Research has shown that it is the low level behaviours that cause teachers the most stress (Sullivan,2012).
Teachers often ask “what do I do about the students who talk all the time?” or ‘what do I do about the students who never listen?”
When classroom behaviour feels as though it is getting out of hand it may be time to go back to the drawing board, regroup, and reset the ground rules for the class. For how to set up the game to win see here.
If you consider problem behaviour as a lack of skill, in much the same way students may lack literacy or numeracy skills, this can give you clues as to the most effective approach:
1. Assess the current situation. Discuss student behaviour with the class and provide an opportunity for students to say how they are affected by the current situation, and let students know how you feel. For more tips read here.
2. Problem solve with the class how the situation could be improved. Allow all students to have their say about what they could do to help the class operate more effectively. Consider what you could do, and that students may be chatty because the lesson is not very interesting or engaging. Read here how to use variety to engage students.
3. Talk less. Most young people can listen effectively for approximately half their age so keep instruction time to a minimum, interspersed with activity. Let students know how long they need to listen and stick to it. Give students time to talk during lessons e.g. use ‘think, pair,share’ or discussing information in groups or give students time at the beginning of the lesson to chat (get their chatty out). Students may then be ready and able to listen to you. Here is more on the importance of listening.
4. Give additional teacher support. Some students will be able to follow the agreed expectations easily and others will need more assistance to do so. Use role plays, simulations, examples and non-examples so that expectations are perfectly clear to all students. All students will need explicit teaching when there is a change or an unusual situation e.g. going on excursions, a different type of lesson or in a different setting.
5. Practise the skill. When you teach the expected behaviour, provide opportunities for practising the skill in a variety of settings or situations e.g. if you are teaching your call to order signal, have the class chat or move around the room until you make your signal. Practise until everyone responds appropriately.
6. Focus on the positive. Draw attention to students who are listening or working quietly. If you want appropriate behaviour to become embedded you must use positive reinforcement either through specific feedback, praise or tangible rewards. Use your knowledge of the student to determine the support they need to learn classroom skills. Once the skill has become natural you can reduce the positive reinforcement.
7. Use logical consequences. Be prepared with logical, considered responses for when students are off task. If you have a reward system in place, then the logical consequence is no reward. Consider a hierarchy of responses to inappropriate behaviour e.g. first time is a reminder, second time is a warning and third time may mean time-out or a meeting with the teacher. If a student is consistently unable to display the expected behaviour, they may need:
a) Additional instruction and practice using the skill e.g. in a small group setting
b) An individual reward system targeting the particular behaviour.
c) Teacher support through agreed cues that indicate to the student when they are off task or when they need to use the skill.
d) Pre-correction: this involves providing reminders of appropriate behaviour immediately before the situation e.g. before going out to break, reminding students they need to pack up their books and belongings and leave the area neat and tidy.
Do you find your students talk too much or do you think that talking in the classroom is a good sign?