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Classroom presence, behaviour management and a chatty class.

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by ernieball149, Oct 21, 2018.

  1. ernieball149

    ernieball149 New commenter

    Hi everyone.
    I’m looking to gain some guidance/advice. So far in my teaching career (3rd year) behaviour management has never been an issue. I have always had great relationships with my pupils and they all worked well and followed instructions.
    This year, I have a completely different kind of class. This class are really chatty and don’t respond to me at all in the same way that my previous classes did. They talk over me and when I say that we are working in silence, this lasts a very short time before the noise level creeps back up and I find myself having to shout over them. Often, this will start with multiple pupils responding to something that one child has said to me - they all feel that they need to jump in to respond, which quickly escalates. Warnings and consequences according to our school behaviour policy don’t seem to be helping. I have kept the whole class back at playtime to pay back time wasted, however this just punishes the quiet ones too. Sometimes I think it becomes a game for some pupils.
    When being observed recently I was pulled up as needing to sort this issue quickly. The thing is I don’t know what support to ask for. My HT says that I am lacking presence in the classroom and that I’m not in control of the class. I will admit that the longer this term has gone on, the more deflated I have become and I am much less confident than I used to be as I know that things are not going as well this year as previously. This has probably contributed a great deal to my lack of presence.
    Now I need to decide what support I want. Is there anything you would recommend? I’ve been scouting Google and have got a few techniques that I am going to try, but I wondered if there is anything that you have found to be particularly effective. It’s hard to come from a point of doing ok before but not so well this year. I would love to hear your thoughts.
    pepper5 likes this.
  2. rustyfeathers

    rustyfeathers Occasional commenter

    Identify main culprits, and call home.

    Identify good students - also call home.

    Stamp on *any* talking if they should be in silence - don't let it creep up until you have to raise your voice.

    One thing I've found works well - though it takes a time or two to fully embed - is "We're going to work for X minutes in silence. If anyone talks etc during that time, we start the clock again, with an extra minute added on." First time or so, it's ended up with a whole lesson in silence because they can't help themselves; eventually, they get the hang of it and manage well. I then allow them to whisper -- with the caveat that any off topic chat or raised volume will result in silence again.

    Be relentless.

    Oddly, one thing I've found, especially where I have a TA, is *not* splitting up the talkers (assuming this is a small group, not 1/2 the class). Seat them together, under your nose - then they can't bellow across the classroom, and you have one key area to spot, not multiple.
    JohnJCazorla and pepper5 like this.
  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi earnieball149

    This is quite a common problem which you were going to come across sooner or later: the noisy class - the one where the noise levels sound like a jet taking off at Heathrow. I work as a supply teacher and have come across numerous classes like this and when I ask the permanent teachers about the class, they say they have tried all sorts of things and nothing works.

    In addition to the tactics you are going to try, add these to think about using:

    1. Give a survey to the class and find out which rewards they enjoy having. Don't use things like sweets or material rewards however. When the students are following your instructions regarding the classroom noise levels they get to pick their reward. This is individual students. Post cards home are my favourite since the parents get to receive the card and can then reward their child as well.

    2. Have a policy that you never keep a whole class back. You might lose the goodwill of the ones trying their best.

    3. You have to try and build a relationship with this call and not compare them to other classes. If you only have rules and not a relationship then that will lead to rebellion.

    4. Start with the ringleaders - you will notice which ones they are. Take their names, follow the school policy with detentions etc, then phone calls home, parents in etc. Be observant as a pattern will develop and you probably will have to deal with them one by one. You will see they are trying to be dominant, but you are the dominant one in the classroom. Over the break, regroup your energy and go back in and determined to crack this.

    5. You might also want to try having the students enter the room in silence and tell them they need to stand behind their chairs until you invite them to sit down. Have routines, model the routines until they are able to do it.

    Remember, no matter what anyone tells you this is not a reflection on your ability as a teacher nor your presence in the classroom. What would be interesting is to see the person giving you feedback take the class and see what methods they use. There are hundreds of classes just like this one with some very experienced teachers battling with them to stay in control.
    tonymars and JohnJCazorla like this.
  4. ernieball149

    ernieball149 New commenter

    Thank you rustyfeathers and pepper5 for your replies.

    I have identified certain individuals and have spoken to their parents. This has had a temporary impact - for a while the chat stops, but soon rises again.

    I love the ideas you have suggested and will add them to my bank of things to try.

    The problem I have found with picking up on any individuals who are talking during silence is that as soon as I speak to one pupil, someone else takes this break of silence as their opportunity to speak. When I deal with the next person, someone else does the same. It’s like my voice signals their opportunity to speak also. Before I know it, there are multiple talkers and I can’t pinpoint individuals anymore.

    Thank you both for your support. Other teachers in the past have also had the same problems with this class and no-one appears to have found a real solution. I am beginning to build relationships and this is something I’m working really hard to do.
    JohnJCazorla and pepper5 like this.
  5. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Well if you know there is a history to this class and no one has found a solution, then I don't know why the school expects you to suddenly come up with something novel!

    How about moving students into other classes and mix it all up where all the noisy ones are put into quieter classes.

