Middle school students continually test boundaries, making them a challenging age group for educators. Practicing strong classroom-management techniques and implementing specialized teaching strategies for middle-schoolers is a great way to connect with these students. By recognizing the psychological and developmental reasons for students’ chattiness, you can work with talkative students rather than fight against them.
Middle school is a time of great changes for students shifting from childhood to adolescence. Parents are often surprised at the transformation their children undergo almost overnight. A cooperative, happy child may turn into a brooding, sarcastic, moody preteen who lashes out at authority figures. Although the middle school years can be a challenge, they are an important part of development. Early adolescence is a time for kids to try on new roles and begin acting more independently.
On a neurological level, middle school students’ brains continue to change during this time period, according to the National Education Association. Some of the major changes include:
Middle schoolers cannot control their brain development. Furthermore, their lack of psychological and social maturity contributes to talkativity in class. Working with students rather than taking a punitive attitude can strengthen your ability to educate them.
Chattiness begins when the teacher loses the attention of one or more students in the class. In many cases, this occurs because of information overload. Middle school students have attention spans limited by their incomplete brain development. Most can retain only five to seven pieces of information at a time. To work within these constraints, break down a complex lesson into its component parts. By providing three or four key points, you’ll keep students’ attention focused on your class, rather than surrounding distractions.
If students tend to talk during class, one approach is to encourage their chattiness within the bounds of a classroom project. Consider new ways to present information to make it more interactive, including:
Middle schoolers are sensitive to being treated like younger children. Their growing independence often causes rebellion against teachers and other authority figures. Instead, get chatty students on your side when you’re in danger of losing control of the classroom. Rather than punishing them, talk to them as adults. For example, explain “This situation is getting very frustrating for me, because your interruptions during class make it difficult for me to teach about cloud formation. I need everyone to be quiet and paying attentive for the lesson to continue.” Then, briefly lay out consequences. Treating students in a more adult-like way makes them feel valued and may rectify behavior problems.