If there’s one thing that I’ve gotten better at over the years, it’s calming a chatty classroom. With the right classroom procedures and incentives in place, it’s much easier to keep students on task and at a reasonable volume. Need some effective strategies for calming your chatty classroom? Let me share a few classroom procedures that work for me!
Evaluate Seating Arrangement
When you notice your class becoming chatty, it’s best to begin by evaluating whether or not your seating arrangement is working. If student desks are in groups, students are likely to be more chatty. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put your desks in rows, but it does mean you need to consider how you want students to complete their work.
If you want students to complete group work, have them work with the students within their group. If you want students to work independently, utilize flexible seating to space students out and encourage independent work. Something else to consider is moving chatty students apart to opposite sides of your classroom.
Voice Level System
Have you ever used a voice level system in your classroom? This is one of my favorite classroom procedures. It’s a great way to teach students volume control. In my class we use the level system with three different levels: level 0 – silent, level 1 – whisper, and level 2 – normal. To help hold students accountable for their voice level, display them on your board for students to see. There are several great ways to display this.
In my room, we use cups: red cup – silent, yellow cup – whisper, and green cup – normal. Other great ideas I’ve seen teachers use include lights or magnets on their whiteboards. Setting and displaying the expectation for voice levels in your classroom ahead of time prevents students from allowing their volume to get out of control.
While the voice level system works wonders, it’s also essential to remember the importance of modeling voice level expectations for students. One great way to do this is through picture books! Two books we use in my classroom to model expectations are “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein and “My Mouth is a Volcano” by Julia Cook. Both of these books help set the expectations around talking in my classroom by showing students the importance of waiting their turn to speak.
In addition to displaying voice levels and modeling them, it’s important to also set your classroom environment to match the voice level that your classroom is in. If your class is working at a level 0, keep your classroom environment calm. Consider displaying a digital fireplace on your SmartBoard and turning your lights off allowing only natural light to filter in.
If your class is completing group work at a level 2, keep your lights on and play some music in the background. You help reinforce voice levels by maintaining a classroom environment that matches your expectations.
Plan For Time To Chat
While there are times that students need to work silently, we also want to be sure we are giving students time to talk! Especially for students at the elementary level who are still learning how to be fluent English speakers, we must provide time to explore the language by listening and speaking in English. Try to plan parts of your day for students to interact with one another. A couple example times this could happen during your day are during morning circle or at the end of the school day. In my class, we use my STEM boxes resource in the afternoon for about 30 minutes of free time. During this time, students create STEM resources and talk about their day. This guaranteed daily talk time has helped my students build community within my classroom, and it’s a time that they look forward to each day.
There are going to be times that your class gets chatty. It’s inevitable. But knowing how to regain students’ attention and having effective classroom procedures in place makes the difference between gaining control or losing it. If you aren’t already, consider using attention getters and callbacks with your students. Some great ideas that I’ve seen other teachers use are doorbells (students know to stop talking when the doorbell rings), rain sticks (students are expected to be silent by the time the rain stick stops making noise), and callbacks such as “Class, class?” “Yes, yes?” By choosing and practicing an attention-getter with your students, you are setting the expectation that students turn their voices off and their ears on whenever they hear it.
Reward System-Blurt Beans
As with anything in the classroom, we want to reward students when they are using voice levels appropriately. There are many ways that we can do this. In my classroom, we use Blurt Beans. Each day students start with 10 beans (this number can vary) in their jar. Each time they blurt out, they lose a bean. At the end of the day, the students put their beans into a classroom jar. As the class fills up the classroom jar to a specific level, they earn rewards such as an ice cream party or a movie.
Reward System-Quiet Critters
Something that works well with younger students are quiet critters or desk pets. These creatures sit on students’ desks, but as soon as students begin talking, desk pets must return home due to their hatred of loud noises. These are often recommended for younger students because they are tangible objects that remind them to be quiet.
Reward System-Class Dojo and Surprise Box
A final tool that I use in my classroom is the Class Dojo point system. Students earn points in my class for several different things. Some examples include staying on task, speaking at an appropriate voice level, and taking care of their supplies. As students earn Class Dojo points they also earn tickets. For example, 5 Class Dojo points may allow students to earn a ticket for the Surprise Box. I also pass out tickets to students throughout the day as they are helping others clean up or lining up quietly. Students write their name on their tickets which gives them the opportunity to be called up to receive a prize from my Surprise Box.
My Surprise Box is a 6 drawer organizer. Each drawer is labeled with a number from 1-6. The rewards in my Surprise Box are a mixture of prizes and coupons. Prizes include slap bracelets, pop-its, and other small toys. Coupons allow students to do something fun in my classroom such as bringing in their favorite stuffed animal or to spend the day with no shoes on.
If you want to start incorporating coupons in your classroom, check out my freebie here!
When students have their ticket drawn and their name called, they come up to the surprise box and choose a number from 1-6. Students receive the reward that is located in the corresponding drawer. Students love having the opportunity to earn these rewards and see what kind of surprises await them behind each drawer.
You’ve Got This!!
Having a chatty classroom can make you feel hopeless and frustrated, but if you take the time to put classroom procedures and expectations in place, I promise your students will rise to the occasion.
I hope these ideas help and you have a happy and peaceful classroom!