How To Improve Classroom Management By Talking Less

Many teachers make the mistake of trying to talk their students through each moment of the school day.

The idea being that if a teacher provides continual guidance–through reminding, cajoling, and micromanaging–then he or she will be more effective.

It makes sense.

But it doesn’t work. Too much talking has the opposite effect. It makes classroom management more difficult.

Here’s why:

  • It causes students to tune you out.
  • It lessens the meaning and impact of your words.
  • It communicates to students that you don’t trust them.
  • It causes tension, distraction, and rebelliousness.

Being more selective about how often you address your students, on the other hand, makes classroom management easier.

Here’s why:

  • It gives your words power and meaning.
  • It helps you build trusting rapport with students.
  • It brings peace and calm to your classroom.

How To Talk Less

The following tips will help you limit the amount of talking you do.

Lean on your classroom management plan.

When you let your classroom management plan do your talking for you, you can eliminate lecturing, pleading, yelling, scolding, arguing, and the like from your school day. This liberating experience improves classroom management almost immediately.

Teach procedures thoroughly.

Your students should know exactly what to do during every minute of the school day–with only modest direction from you. Well-taught procedures allow you and your class to transition and move through the day like a well-oiled machine.

Don’t repeat yourself.

Many teachers repeat everything they say–sometimes three and four times. When you repeat yourself, you weaken your words and encourage students to ignore you. And why shouldn’t they? They know you’ll always give the same direction again…and again…and again.

Speak only when you need to.

Never feel like you have to fill up every minute of the day with your support and guidance. If your students are giving you what you want, then leave them alone. This is one of the keys to developing a mature, independent classroom.

Practice brevity (and say more with less).

The more efficient and direct you can be with your words, the more effective your teaching will be. “Take out your math books” is infinitely more powerful than, “Okay, boys and girls, it’s almost ten o’clock, which means that it’s math time and…”

Observe more.

It’s unnatural for many teachers to take a step back and just observe. But the more you do, the better teacher you’ll be. When you hover and offer unsolicited opinions and reminders your students don’t need, you create greater and greater dependency on you. Furthermore, the more you observe, the less your students will misbehave.

Get to know your students.

By limiting the amount of talking you do, you’ll have more time to get to know your students. And when your relationship becomes more than simply what you need from them, then you can develop the kind of mutual admiration, rapport, and influence that changes behavior.

A Challenge

Talking less doesn’t mean that you’re going to withhold help or support when your students really need it. It doesn’t mean you’ll be aloof or standoffish. It doesn’t mean you’ll ignore them.

It just means that you’re going to be more thoughtful about when and how you speak.

This is a simple but powerful strategy that will have a profound effect on how your students respond to you.

My challenge is to use the suggestions above to try cutting your talking by a third. If you do, you’ll find yourself speaking with more power and impact.

And classroom management will be a lot easier.

Thanks for reading.

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10 Responses to How To Improve Classroom Management By Talking Less

  1. Bryan April 17, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Hey Michael,

    Another great post! I was guilty of talking too much but stopped about a month ago. The classroom management situation has definitely improved.

    I tried to think back when I was a student and I do remember that once I started an assignment I was so focused that I tuned him/her out.



    • Michael Linsin April 17, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      Thank you Bryan!

  2. Susan April 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Oh dear, I talk way too much, thanks for this. I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom and trying out some of these ideas.

  3. Toni Wayne April 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Great blog! I will try some of your ideas this week, because I am guilty!

  4. Julie November 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    So, if I don’t repeat what I have said and a student wasn’t listening…how do they know or find out what to do? Do I ask other students to tell them? What happens next after it is clear they weren’t listening?…let another student whisper to them?

    • Michael Linsin November 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Julie,

      We’ve covered this topic in a number of articles you can find in the Attentiveness category of the archive. However, we’ll be sure and write about it more specifically in the future.


  5. Linda February 15, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Michael I do tend to make the mistake and repeat myself several times when giving information to the students I also have information written on the board. I can’t wait to try your method at work tomorrow and see how it works thank you very much for the information.?

    • Michael Linsin February 16, 2016 at 7:54 am #

      I think you’ll be happy with the results, Linda.