When I came back from maternity leave in October, I walked in on what could be described as a circus! I had never met my students, and they were off the charts. I spent a few days trying to reset my classroom and go over procedures, but it felt like the damage had been done. I was defeated.
One day, I went to my instructional coach begging for some help. “How do I deal with this chatty class?” I asked. Her answer surprised me. “Let them talk,” she said.
Let them talk? Wasn’t that the whole problem? All they did was talk.
Initially, the “tip” seemed quite ridiculous, but I decided to give it a try. I decided to change my perspective on this chatty class. If they were a talkative bunch, then I needed to embrace that and give them opportunities to talk.
I began by implementing cooperative learning structures into my classroom. Cooperative learning is a mix of learning and chatting! With cooperative learning, we go beyond the “everyone raising their hand and one person answering” type learning (which is fine, but doesn’t always work with a chatty group). Instead, you incorporate styles of question answering like four corners or numbered heads. This requires students to be engaged, active participants in the lesson. Cooperative learning can happen with students seated at their desks or moving around, to exert more energy. To set up cooperative learning in your classroom, check out this blog post.
Next, I limited my direct teaching time to ten minute increments. At the time, I was teaching first graders, so this time suited their age level. If you teach a higher grade, you can expand that time. I have heard it said that you should limit your direct teaching time to the age of your students. That’s an easy way to figure out a number!
Before I began teaching, I would communicate with my students how long I would be teaching and when they would be allowed to chat. This let them know that chatting would be an option, but just not at this time. One way to give your students a visual of this is through a timer. When the ten minutes were up, students then had time to work with a partner, group, or in cooperative learning. Then, we would meet back for the next part of the lesson.
Communicating with students about when they will be allowed to talk is a game changer. You will be able to get through lessons with minimal redirecting of behavior, and the students will better take in the information. You will also be able to use students’ conversations to formatively assess the knowledge of the skills you are teaching. More check-ins never hurt!
A chatty class can seem like a daunting thing. We have content and standards to cover, and a group of talkative students can feel like a barrier to achieving what you need to as a teacher. However, if students love to talk, work with them. Help them use this desire to talk to benefit themselves and you as a teacher.