photo credit: Facebook
I teach middle school and my students are very, very social. Chattiness abounds in my classroom! I will admit that I adore being around people who talk a lot - I am naturally a very quiet person, so I enjoy people who have the gift of gab! However, if my students talk while I am talking I consider that to be extremely rude. The number one rule in my classroom is to "Be Respectful," and I do correct students who insist on interrupting a lesson. Sometimes it is not enough to simply wait for them to get quiet! Some kids talk out without even thinking, and a simple reminder to be respectful is all they need. Other kids do it on purpose, just to get their friends to laugh. THAT will result in a consequence, almost every time! I write names on the board, and will even ask a kid to go to the hallway if they keep it up. Separation from the group usually gets the message across, but I also have been known to call a parent right then and there (after I finish teaching, of course!) Middle school students need to know that we "mean business" - some behavior is simply not okay. Interrupting a lesson degrades the learning environment and sabotages everyone's right to a quality education. 

Now, if you are an elementary art teacher, the words "sabotage" and "rude" may not apply; there is a lot less impulse control with younger students so the strategies a teacher chooses will look different in a first grade classroom vs. an 8th grade one. 

Middle and high school teachers, if you know that  you treat your students with respect, kindness, and consistency, the students understand your rules, and you have great repoire and engaging lessons, there is absolutely no excuse for them to disrupt. Period. 

Below is a listing of ways various teachers deal with rude students who talk while the teacher is talking - yes, when a middle or high school student interrupts your lesson it is RUDE! Don't put up with it for one single second! 
Here is a little comic relief: 
Principal Gerry Brooks speaks about one technique for elementary school teachers: (I have done this in my middle school classroom as well!)
Principal Gerry Brooks, Behavior Management Lesson 1; Youtube

Here are a few more resources for elementary teachers from Michael Linsin, educator and author of www.smartclassroommanagement.com:

editor's note: Katherine Braun says, "I teach at a k-6 bilingual campus (Spanish, but other languages represented by our students) and one lesson I had to learn the hard way was to pause and let fellow students translate for the very low English ELL's. They were trying to be helpful to their friends by translating my directions, but it just looked like they were talking while I was talking. I had to learn to build in that transition time, and still use lots of visuals just in case."

smile emoticon


Hallie Koenig says, "Every time I'm interrupted I start over from the top. I explain I don't know who missed what. They get on board pretty quickly. I teach 7th grade - they seem to get it!"

Rachel Wintemberg, The Helpful Art Teacher, says, "Print instructions on worksheets and create video demonstrations on Youtube. Basically, you can create theater in your classroom to wow them into paying attention. I also time lapse (speed up) my demos and run them on a constant silent loop in the classroom so kids can just refer to them as they are working. Or I will put on one of my video demos and say, 'It's 3:08 minutes long. Anybody can be quiet for three minutes.'" 

Anna Nichols: "In my classroom, I will write names on the board or on a post-it note if they talk while I am teaching. This is only necessary if the class is being purposefully obnoxious and disruptive. They will immediately get quiet if they see me writing names! However, if the class is really interested, their comments are not disruptive, and they don't interrupt the lesson, I don't mind the chatting. Follow this link to my classroom blog to see a video clip of one of my lessons (right in the middle of Spring Fever ... April 13, 2016) of an informal introduction to relief printmaking. I am surrounded by 7th grade students - over 30 of them! They are engaged and excited about the technique, and a bit noisy at intervals. You can hear them shushing each other! I don't correct them, though, because the behavior is not really rude. Any time I am talking they are polite and they get quiet. I don't have to wait long at all for their attention; the intermittent noise just tells me they are interested." 


J. Love Gironda says, "I have this image ready at all times...my high school kids laugh quietly but they get it.. and we move on. I either project it or I have printed versions stashed. I'll run over and grab one and put it by my face. I do a mean Kevin Hart, ya'll. he is my spirit animal. I have a Grumpy Cat meme I made that I put on my door when kids are tardy! It's the signal to go to the office and get a pass. He is so funny...cracks me up!" 

photo credit: J Love Gironda, Art Teachers Facebook Group

photo credit: J Love Gironda, Art Teachers Facebook Group

Tam Kadlec says, "I do the 'be quiet and stare' thing, though it doesn't always work fast enough for me. Sometimes I will follow it up with, 'X, would you like to come up and do the presentation for me?' That usually gets a 'No, sorry,' and they shut up. Once I did get a kid who said yes, and he came up and did a half way decent presentation. When he reached the parts he didn't know, he sat down and paid attention. It was great, and everyone applauded his effort."

