When Students Won’t Stop Talking

People who love to talk come in all age groups. Sometimes teachers find their chattering students delightful. Perhaps, for example, you know a Megan: Effervescent, bubbly, and lively are words written on Megan’s report cards by the teacher after teacher. Megan possesses an abundance of charm to divert her teachers from the fact she just plain talks all the time. She loves to talk and has lots to say about everything.

Problems occur when this potentially delightful trait infringes on the needs of the situation, as when another person is speaking or schoolwork needs to be done.

When they are less adept at charming others, the Megans of this world are simply annoying. Teachers may become angry with them or feel shocked when they blurt out comments at inappropriate times.

Whether teachers see a particular chatterbox as entertaining, irritating, or rude, the “gift of gab” is a talent. Teachers can value this talent by guiding students to use it in ways that enhance learning in the classroom.

Suggestions

  1. Give the student who loves to talk a speaking job in the classroom. Let him know that you recognize his gift and have faith that he will use it in constructive ways during class time. His job could be to introduce new students, make announcements, and draw out students who rarely talk.
  2. Set up a signal with the student. You might agree to tug on your ear or put your hand over your heart when the students talking begins to interfere with the needs of the situation. (This is effective only when the student agrees in advance that a signal will be helpful – and especially if he has suggested the signal that would work for him.
  • If you notice the student talking at an inappropriate time, wait and watch before saying anything. Students will often stop talking when they notice that you are waiting patiently. This is even more effective if you explain to the class in advance that you intend to stop lessons if all the students aren’t giving you their attention.
  • Talkative students miss instructions. Initiate a discussion with these students. Tell them that today you noticed at both spelling and math lessons that they didn’t hear the instructions you gave. Ask “what” and “how” questions to help them recognize the way their talking interferes with their ability to follow along with the class: “What happens when you miss instructions?” “What causes this to happen?” “How does it affect the teacher and other students?” “What ideas do you have for solutions?” This exchange shifts the responsibility for the behavior to them.
  • Your own emotional honesty helps. Use this formula: “I feel______________when_________________ and I wish______________.” In the case of a talkative student, your statement might sound like this: “I feel frustrated when I repeat directions several times, and I wish that I had to give them only once.” Notice that this formula doesn’t include a “you” statement. Keep the focus on your needs and observations; don’t talk about how you would like to change or control the student’s behavior. Students often feel more cooperative when they have heard your feelings respectfully stated.

Planning Ahead to Prevent Problems

  1. Students prefer to cooperate and to do what is in their own best interests. But if you treat them disrespectfully, they will go to great lengths to show that you can’t boss them around. Use the Mistaken Goal Chart (see pages 12-13) to decipher why a child chooses to talk incessantly. Is he seeking attention, displaying power, getting revenge, or covering up anxiety over feeling inadequate? Use the last column of the chart to find effective responses.
  2. Rather than trying to control talkative students, teach them how to control themselves. Help them learn to make lists of what needs to be done before engaging in the fun of conversation. When talking interferes with classwork, ask them to check their lists.
  3. Take the student aside, and ask whether he or she would be willing to help you draw out the more introverted students who don’t feel as secure about talking. Talkative students can be taught to look for signs (body language such as a timidly raised hand) that another student wants to talk. They can encourage this student by saying, “I’d like to hear what Ariel has to say.”
  4. Help those who talk inappropriately see the long-range results of their behavior. In a friendly manner, ask them what happens when they miss instructions, what happens when they don’t finish their work, and how others probably feel when they don’t get equal airtime. Students need information about the consequences of their actions and will listen when they are involved in the process of gathering this information. They will tune out lectures, however.
  5. In a class meeting, set up a role-play to explore what happens when someone continually talks during class time. Then invite the students to brainstorm for suggestions on solving the problem.
  6. Develop a public speaking program, and offer talkative students frequent opportunities to address the group.
  7. Encourage a loquacious student to run for an office in the student government, where oratorical skills and the willingness to speak before others are assets.