Is Waiting An Effective Strategy When Students Talk During A Lesson?

Smart Classroom Management: Is Waiting An Effective Consequence When Students Talk During A LessonAlmost every teacher does it.

But is it effective?

Is it effective to stop your lesson and wait on students who are talking?

Well, yes and no.

While it’s true that the strategy can help get wayward students back on track, it does little to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Thus, teachers who use the strategy find themselves using it a lot.

They also find that over time it loses its effectiveness.

What may take just a few seconds of waiting in September takes nearly a minute in November.

By January, it may not work at all.

So does this mean you should throw it out altogether?

By no means. In fact, done in a certain way, the strategy can be very effective. So much so that it grows stronger with time—until you no longer have to use it.

The key is to pair the strategy with a clear and direct response.

The way it works is that once your students notice you waiting, once they stop talking and look at you, you’re going to take action.

At this point, however, the strategy splits into two different responses, or modes of action, depending on the number of students involved.

If you had been waiting on just a few students to stop talking, say less than four or five, then you would follow your delay with whatever consequence is called for under the guidelines of your classroom management plan.

John, Karla, Anthony, and Abigail, you each have a warning for breaking rule number two.”

When followed by a consequence, waiting shines a light on the misbehavior. It further clarifies what isn’t okay and sends the message that learning is sacred.

So sacred that you refuse to go on if it’s being tainted by interruption. Further, it shows that protecting the right of every student to learn and enjoy school without interference is your number one priority.

Enforcing a consequence takes just a few seconds, and you don’t have to say another word. You can then continue with your lesson as if nothing happened.

If, however, more than a few students are talking during your lesson, then it’s a sign that you’re either on the cusp of losing control of your class or you’re already there.

In this case, the response is to cancel your lesson entirely and reteach your expectations—as well as the applicable rule.

Because, either you weren’t clear and detailed enough when you first taught and modeled how you want them to behave during lessons or you haven’t been consistently holding them accountable.

So, along with reteaching what is expected, you must recommit yourself to following your plan as it’s written. Otherwise, interruptions will be an every lesson occurrence.

It’s important to note that it’s either/or nearly 100% of the time.

In other words, because of the dynamics of classroom management and student behavior, it’s typically either just a small few who are talking or it’s most of the class.

We’ll be sure to unpack why this is true in a future article. In the meantime, just know that if it’s just a few, it’s on them, and accountability is your answer.

More than a few, however, is on you, and a sign you must reteach and recommit.

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31 Responses to Is Waiting An Effective Strategy When Students Talk During A Lesson?

  1. Deborah Ridley-Kern September 24, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    Fantastic article. Short, clear, concise and actionable. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks Deborah!


  2. Ms. Thompson September 24, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    Great and relevant article. Will implement the suggested strategies Monday in my kinder classroom.

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      Glad you like it, Ms. Thompson.


  3. Emily September 24, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    My main talkers are three kids with diagnossee of severe ADD and ADHD… but no IEPs to give allowances. They struggle far more than the others to stay listening. They spend most of the day in time out. I’ve tried strategies to keep their attention, but they’re starting to get despondent over their inability, for lack of a better term, to not start talking during lessons. I’ve been told I’m giving them.consequences for something beyond their control. Should I vary my response to these kids?

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2016 at 10:03 am #

      Hi Emily,

      This is a topic too big for a single article. It is, however, on the list for a future e-guide.


      • John Beaumont September 24, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

        Michael, I think this topic should be addressed now.

        • Michael Linsin September 25, 2016 at 10:33 am #

          Hi John,

          My approach (and advice) in this area is different from the norm and thus needs lengthy and detailed explanation.


    • Shawna September 26, 2016 at 9:45 am #

      In most cases, there doesn’t have to be an IEP to add interventions or accommodations. Depending on your district, you should be able to try behavior modification strategies to see what would best help these students. I have seen teachers use and used myself, point sheets, blurt charts (where students pull a blurt–lips, balloon or something similar–off a chart when they are talking out of turn), code signals or words, to help remind these students to stop talking. They should still be held accountable; however, their accountability has some extra accommodations.

