Behaviour: Chatterbox

1st July 2011 at 01:00
There is one boy in my form who is not maliciously bad, just persistently talkative. He always answers back and his voice is loud and disruptive. How can we get him to talk less and stop disturbing the rest of the class?

What you said

"I have one of those. As a class, we decided to `deal with him', so he sits in front of me and no one answers him. You need the class on side, but if they want to learn, they're happy to co-operate."


"One thing that has worked for me is giving the student three cards at the start of the lesson and every time he calls out, take away a card. Explain that he is free to ask why, but that conversation will happen at break, not in learning time."


"I put my persistent interrupter at the desk in front of mine. Every time he blurted out, I raised my hand like a block a foot from his face and carried on the lesson. Then I wrote his name down. At the end of the lesson he had to stay behind and we discussed how many times his name had been written down. It worked."


The expert view

Find out from colleagues if he repeats the behaviour in other classes and what they do about it. Their strategies might work. You can also try the three I's: investigate, ignore andor initiate.

Irritating behaviour can indicate a need for attention that can sometimes be constructively channelled. It can also be the consequence of poor social skills and a lack of empathy. Feedback from members of the form about how irritating they find the behaviour, handled so that it tackles the behaviour not the person, can be effective. Peers will probably have more influence than you.

A strategy of isolating the pupil by ignoring him is unlikely to be effective. Often it stimulates a competitive atmosphere where the pupil feels justified in going to greater lengths to achieve attention and you feel obliged to sanction what has become a more serious behaviour management issue. Ignoring his behaviour is more effective if the reasons are explained first, because it gives him the opportunity to be proactive in adjusting his behaviour.

Initiate. Be proactive. Create a seating plan that physically isolates him or places him in a position where you can quickly intervene. Issue a number of tokens for each time that it is legitimate for the boy to speak (reduce these over time if you want). Agree a gesture to remind him he is calling out or speaking too loudly so that you don't have to get into a dialogue about it.

Praise and reward will maximise the likelihood of success. Be consistent in your praise of appropriate behaviour if you want it to become the new habit that replaces the irritating old one.

Stephen Calladine-Evans is assistant principal at St Richard's Catholic College, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex. For more behaviour advice, go to



Find out how he behaves with other teachers and what their strategies are.

Ignore the behaviour, but tell him why so he can be proactive about changing.

Use praise and reward to encourage good behaviour.


Forget to get the rest of the class on side. Their behaviour may also be influencing him.

Overlook his need for attention. Just find a way to channel it more productively.


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