They won't stop talking! What do I do?

I recently saw a post from a frustrated teacher with the following information:

*Very talented kids
*Won't stop talking
*Leave their seats
*Distract each other
*Off Topic
*Ignore procedures like raising your hand
*Don't come in quietly
*Takes forever to get things done
*They are sensitive

The teacher was thinking about having a "procedure day" to practice the things she'd like to happen but was worried they'd be resentful.

She is searching for a way to make it fun for them but was concerned that perhaps it shouldn't be fun.

The students are 11 (6th grade).

Here are some thoughts...

First of all, we have all been there!  I remember feeling this way vividly early in my career.  I was so frustrated by it.

Then, over time, I realized three things:

1)  6th graders, specifically, need an incredible amount of daily structure that is impeccably planned and executed.
2)  Yes.  It needs to be fun as much as possible.  
2)  And finally...people change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

...And that doesn't just apply to students!

So, with those things in mind, I'm going to share what I would advise this teacher to do.


Here we go...


Practicing procedures is important....but just once...maybe twice if you have the softest of hearts.

If they don't hear it, then you must, as says the navigation programs we all have access to today on our smartphones.... "proceed to the highlighted route".

That's code for "follow through".

Do what you said you would do when they don't do what you asked them to do.

With a smile of course.

Warnings are warnings.  They should get one.  Maybe two at this age...but don't be too generous.

Take action.

When a child stands up to walk over to get tissue to blow their nose while you are teaching measures 17-35, stop.  Tell the child in front of the other students.... "If you anticipate that your nose is running, then get the tissue when you walk in the door at the beginning of class.  I don't like the walking while I teach."

And then... keep teaching.

Otherwise, five more of them will do it while you are teaching.

Middle School children follow the leader...and their peers are the leaders to them.  One gets up...five get up.

So, don't let it be a "thing" in your classroom.

If it is, you are letting it happen.

And you don't have to be mean when you handle it.  In fact, you must not be...They are doing what you've allowed....So, you should just state your desire clearly while looking into the eyes of the children, and then go to measure 12 to handle the "FI" that they think is "FA" and help them sing it in tune.

That's all.

"They won't stop talking".

Ok...that's because you are letting them talk.

So stop.

Yes.   Really stop.

Just look at them.  Stand still.  Be quiet.

Stare at the talkers.

And then, watch...As the kids who would never disrespect you that way take over and start saying "sh".

Then, teach.

Postive peer pressure.

Use it.

And remember...if they are talking, it could be because your teaching isn't really that good in that moment.



It happens to the best of us.  We are all human.

Maybe the method we used to teach that section of music really wasn't effective for your beginners.

So, accept it.  Go home that night and self-assess.

And don't disrespect the children.  When you do, you lose them, and they talk more because they don't like your energy.

They ignore procedures because you allow them to do so...and sometimes because we encourage them not to like how we treat them.

Things I do to get them quiet:  Use echo clapping....use "follow the hand" from S-Cubed Sight Singing Program.

Both are magical...if you've built a culture of mutual respect in your classroom.

Otherwise, they'll ignore you.

And this is big...

People change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

So...what are the consequences for not following your procedures?

There have got to be some.

Work with the child first.  Give them a chance to fix it themselves.  If they don't, go to their parents.  For me, it works almost every time.   I almost never have to write up a child.   It should be rare that we turn it over to a principal or assistant principal.

Do you have your email parent contact list ready?  Is it easy for you to access?

Do you write digital notes in the grade book?  It's the 21st century.  Parents and children can keep up with what is happening if they want to do so.  They appreciate info that is given in time for corrective actions to be taken.

...And this is so important....

We must praise publicly and criticize privately.

If a child is doing what you want him to do, honor him quickly in public...and then go to measure 17 and keep on rollin'.

So, if a child isn't doing what you expect, handle it in private.


Should it be fun?


These are children.

It must be fun as often as you can make it so.

If you find that you can't or don't want to try to figure out a way to make it fun for your middle school students, it's time to consider moving.

These children need us to self-access and come up with ideas to help them succeed in a way that brings them...and

Enter the S-Cubed Sight Singing Giveaway November 6-9, 2017! Click here!


  1. I love all of this! So, so true. This is the kind of teacher I want to be. I get so frustrated with myself because I'm not as good as I want to be. It's my first year as a teacher but I feel like that shouldn't be an excuse. I want to be as great as educators like you are.

  2. Teaching kids procedure is necessary. No need to worry about resentments.
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  3. Sometimes you get a certain combination of student nature that disturbs a lot of things.
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