Remember that Bonnie Raitt song from the ‘90s? “Let’s give them something to talk about… A little something to talk about…” There is a lot of wisdom in those words. As the new school year has begun, I have heard a lot of teachers say, “I just can’t figure out how to make my class be quiet.” My thought is, why make them be quiet?
Okay, I get it, you are a teacher, therefore you must teach; but why must that mean your class has to sit quietly all day and listen to you. How boring? Here is my perspective. A chatty class is a class that has already established a foundation for working with one another. They are already open to the idea of sharing their thoughts and opinions with others. So, just as Bonnie Raitt said, let’s give them something to talk about.
I cannot tell you how many times this year I have been on the cusp of telling my students to stop talking; but instead, I started listening and realized that they were having productive conversations. They were explaining how to do things. They were helping one another. They were pushing each other to expand their ideas or consider different perspectives. Why would I want to stop this type of collaboration? …And when their conversation has strayed from our curriculum, I realize that it is because I am doing something wrong, not them. It is up to us, as educators, to figure out how to light that spark in our students and to motivate them to WANT to learn.
How many times have you gone on to YouTube and started watching a video, but when you realized that it was longer than 3-4 minutes, you went on to watch something else? I do this all the time. Why? Because usually after the first few minutes, I have lost interest. The same goes for our students. If your lecturing is dragging on and on, your students have stopped listening. Learning has stopped. They might be sitting quietly, hands folded nicely on their desks, staring back at you, but what is the point? They aren’t listening and they certainly aren’t learning.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still very guilty of being a rambling teacher. I mean just look at the length of these blog posts. On the flipside, though, I am actively looking at ways to change my teaching to avoid the disconnect/shut down of my students. Griping to your coworkers is not going to make your class stop talking. Similarly, making strict consequences for your chronic chatters is going to accomplish little, except for maybe causing your students to respect you a little less.
Give them something to talk about. Look at Pinterest for engaging ideas. Read Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate. Use Twitter to find outstanding teaching strategies. Collaborate with others. Learning doesn’t have to be a silent sport.