Talking in class
Talking is important for communication to learn. However, talking needs to be focused on the tasks being performed and at a volume appropriate for the situation.
It is important to clearly communicate to students the expectations for each particular learning situation.
Volume and teaching suggestions to develop appropriate volume
Expectations should include what is considered an appropriate volume and how the volume should change in different situations. Individual volumes should be modeled and practiced for those different situations.
For example, group work. Model what a voice should sound like ... Then, with students in groups, have them repeat a sentence three times using that appropriate individual volume. After they practice that successfully, tell them they are going to practice again so they can hear the room volume. Then have them repeat the three sentences while they also listen to hear the room volume. After they complete this tell them that is what it should sound like when everyone is working appropriately in groups.
Once those expectations have been established, if the whole group or small groups
are being too loud, you can say, "The volume in here is too loud. Remember when we practiced what your voices should sound like?" If they respond appropriately, then say, "Adjust and get back to work." If, not, then practice again.
During practice or after, if there is an individual voice that is noticeably loud, you should go to that student and with as little public attention as reasonably possible practice with the student.
Talking and teaching suggestions to develop etiquette for talking in class
Tell students they are going to discuss situational etiquette for talking in class, groups, and conversations in general. Tell them you will write their suggestion down. The discussion can be started by asking when it is and isn't appropriate to talk and later the discussion can be extended by considering different classroom situations: class discussion, groups, pairs, quiet class time, emergencies ...
Consider the following as possible discussion and outcomes.
- When is okay to talk and when not?
- No talking, when someone else is talking.
- Mostly no talking when students are working silently. If there is a need to talk, then be beside the person, whisper, and make it quick. If it is going to be a prolonged conversation move away from close proximity of where students are working.
- Talking when it is my turn and I have something to contribute.
- When there is an emergency.
Once the list has been made, it is easy to direct a student to the list.
I have had success with positively reinforcing students when they follow the expectations. I prefer social reinforcement. Continuous at first and then random reinforcement. Such as,
- "Wow! The volume during the past five minutes of group work has been very good. You have seven more minutes to work. Keep it up."
- "Wow! look at what you accomplished. How do you feel about it? Isn't it great that you were able to ... "
- "Wow! We finished quicker than I thought we would, let's ... go to recess early. Use the rest of the time as free time. Start our game.
If the volume gets too loud, I'd go group to group quickly and quietly, get their attention, and put a finger across my lips. If that doesn't get the results I would want, I would say, 'The volume is going up. Others need to be able to focus ... and shouldn't have to talk louder to be heard.
Once expectations are established, practiced, and enacted. Students are reinforced by being able to communicate with each other and be successful in achieving their goals and enjoying each others success. You won't need to tell individual students to stop talking. Instead, redirect them or remind them in a way that puts the responsibility on them to check and change their behavior. Being proactive generally reduces a need for an escalation of consequences.
However, if students aren't cooperative, a time-out may need to be implement. Time-out from group participation. Bringing a student into the teacher's group (group of one student isolated from other students with a bit of directed instruction to focus the student on completing the task by his or herself.) Later, you might ask the student if they can return to the group and participate as expected. If the answer is appropriate, then let the student return. Students often promise they will never do it again. I usually stop them and say, "No, just promise me you will really try ... "