Is it June yet? Uh...no. It's still September. If you are dreading the rest of the year stretched out before you with the chattiest class ever, I hope this post will help.
I've been hearing from teacher friends near and far lately about the chattiest kids they've ever encountered showing up in their classrooms this year. Each of these teachers has worked long and hard to set the stage for success for every child with great displays, flexible seating, supplies purchased at no small cost from their own pockets, and carefully thought out lesson plans. And now? The kids are talking, talking, talking, and all of the careful preparation appears to have been wasted on them. Can anything be done to reverse this?
I think yes. A few suggestions to tame that talking monster currently rearing its ugly head in your classroom:
Have you done all you can to build a strong community feeling and to really get to know each student before plunging into the curriculum? Might be worth a day or two to go back to square one and try to get that feeling established. Take some time for interest surveys, getting-to-know-you icebreakers, and letters asking parents to tell you a little about their students. These parent letters, if carefully read, can be a gold mine of ideas for you on how to bond with your students.
Even if you feel as if you are "not teaching anything" and panicking just a little about your curriculum, I promise that the curricular gains you will make down the road will be so worth this front-loaded time spent. People who feel they are a part of a community will be more likely to act in ways that will bring success and joy to that community!
The Conversational OpportunityI first started to use this term quite a few years ago during a particularly stressful and challenging moment in my own classroom when the talking monster seemed to be dancing in the aisles. I simply stopped whatever I was attempting to teach, waited a few minutes (this part was important because the kids needed to notice that I had stopped talking) and then asked, "Are you in need of a conversational opportunity? Raise your hand if you would like to have a conversational opportunity right now."
Of course, there were many puzzled expressions, a bit of laughter, and a buzz of resumed talk. Using a new term to describe talking cast a new and refreshing light on the activity. I went on to explain that if they needed to talk so badly, I was going to build that into each and every lesson starting right then. Right now. I gave them five minutes right then and there to just chat. I said that rule #1 was that they could even move around the room as long as no furniture or people were hurt because of their movements. Five minutes. It will seem like an hour to you the first time you do it. After awhile, though, you and your students will sense when it is needed and the time will seem short and very reasonable. Rule #2 was that all talking stopped when the chimes sounded. (Use whatever signal you like or have handy - clapping, bell, music. Whatever makes sense to you and your students.)
Make Talking LegitIs collaboration a part of your lessons? If so, it should include opportunities to talk ideas over with other students. Book clubs, STEM/STEAM challenge groups, Math problem solving groups, Science labs, and more can provide easy ways to build some more legal talking time into your school day. Whenever students collaborate, talking with others in the group should go with the territory. If they know that they will have a chance to share their thoughts soon, students will be more likely to listen carefully to the lesson and directions they will be using as they work.
Change It Up!Could your written lesson plan be altered to a plan for discussion rather than writing? Discussion topics and thoughts can have a way of showing up organically in writing pieces to come later. Brains hold onto information gathered in a happy mood far longer than information dispensed under stress.
Is there a daily practice in your classroom that would work if switched to discussion mode from written mode? I've always found that my chattiest students walk in the door that way. What I did next had the power to keep that chattiness going all day or to channel it and move on. One idea that worked really well for me was to give my kids something specific to chat about right away. I knew they were going to enter with a need for human interaction, so why not give them a conversation starter that would help them to grow as a thinker, a writer, or just as a human being.
You might like to explore that idea a little more with this popular post: http://rainbowcitylearning.blogspot.com/2013/11/taming-talking-monster.html
I've taken this idea of changing up the morning routine and turned it into two resources that I hope you'll take a look at also:
Wishing you peace and quiet when you need it, focused worthwhile conversations whenever you can use them, and a wonderful teaching year ahead!
For more September ideas, take a look at these other great blog posts: