Classroom, Elementary, Junior High, school

Tips for Supporting Students Who Talk Inappropriately During Class

It can be very difficult to work with students who are consistenly calling out, speaking to peers, or otherwise engaging in rude behaviour during class time.

I find this most common in my students with ADHD. They are so unfocused and energetic that it’s very difficult for them to discern when they should and should not speak out. And, even when they do understand appropriate classroom behaviours, it can be very difficult for them to be able to follow it.

Here are some of my personal favourite strategies for supporting these students while ensuring they’re not made to feel different from their peers and you can still have a positive teacher and student relationship.

seat them close to the teacher

Many students with ADHD should be seated close to the teacher or another adult (like an educational assistant) in the classroom.

If a student is seated close to you, this can often help them to not speak out of turn. Just the physical presence of the teacher can help to alleviate calling out or attention seeking. If they are about to speak out and see you, they may be able to catch themselves and stop.

Alternatively, if you are near to them, you can give them gentle reminders to stay quiet when they speak out of turn.

Being near these students may also help you to see smaller behaviours you didn’t catch before. Small things like kicking a classmate’s desk or tapping a pencil could occur before more inappropriate and disruptive behaviour does. If you catch these, you can give a reminder or offer a break to the student before it escalates.

Reward appropriate behaviour

Make sure that you are catching students being good. There are a lot of things I wouldn’t do as an adult if I wasn’t rewarded for them (like working or eating my vegetables), so don’t underestimate the power of rewards.

A lot of the time, our students who have difficulty with speaking when they’re not supposed to, hear primarily negative comments from their peers and teachers throughout the day. Consistently hearing people asking them to stop what they’re doing or telling them to be quiet. Obviously, that doesn’t feel great, so if we can boost their self esteem, that’s fantastic.

Therefore, it’s very important to make sure all positive behaviour and actions we can catch are acknowledged and praised. If you can create a rewards system for these students as well, it’s an excellent way to reinforce good behaviour and let kids know that their hard work can pay off. It may be challenging for them, but the reward is worth it.

Use a study booth

Sometimes students are unable to focus and complete work because there’s so much going on around them. Let’s be honest, talking to your peers is probably more fun than a history project.

In some instances, using a study carrel can be really helpful for those students who get easily distracted. Being able to physically block out outside distractions can help keep a student focused. When peers and other distractions are out of the student’s view, then they won’t necessarily be as likely to be off-task.

This is something you need to be careful with because you never want it to feel like a punishment. I like to set up a “focus corner” in my classroom which any student is allowed to use when they feel it’s necessary. I may suggest a student use it if they seem distracted, but I never force it.

The last thing a student wants is to feel like they are being punished, as if they are being isolated from the group, or like they are different from their peers. Forcing them to consistently work in an isolated area will definitely cause this and could cause some trauma and could make behaviours worse.

Provide something to chew

Offering students something to do with their mouths, other than call out when they shouldn’t, can help them with inappropriate talking.

For some younger students, or students in special education classes, I’ll offer “chewlery”. This is specifically made for kids to chew on as an “oral fidget” of sorts. However, I personally find chewlery disgusting and age inappropriate after about second grade.

Instead, offering students things such as gum will help them not to stand out from their peers and to begin using a tool they can take with them through their lives. Things such as hard candies or chewy candies can work as well.

For students who need a little bit more than just chewing, they can use straws. Rather than just giving students a straw, suggest to parents that they purchase the style of water bottle with a straw attachment. Then students can chew the straw in their water bottle and not “stick out” from their peers.

Make sure you go over rules around this with students. They need to know that this is a tool and they shouldn’t be bragging about it with other students, spitting gum on the floor, or so on. Otherwise, they’ll lose their privilege.

Model appropriate behaviour

Many times we have students who call out or otherwise act inappropriately, it’s because they don’t know how to get attention otherwise.

Perhaps they haven’t been taught this at home, or they had a past experience where the only way to be heard was by acting out. There could be many reasons for the behaviour, but it doesn’t mean they need to continue with it.

Go over how to positively, kindly, and respectfully talk with other peers and adults. You can literally act this out in front of them, have a class discussion about expected and unexpected behaviour, and kindly call out inappropriate behaviour when it occurs.

If you can, talk to parents about what you’re seeing in the classroom and ask if they see it at home. If you can get on the same page about behaviour, then school and home will both have the same expectations, which will help kids learn expected rules faster.

Of course, parents may not always be able to do this at home. They may work several jobs, have several people in the home, or so on. That’s okay, though, we can still work with kids on what we expect at school and continue to model and promote appropriate behaviours.

Ignore minor behaviour issues

If we call out every single mistake a student is making, we are going to not only irritate the heck out of them and potentially ruin our relationship, we’re also going to be exhausted!

Don’t waste your time calling out every little thing. Instead, let minor issues go and just focus on big ones. The student needs to feel like they’re (mostly) being successful at school.

If you set up a rewards system for them, makes sure you’re setting them up for success. Start very easily and then begin to challenge the student more. If you can, ignore the small mistakes you notice, praise them for little wins, and only call out major behaviour issues.

As the student begins to improve, then you can start calling out more minor behaviours because, ideally, the major issues will have begun to improve so much so that they hardly exist.

Of course, this can take a lot of time, depending on the student and their needs. Don’t be discouraged if the steps they are making seem to be infinitesimal. Sometimes the things we do for our students won’t be seen for years and we may never even know about their successes; but they definitely exist!

Teach hand signals

As I noted above, often a student who has issues with calling out during class may hear primarily negative feedback throughout the day. Keep in mind that their peers also hear this and could begin to see them as a “bad” student. Obviously, we know this sin;t the case and want to ensure all our students enjoy coming to school and are happy when there.

To alleviate having to continually call out the student’s negative behaviour, come up with a hand signal or gesture you can use with them to let them know their behaviour needs to be altered.

For example, if the student is calling out, rather than telling them in front of the whole class to be quiet, you can simply put a finger on their desk, or give them a look and give a “stop” signal with your hand. This will let you continue speaking to the class and stops everyone from hearing them get in trouble. Talk about cuddling two birds with one cuddle!

How do you feel about these tips and strategies? Have you used any of them before? Were they successful? Let me know!

Enjoyed this? Here are some other blog posts on Katie is a Teacher you may like:

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