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 a signal (visual and auditory)- a wind chime, a little chant, or a bell ring are all examples I’ve used before.
And remember all routines take time! Don’t get discouraged! You’re a great teacher and your students are great too!
Here’s a link to some of my favorite activities for teaching voice levels explicitly!