    Have you tried speaking with these students individually or with your HoD to explain how their behaviour is affecting their learning and the learning of others? Perhaps if they are given a reason why they have to work in silence at times. For example, when they are writing, when reading, or when you are giving direct instructions. That is why a lot of students are behind - they don't listen and follow the instructions.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  6. lentils22

    lentils22 New commenter

    I totally agree that keeping tabs on who is speaking in a situation like this is really hard and it makes issuing sanctions more complicated because you can get into public arguments about unfairness etc. It's a long shot but this may be worth a try: tell the class very clearly at the beginning of the lesson what your expectations are (maybe summarising them on the board as well..) and that you will have a notebook in your hand while they are listening/working independently or whatever. If a pupil doesn't meet expectations, don't interrupt the lesson by speaking to them at the time, just write their name down in the book. You could make clear that if the name appears a certain number of times in a lesson (eg. 4) they will at that point be spoken to directly in the form of a "verbal warning" leading to a sanction if the behaviour continues. (To avoid it coming across as being too focussed on "catching them out", you could also mention that you may use the book to keep track of those who deserve a reward or are working particularly well.)
    The advantage of this is that it takes away all the "drama" of dealing with issues in front of the class and is less likely to interrupt the flow of the lesson, especially during direct teaching sequences. It also means that you have accurate "data" on exactly who is causing you the most problems, which you can use to speak to selected pupils after the lesson, to plan interventions or when liaising with SLT/parents. I often find that when pupils see me circulating with the book, jotting down the odd name, or when they see me write in there while I'm addressing the whole class (often without stopping what I'm saying), it is enough in itself to refocus the majority of them.
    Anyway, may be worth a try.. I really hope you can make some progress with this. A chatty class like the one you describe is one of the hardest challenges for any teacher!
  7. maggie_piano

    maggie_piano New commenter

    You do not say what year/ability or subject you are teaching or whether the class has had a completely different style in previous years however- If a class has had a lot of short term teachers it takes longer to get them on side. here are a few suggestions. It really depends on the school culture too.
    Good beginnings and endings to lesson- really consistent structure at the beginning. the same type of task every time.
    shorter Time limits/short tasks- " we will spend 10 minutes doing ....."
    Lots of rewards- calls home/stickers/ cards home/merits/vivo- maybe a chart on the wall? Create a culture or consistent rewards. I had stamps and the children chose a stamp for their work- they loved it.
    Mark and assess work frequently so you know which pupils are off task because they are struggling, not challenged or just distracted and you are rewarding good behaviour and work.
    Less front of class talking, more one to one and easier tasks. This will avoid you talking and then the pupils copying you. if they are very young- drop to desk level to have a conversation in a quiet voice.
    Use signals rather than voice to manage behaviour
    Desk plans so you know the pupils well
    See if there are any children with special needs or special home circumstances - in most schools you should be able to look this up and adapt your teaching style accordingly. I have had some classes with 3 separate tasks.
    Board smiley face/miserable face with students name or you can record this and the students can see you recording this
    Time your lessons- the time of day and what they have had before makes a difference- last lesson on Friday and first on Monday are not going to be the same as does the weather.
    Can you group tasks? tasks done in groups of 2 or 3 pupils
    Change the pace of the lesson- is it too fast or too slow?
    Hope this helps
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  8. maggie_piano

    maggie_piano New commenter

    Hi again- I would avoid keeping the whole class back - can cause resentment with pupils who have worked well- maybe keeping some pupils back until they have completed the task. I am a supply teacher of 15 years experience in a lot schools. - Be nice and dont assume it is you - keep trying and try videoing your teaching- I tried this and discovered I was too slow and not structured enough.
    JohnJCazorla and pepper5 like this.
  9. bluesam3

    bluesam3 New commenter

    I've only seen one person using the "magic notebook" thing, but it worked spectacularly well. So well, in fact, that I didn't even know they were using it until they had to write down a note of something entirely unrelated, and the room fell instantly silent the moment they picked up their notebook.
    pepper5 likes this.
  10. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    Rustyfeathers hit the nail on the head I think.
    In an afternoon:
    "If we work for 3 minutes in silence then we'll try whispering, I'll tell you when the 3 minutes is over."
    "Ooops, that's not a whisper, back to silence for 3 more minutes."

    During whispering, if the voice level creeps up, you can also stop them, with a clap, to give them instructions about their work (e.g. don't forget to underline your headings and use the full date) and just tag a voice level reminder on the end. This way you sound relaxed...

    Before the register:
    "5,4,3,2,1.... [rhythmic clap]" if they're still chatty... "oh dear, that's one minute less break time... now two minutes less break time... Thank you class, now I can start the register. Let's see if you can earn back those two minutes this morning, by working hard and following instructions."

    But remember to have fun with your class too and reward them with nice things like stickers! "You've been working so hard this morning that we're going to play a game now..."

    RE presence - stand still when you're giving instructions, refuse to talk over them (wait for silence) and break the unspoken rules (e.g. sit on your desk, not your chair) so that you look comfortable in the classroom and in control of your surroundings.
    maggie_piano and pepper5 like this.
  11. Northern_Miss

    Northern_Miss New commenter

    Also, make sure you stand still for 1 minute, watching the class, at the start of an activity. That way you can gently nip any talking in the bud - "Daniella!" You can also 'narrate the positive': "great, Danny's already written his date and John's on the fist question, well done boys."
    pepper5 likes this.
  12. Sarahlovesmaps

    Sarahlovesmaps New commenter

    I am trainee teacher and currently on my A placement. I have worked so hard trying to perfect my behaviour management strategies over the past three months. Following a consistent pattern to welcoming the students, settling them down and having a starter on the white board ready. Yet when the class progress to an activity there are 3 persistent offenders with regards to chatting and disruption. I followed the school behaviour policy but nothing worked.
    Eventually my mentor suggested we call home which we did and this seems to have rectified the problem for now. I will not be afraid to do this again now in the next school I work as it seems to have worked.
    pepper5 likes this.
  13. maggie_piano

    maggie_piano New commenter

    absolutely to all of the above. I have used all of the above and stamps, merits and lots of rewards to years 7 and 8. Years 9 cards and calls home works. The timed tasks - use an on screen stop watch to begin the lesson with something to do at the beginning and try talking less and when you do, just focus on content.
    pepper5 likes this.

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