  4. Michele September 24, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    One question I have. What is an appropriate consequence for students talking during a lesson in high school? I give students a daily participation grade of 5 and deduct points from that grade if they are disrupting the learning of others (talking while I or another student are talking). I have made this clear to all of my classes.

    Do you have suggestions of what other consequences are appropriate, besides a decrease in their participation? Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Michele,

      This topic is explained in detail in The Smart Classroom Management Plan for High School Teachers e-guide.


  5. Mbali phakathi September 24, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    I enjoyed this very much….I’ve been working as a teacher for a year and 7 months…and I sometimes struggle with managing a class as I teach high school learners and i look the same age as them…I’m 24..

  6. Michelle September 24, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    This article is great because I have heard to often teachers say, “I will wait.” And in the end they wait a really long time or get angry and yell. I wonder what you would do if the students never noticed you were waiting. Do you say something or do you continue waiting until someone notices? And in the case of calling out the few students that are talking, do you think that would potentially lead to a student feeling discouraged or do you believe it is how you call them out when you have gained their attention? You say, “You can then continue with your lesson as if nothing happened.” but I feel like different students may react differently.

  7. Lisa September 24, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Thank you for this article. I’m amazed at how every week the topic you choose is something I have dealt with that week while substitute teaching. It’s almost like you are following me through my week. You never fail to address the exact issues I need. Wow!
    Yesterday I had 6 periods of 6th grade Social Studies. One class was almost perfect- on task, following instructions and working quietly. Two of the class periods were about as bad as you can get for behavior. They just would not stop talking. The other 3 periods were a mixture but still very chatty. I started each class period the same. I stood in front, without talking and waited for their attention. Then proceeded to give the assignment once they were quiet and appeared to be listening. I gave my little speech about hoping to give a good report to their teacher and that I would also let him know of who had to be reminded of rules etc. They know from the past that I do give very detailed reports to the teachers. I’ve been around these kids quite a bit since last Spring and we get along well. Yet still during those 2 tough classes I was very frustrated with the behavior even though I do like these kids and they are respectful just a little too silly at times. I’m always looking for ideas and want to thank you for your website. I look to it all the time when I find myself challenged with certain classes. Thanks again.

    • Michael Linsin September 24, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      You’re welcome, Lisa. I’m glad the articles have been timely.


  8. Natalie September 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    My only issue with stopping a lesson and reteaching the management plan is that if it includes the modeling part, my students would be happy about doing that rather than whatever subject I am teaching at the time. They especially love the modeling part because they like to see just how out there they can get when they model misbehavior. I am assuming you mean just a verbal reteaching? Because if I need to break into modeling again, they’ll see that as a fun consequence.

  9. Neeta Kulkarni September 25, 2016 at 5:14 am #

    Yes, it is an effective statergy when one ir two students are involved in talking. I have tried it many times in my class room teachings. Some times I had to re-teach the lesson, but its worth it. Thankyou.

  10. Eddy September 25, 2016 at 5:33 am #

    Question about this section:

    “If you had been waiting on just a few students to stop talking, say less than four or five, then you would follow your delay with whatever consequence is called for under the guidelines of your classroom management plan.

    “John, Karla, Anthony, and Abigail, you each have a warning for breaking rule number two.””

    Q: How do you handle it if it’s John’s first warning, Karla’s 2nd, Anthony’s 3rd and Abigail’s1st. For some reason, I get tripped up and lose track when this happens then I have to go to my clipboard chart and quickly scan to see where each student stands. This makes me feel indecisive and not in control for some reason. Even though I know It’s just me knowing I can’t memorize where each student stands at all times.

