make no representation that you should put into practice any of the advice found on this website if your current administration disagrees with the teaching and/or disciplinary strategies described.

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