Christine McLaughlin O'Malley says, "Before I begin I say, 'Phones away, everything out of your hands, conversations paused, all eyes up here.' Every time. Then I pinpoint with warnings and then issue detentions. Every time. Works for me."

Hilary Laurel says, "Just stop and stare towards the noise with a neutral expression. Gradually it will quiet down and you can then identify the remaining voices. And yes, there are those days when they are all super chatty, so in a sing song not-at-all-crabby voice I get their attention. As SOON as I hear a voice, I stop MID WORD and stare. It really is effective and you don't have to be stern. Kind of serious silly, like, 'shut up and I love you.'" 

more general advice for high school teachers ......

Ask them to stop; if they continue talking, they go to the hallway where they are again asked to be respectful, then another consequence goes into place if the behavior continues, such as detention.

Talk to the offender about respect and being on the same team, in private, in the hallway. This helps with some students who disrupt on purpose just to gain power over the teacher (trying to win popularity points with their friends). Publicly reprimanding these students will backfire. 

Grade their behavior during the lesson/demonstration - are they "on-task," listening and respectful without having side conversations?

Shoot a video of your lesson or demonstration and play that during class, or have the kids view it with their digital devices. That way, you can watch the class and spot the side conversations more easily.

Teacher proximity is extremely effective - walking around the room while you teach encourages all the kids to pay attention.

Writing names on the board can be effective, but be careful. Some school districts frown on this - they see it as "public shaming" (I disagree!) When I was student teaching at a local high school I was called down to the principal's office for writing students' names on the board. Now, as a middle school teacher, this strategy is one that I use often. 

Karla Caraway says, "I also will not proceed when students are talking. I wait, I talk softly and try to remain calm and avoid sounding irritated. If it seems to continue, I pause briefly to calmly and silently take notes. If anyone asks, I tell them I'm making notations to discuss behaviors with students later, when everyone doesn't have to sit and wait. And then I do that. You will be documenting problems, and if certain names keep popping up, you know you have a problem that needs to be handled with a parent phone call and possibly some after school working detention. When they come after school to help, they get to see you as a human who works hard, without their usual audience." 

Eric Gibbons says, "I stop mid sentence, stare, they get it. Also, for bad situations, I write down the minutes wasted on their seating chart. I don't yell, and when they are quiet, I tell them that when we reach 30 minutes of wasted time, we'll have class after school to make it up. Even quiet kids, by their behavior, can discourage talkers. Ignore them, look at me, and they'll get the point. Who talks without an audience? If you're not the problem, BE part of the solution!" (Eric Gibbons is the author at artedguru.com.)

photo credit; Facebook.com 

If anything in this article helped you in your practice, please let us know! Also, if you have a technique that is effective in your classroom, share it! We need all the advice we can get!

Editor's note: Managing student behavior involves far more than discipline techniques. In order to create an environment for student success, the teacher needs to provide quality instruction as well as appropriate motivation. Most importantly, the teacher needs to have the right attitude for leadership in the classroom. Finally, having a solid classroom management plan with rules and procedures set up from the beginning of the year is also extremely important - students need to be very clear about what the teacher's expectations are.

disclaimer: These are a set of ideas about being proactive in teaching based on classroom experience as well as various education authors. 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 do NOT recommend that you put any of these strategies into practice if your administration disagrees with them. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols


Marylu Flowers-Schoen said...

I sing" I hear talking and I don't know why..." It usually works with students and me smiling.

Lorine said...

One of my favs is "I'm sorry I'm talking while you are...I don't want to be rude and talk while you are talking so when you're finished just let me know." wait for the go ahead from student, maybe a minute...if no response, I ask "are you finished?" it's always a nod or verbal "yes"

And if it continues with same student a lot, I will ask that student... "will you please stand and explain to me and everyone in your class why you are special and get to talk when no one else is?" chirp chirp and then I may ask "is there anyone else in this class who would like to be talking to their friends but choose not to because they want to learn something in art today?" ... many or most hands go up... visual deep breath and continue with lesson.