3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Have a Noisy Class

Have a noisy class? Wondering how to quiet down the chatter? Ask yourself three questions about your talkative class before planning your next classroom management steps. Number 2 might surprise you!

Are you sick of “shhhhh”ing your class?

I’m going to go ahead and get started by just saying, I am not afraid of a noisy class. In fact, I am one of those teachers who sometimes keeps the door shut just to keep the productive chitter chatter of busy first graders in, so as not to disturb the other quiet learners. Chatter can also be quite productive, collaborative and developmentally appropriate… So here is a big slice of reassurance for you – Your classroom does not have to be silent. Breathe a sigh of relief. You are not a bad teacher, or less effective teacher if you have an extra chatty bunch this year!
I get it though… chitter chatter is not always a productive happening and can interfere with learning… or interfere with your sanity!
Here are three questions I like to ask myself before reacting when I notice my students are extra chatty.

1. What is the pattern of chatter?

The first thing I need to assess is when the problem is happening and then why it might be happening. Is this a “sometimes” chatter, an “at certain times of the day” chatter, or an “aalllll dayyyyy looonnnggg ” chatter?

For the past few years, for example, My students have had lunch, recess, and special back to back right smack dab in the middle of the day. The time of high chatter was right after they returned to the room from special.  Noticing this pattern helped me to realize that really, their schedule was the cause of their excessive talking .

2. Is the chatter a problem?… How big of a problem?

Ok, you caught me… this is really two questions. They really are asking the same thing, but I insert the first part because when I really think about it, there’s no reason to be worried about the kiddos talking during certain times of the day. At the end of the day, for example, I find it unnecessary for them to be silent,  until dismissal is called (so talking during dismissal announcements would be a BIG problem).

During reading and math times, my students are at centers for MOST of the time. I don’t mind if they talk during these times.

This means that most of the time as long as the chatter is not interfering with the order of the classroom I leave it alone. That’s right. I shrug my shoulders. Note that it’s a chatty but productive time and let it go.

It was a problem for me when they were coming in with super high energy and talking up a storm after the lunch, recess, special predicament because we still had two hours of learning left, including ALL of their math instruction. This problem was going to need addressing.

3. What can I do about it?

Now, you may or may not have noticed, but saying (or yelling) “quiet class!” isn’t always very effective… at least for long… with young learners.  They don’t like it, and I don’t like myself much for that matter, when I find myself nagging and nagging them about something (including the volume). For the most part, they can’t help themselves; they are so busy and bursting with excitement and things to share.

If I have decided in the above circumstance that the chatter IS a problem, here are some things I do to address it.

*establish AND PRACTICE quiet(er) routines- (Click to read more!)

*establish a signal (visual and auditory)- a wind chime, a little chant, or a bell ring are all examples I’ve used before.

*explicitly teach about AND PRACTICE voice levels (Click to read more!)

And remember all routines take time! Don’t get discouraged! You’re a great teacher and your students are great too!

 

6 thoughts on “3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Have a Noisy Class

  1. Kirsten Kirk says:

    Great questions to ask! Seeing patterns and understanding the when and why can help solve the chatter! I have also found that sometimes the talking is productive, sometimes. 🙂

    • Jenn says:

      Exactly! I’d say I’ve learned that more than half the time their talking is fine and totally developmentally appropriate. This is exactly why I wanted to share this. Sometimes colleagues give me a strange look when they’re worried about a talkative class and I ask “Well is it really a problem?” Thanks so much for your input!

  2. Christina Morrison says:

    Professionally I think my teaching style has always been one that was less about controlling a sound environment and more about teaching students to manage themselves well, making the most of their time and energy in the classroom. Sometimes this meant they were monitoring their time on their own within well-defined boundaries. If there was chatter that was still productive and not a distraction to others, I didn’t consider it a conflict to them completing their tasks. When I was in the middle of teaching, however, I did expect respect in the moment, and part of respect was a listening attitude.

    I notice you mention “Establishing Routines” here and that is SO important! Letting kids understand what the individual teacher’s expectations are in each classroom is key to finding success in each classroom. Thanks for the post and your encouragement to new teachers!

    • Jenn says:

      Absolutely! I totally agree with you! This is exactly why I like to ask myself if the chatter is a problem that needs addressing at all… And addressing the problem doesn’t always mean demanding silence. Sometimes it’s just a little lesson in self regulating. 🙂 Thanks for your input!

  3. Tara says:

    Your questions are so helpful! They would have helped me last year. My class was really chatty! Their conversations were productive, though. We just had to work on controlling the volume because it got loud quickly.

  4. Amanda says:

    Love these questions! In kindergarten, it is loud most of the time. I don’t mind students talking at all since socialization is a big part of being in kindergarten. I try to focus more on the self-regulation part: making sure their voice level is appropriate and that they are listening when they need to. It’s all about repetition and modeling the behaviour you want to see! Thank you for these great reminders, and I will have these questions in the back of my mind when school starts up in 2 weeks 🙂

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