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Reducing Disruption in the Classroom

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Time. We all have the same amount, right? So how can you use the time you have every day in your classroom most effectively? Realistically it’s easy to lose ten to fifteen minutes to disruptions within a day. And from where does the time come? Instruction. We all know we can’t afford to lose instructional time. While students can disrupt the class in many ways, most disruption can be traced back to talking in some form. Here are some tried and true tips for reducing disruption in the classroom.

Like any behavior, a good teacher-student relationship will help things take a positive turn. The biggest factor in changing any behavior is consistency. Once identified and targeted, a behavior will usually get worse before it gets better, but do not lose heart.

Stop Excess Talking

Talking in class can be anything from side conversations about the content or just outright ignoring teacher lectures and instructions or other student input. Here are some tips to help with too much talking in your elementary classroom.

Call and Response

Most disruption happens when multiple students are talking. Luckily, there are many efficient ways to get a class to be quiet. Quieting strategies include echo clapping (you clap a pattern, students clap it back), attention grabbers (You say “Hey class!”, they respond. “Hey yes!”), and ringing a chime or bell, to name just a few.

No matter the signal used, it is critical that the teacher wait for nearly complete silence before proceeding. This is important. If half the class is still talking, nothing will change.

Goal Setting

Getting every student quiet will take longer in the beginning. Setting a class goal can be helpful in seeing how quickly the whole class can get quiet. This can be a fun activity – many students love to compete and potentially ‘beat’ their previous time. Goal setting can also be done individually, particularly for students who have a hard time controlling excess talking.

Brain Breaks

I find when students get a little too chatty, they may need a brain break. Switch it up and try one of 80 different brain breaks or sponge activities to let your students play and switch tasks before getting back to business! Brain breaks are a great way to begin class and transition between activities as well as take a needed break!

Beat the Blurting

Student blurting costs lots of valuable time. So what is blurting? How is blurting different from talking? What are some methods of reducing blurting within the classroom?

Blurting happens when a student shouts out during the whole group (lesson/discussion.) without raising a hand. Your student could be saying the answer to a math problem, asking a question, or offering a suggestion. Blurting (shouting out) causes other students to shift their focus from the teacher’s lesson to the student who is shouting out.

‘Talking’ generally applies to a larger group of students, or perhaps the whole class, while ‘blurting’ is specific to one or two students. Strategies for fixing blurting are different than those employed to address whole-class talking.

Blurting can often happen even when the student is engaged and interested in what they are learning or you are teaching. Even if they are wanting to learn the content, blurting can often keep the “blurter” and other students from learning.

Review Expectations

It is standard practice to review school and classroom rules, which should address talking and blurting. When you’ve addressed the rule multiple times to no avail, it’s time to employ some other strategies to curb blurting in your classroom.

Identify Blurting Behavior

In extinguishing blurting behavior, it is important to make students aware of their behavior. This can be done by using tokens, popsicle sticks, or other small manipulatives to indicate ‘chances’. The student begins the day with three of these items, losing one each time she blurts. This can be done subtly without drawing a lot of attention to the student.

Use a Blurt Board

Identifying blurting behavior can also be done with a blurt board. To begin, the blurt board has five spaces for students. It takes very little prep to use in your classroom.

First, print on card stock, cut out the monsters and laminate the board and monsters. Next, write each student’s names with an erasable marker or on removable post-its. The blurt board fits 3-4 monsters per row. A blurt means a loss of a monster. For the students that still have all their monsters, they receive a reward.

Like any behavior, a good teacher-student relationship will help things take a positive turn. The biggest factor in changing any behavior is consistency. Once identified and targeted, a behavior will usually get worse before it gets better, but do not lose heart. Stand your ground and quiet your emotions. When your students realize you mean what you say, they will fall in line. That’s when disruptions will decrease, and we can all get back to the classroom business of teaching and learning.

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