“Blurters” 5: Classroom Management Strategies

This is post 5 of 5 that focus on strategies for supporting children who “call out”.

Probably the most effective proactive strategy for teachers is to limit the time students are expected to sit and listen. Consider their developmental abilities. You can expect three year-olds to sit for 5 to10 minutes maximum, and five year-olds, 15 minutes.

Use management strategies such as those in the Responsive Classroom Approach . Also, consider the following:

Universal, class-wide supports, such as:

  • explicit teaching of expectations
  • visual prompts
  • front-loading
  • proximity
  • flexible seating
  • practicing how to stay focused when someone else is having trouble staying focused

Essential, individual supports, such as:

  • personal visuals
  • social stories (This learning story, My Turn to Talk, is a quick introduction to turn-taking in discussions)
  • “secret signals” (create with students)
  • further accommodations as needed
My Turn To Talk - Learning Story by Julie Principe

Teach “Whole Body Listening”

The book, Whole Body Listening Larry at School by Elizabeth Sautter and Kristen Wilson, introduces expectations for listening. Read more about “Whole Body Listening” here. This is a link to the YouTube read aloud. Please email me if you would like visuals and a simple learning story to support listening.

Talking Sticks and Talking Circles

For more formal class discussions, you could use a talking stick. Maybe your students could make their own! This can be a wonderful opportunity to learn about Indigenous Talking Circles which could also segue into a lesson on classroom norms. Find a sample Talking Circle lesson plan here.

Ignore & Scaffold

Ignore students who call out. Only answer those who raise their hands. This is effective if the student who is calling out is capable of managing their impulses – most of the time. If they cannot stop themselves from calling out, ignoring them is not going to solve the problem.

Sometimes scaffolding works. Try talking to the student just before the lesson. Tell them that you are going to ask a certain question, and that you will call on them if they raise their hand. Do a quick practice together and then start the lesson. Be sure to ask the question as soon as the lesson starts. Be generous with praise when they are successful.

For children who struggle to wait until they are called on, it can be very discouraging for them when they actually manage to raise their hand and then they are not called on. They often give up at this point and either withdraw or continue to call out.

Teaching is always a balancing act because you have many students in a class and usually you do not have the luxury of focusing on one student. However, if you can include the child (or children) who struggle, you are on your way to creating a supportive learning community.

Acknowledge

Acknowledge the point the student is making (briefly if possible) – even if they call out – and carry on with the lesson. This can be complicated if you have already set up the expectation that students must put up their hands.

However, if what the student has said impacts the class in some way, sometimes it is better to acknowledge it so that you can bring all of the students with you (figuratively) as you continue the lesson.

Reframe

Lastly, you can reframe the situation or behaviour. You could celebrate the fact that a student noticed another student’s wrong answer or that something was said differently and celebrate the fact that it was noticed.  For example, if the student said, “Mrs. H said outside playtime!” You could laugh with her and say, “Yes I did wasn’t that unexpected? I usually say ‘recess’.” Or “Wasn’t that unexpected? I meant to say ‘recess’ and ‘outside playtime’ popped out of my mouth!”

This strategy can be handy if the student is commenting on something another student said. Agreeing that it was unexpected can de-escalate a situation.

Just a note:

It will probably take more energy on your part to celebrate and join in on their sense of surprise because it may have interrupted the flow of your lesson. In the long run, the student will feel validated and will eventually contribute to the student’s feeling that they are part of the class community.

Get Support

If nothing seems to be working, refer the student to a resource teacher, counselor, school-based team, or other staff or programs available at your school.

Take Care of Yourself

You are the co-regulator. You are the calm that empowers your students’ calm. If you have a frustrating day, make sure you take the time to do whatever self-care you need. Sometimes, talking to another colleague helps!

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