Each Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST, I post a call for teacher questions on my Facebook page. I review the questions and choose a few to feature on Facebook each day, where you're invited to chime in with your advice. When I see a post that receives a large number of responses, I compile the best answers to create a helpful blog post. Doing that means your great advice doesn't get lost in Facebook land!
Today's question comes from Anne, who asks, “I have a second grade student who at this point in the year still interrupts class. He has the need to always be right and be heard constantly. The other children get very antsy when he starts up. Any thoughts?”
Many of you weighed in with really great answers, and I'm sharing some of the best below.
- Sonya Callaway Adamson: I have a few students in my class that are always eager to be the first to speak, answer, interrupt. I've found that they have the knowledge and want to share, or are bored because, "Hey, I already know this lets do something else." Sometimes they need movement and sitting isn't for them. Now I incorporate into my plans things they can help me with... One now sits at computer and clicks the mouse for me so I can teach and help those at the front of the room.
- Shara Rivers: When I was a kid I was like that....I got no attention and wanted so badly to feel important. I had one teacher that I will never forget. He made me the official writer on the board and always took time to talk to me. He was a light in a dark place in my childhood when I felt pushed aside by so many other teachers.
- Ben Phillips: Provide lots of opportunities within the lesson for kids to talk to each other. He sounds like a bright, eager learner to me although the behavior is problematic and annoying. Maybe if he gets to share with a partner he will blurt out less. His behavior in some way may be a signal that you are talking too much.
- Katie Johnson Abbott: Tell him to use a notebook to write down anything he wants to say to you. Then at the end of the day, review the notebook and give him a little attention. Probably the only reason he interrupts anyway.
- Jennifer Hinds Larsen: How about giving him a job where he is in charge of something important in the classroom during the day?
- Hollee Miller Morrow: I had a second grader who constantly interrupted my lessons this year. I started a system where I put a tally mark on the board when he would interrupt. When he got to 5, he knew there would be a consequence, one I knew would affect him. He rarely interrupts anymore. It's not fair to the rest of the class for one student to be garnering all the attention and taking away from the learning of others. Find out what motivates him and make the loss of that his consequence. You will be teaching him a life skill that will benefit him throughout his life. Also, tell him that when you notice he is not interrupting, you will call on him.
- Alder Aka-lee: It depends on why exactly he is needing all this attention, if it's coming from a need to feel special, I would try something like giving him a djembe drum, you do this and make it clear it is his and he is in charge of it but lay clear ground rules for when it is to be used, eg when applauding, if you need a drum roll, during music or at recess and lunch. It gets rid of allot of excess energy and makes him feel important. If you have trouble with other students asking why he gets it you can do a term by term rotation and hopefully a term will be enough to condition these behaviours. If interrupting or anything like that continues take it away and give to another student for a week or until misbehaving subsides. Good luck!
- Rose Treacy: I'm also a second grade teacher and have many students like this. With the most significant, I have put them on different behavior contracts based on their needs. For one he tallied on a sticky note on his desk each time he blurted out (I sometimes mimed making a line if he didn't do it independently) and we had a goal. If he met the goal he got a reward. I have another student who does a certain amount of work or time and then he can tell me one thing. It's been effective to decrease his random blurt outs. I also recently found a book called, Interrupting Chicken we are going to read it tomorrow as a class (first day back from spring break) and go over classroom expectations as a group. Another great book for interrupting is called My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook.
- Shimona Moloney: I had a pupil who constantly interrupted my lessons with off topic questions. I made 20 question tokens and explained to him that he had 20 tokens for the day and would need to give me a token if he wanted to ask the unrelated question. When he would raise his hand to ask a question I would remind him that he would need to give me a token and I would ask him if he really wanted to ask his question. Within 3 days he was down to 10 question tokens and within 2 weeks he only asked relevant questions and did not interrupt lessons any differently than the average child.
- Karen Johnny Martz: Ignore the urge to reinforce the negative behavior and reinforce the positive. Teach sign language to all your students that reflect a question, comment, answer, restroom, water, wait a minute, etc. As long as you continue to stop and focus on the behavior you want changed, it won't. Consistency and patience with yourself and your students, along with positive reinforcement will help them to know how to get acknowledgement.
- Sariah Gilstrap: I like to give a pad of Post-It notes to interrupters. I tell them to write down their exciting thoughts instead of interrupting the class (and we talk about how their behavior affects others) and that I'll read them all at the end of the day. It usually helps! If they start interrupting again, I redirect them to write it on a post it.
- Amanda McAllister: In my experience Whole Brain Teaching really helps with minimizing those students who call out all the time. It gives them the outlet they need in order to talk!
- Tanya Abbey: Do you have a time set aside each day where the children can ask questions about things that they are interested in that are off topic from what you are learning? Or a question time related to the topic you are teaching after you have done the planned lesson? Then instead of denying him the chance to ask questions you can remind him that he can save it for question time. Instead of being a problem, this child may be your best asset in keeping a 'question time' going that all of the kids can benefit from as it sounds like he doesn't really run out of questions. Then you can also see what the children are interested in finding out more about and extend on that in your lesson planning or find ways to use these interests to teach what you were planning on teaching.
- Katy Cole: Make sure you do not make your frustrations known to the students. They will absorb your feelings and shun the child. Teachers need to understand this and 99% do not realize the torment it has on children. Try giving the child an outlet for the talking like before or after a long lesson he can tell a joke. Give him jobs to do like keep tallies or make a chart.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer this question. Your advice and experience is helpful to so many others.
If you would like to submit a teacher question, be sure to watch for the announcement on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm ET on the Teaching Resources Facebook page.