    • Michael Linsin September 25, 2016 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Eddy,

      If keeping track is a problem (because there are so many students that have received consequences), then it’s a sign that there is a problem elsewhere. I’ve written about this topic in the past. The Search function is your best bet.


  11. Sandra J Freeman September 25, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    What do you do, when using this strategy and you have a few students who argue back about the consequence thus further disrupting class?

    • Michael Linsin September 25, 2016 at 10:40 am #

      Hi Sandra,

      This is a topic I’ve covered extensively here at SCM, both in how to respond to arguing as well as how to avoid it. When you get a chance, look through the Rules & Consequences and Difficult Students categories of the archive. You may also want to try the Search function in the top right-hand corner of the page.



  12. Mohammad September 25, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    Hi Michael, thank you for this amazing blog 🙂 .

    I’m a middle school teacher from Algeria (in north Africa); so students here are a bit different from American students, since it’s a different culture. My problem is: most of the classroom talk during lesson! I mean 50% of them….sometimes I feel powerless… I can’t force a consequence for 10 or 12 students… It’d look awkward… Moreover, last Wednesday, a student made a strange voice to annoy me, students didn’t tell when I asked them, so I asked the vice-principal to told them to go home; in that moment, they told him about the student who made the strange voice, and I sent a letter to his parents….but 🙁 one of the students in another class made the same strange voice… I ignored it…. I know it wasn’t the right decision, but it’s tiring to do the same again…. Now I feel like I’m losing control, and I can see in their eyes that they don’t take me seriously 🙁
    Sorry for the bad English, and for the long comment.
    Mohammad 🙂

    • Michael Linsin September 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

      Hi Mohammad,

      You’re welcome! I would still follow the guidelines above.


  13. Jonathan September 26, 2016 at 4:24 am #

    I read The Smart Classroom Management Plan for High School Teachers for the second time today. My freshman college classes start tomorrow. I’m a little nervous but I’m going to follow the plan this term because I’ve lost control of several classes in the past.

    I understand that if a student continues a misbehavior after the initial warning that you have a 10-15 second meeting with them after class. What if the misbehaviors are of two different types, though? For example, one for not listening and one for not participating. Or say, one because a student comes to class late and later one more for talking during the lesson. Would you still ask to talk to that student after class? Or is the mini meeting only for breaking the same rule twice in a lesson?

    • Michael Linsin September 26, 2016 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Jonathan,

      You would speak to the student regardless of which two rules were broken.


  14. Edna P. Manzanares September 26, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

    hello sir Michael,

    yes! its really true and very, very effective. I’ll try it in my class… thanks a lot for your good advice.

    Sir I had been reading your book many times entitled “DREAM CLASS” it was given to me by one of our resource speaker in our school 3 years ago it was so nice and very informative.

    How I wish i could also have a copy of your book entitled HAPPY TEACHER HABITS and A CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT FOR art,music and P.E teachers. I am a grade school teacher and likewise teaching in junior kindergarten too. Do you sell a copy of your book here in our country? if ever how much do I need to pay?.. thanks a lot and hope to hear from you soon. GOD BLESS YOU.


    • Michael Linsin September 27, 2016 at 8:10 am #

      Hi Edna,

      Where are you located. Our books are available all over the world.


      • Edna P Manzanares September 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

        Hello Sir Michael,

        I’m here in the Philippines. thanks a lot for informing me. I’ll look for a copy from a bookstore here. Actually i was thinking that your book is exclusive only in the U.S. that’s why I ask you the other day. Anyway thanks again and God Bless you. hope to read more articles from you.


        • Michael Linsin September 29, 2016 at 8:02 am #

          You’re welcome, Edna. You should be able to order any of the books. Enjoy!


  15. Linda Routenberg October 6, 2016 at 3:29 am #

    Do you have management strategies to suggest for substitute teachers who are in different classrooms with different age groups every day?

    • Michael Linsin October 6, 2016 at 7:28 am #

      Hi Linda,

      An e-guide on the topic is on the list of future projects.