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Have a question about teaching? Not sure how to handle a situation? Maybe I can help! Go ahead and ask me anything below. I’ll be answering questions here and there in my newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

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Dear Jen,
How do I keep my blurting students (who also think they are stand up comedians) from speaking out and interrupting?​

Oh, boy. There’s a lot that can be said about this topic and it really relies on an overall classroom management system. It requires a lot of consistency on your part and positive reinforcement to help with that. If you’re not already familiar with Think Time, it’s the one system I put into place that really worked for me when it came to blurting. But, let’s assume you don’t work in a PBIS school and don’t have that set up. Let your class know that you will not tolerate blurting, and then actually stick to what you said. If someone blurts, give them a nonverbal cue (the “teacher look” or touch them–gently–on the shoulder if you’re nearby), and then be sure to verbally praise students that do it right (“Thank you for raising your hand, Jamal. It’s respectful to raise your hand.”). Sounds so basic and silly, right? That’s because you’re an adult. Kids need constant reminders of all that stuff we consider acceptable social behavior. If the same student does it again the same day, give them a verbal warning (“It’s respectful to raise your hand when you have something to say.”) and do not answer or address what they said in their interruption. I see a lot of teachers, both new and experienced, get caught up in the moment and basically reward students for blurting out by answering their question or responding as if they really did raise their hand and were called on. If you clearly gave an expectation to not blurt when you’re doing a read aloud, and a student blurts out something when you’re reading, then don’t reinforce that behavior. A student that thinks they are a stand up comedian is looking for attention, from peers and probably you as well, so overwhelm them with praise if they raise their hand.

You may even consider teaching an explicit lesson on blurting (this book is a great read aloud to start the conversation and provide a reference you can use in the future). Ask for a volunteer to see if they want to help you demonstrate it with the class. Ask the student to teach you something (i.e. whatever they’re interested in, like “How to Play Pokemon” or whatever), give them time to even prep if you want (similar to what you do in teaching), and then make a big deal about blurting every few sentences (everything from “I have a bellybutton” to “One time, my Grandpa, he….” and other top hits). Have your audience (the other students) point out in a fun way (I like to use a buzzer from Taboo or have students shout, “Chiiiiicccckkkken!” like I’m the little chicken in the book) every time you blurt.

Dear Jen,

How can you get students to be more invested in classroom cleanup routines? I feel like an underpaid maid in 2nd grade…I know their parents are literally doing everything for them at home. #independentskillsin2020orbust


First, I’d like to mention that I love that hashtag. It’s so true. Cleaning up after yourself is a life skill, and if parents (and teachers) are doing it for kids, students will continue to have that expectation into adulthood. Then we end up with adults that are frustrated with their own lack of organization and partners (roommates, spouses, coworkers, etc.) that leave messes everywhere they go haha! So, what to do?

Step one: Stop contributing to the problem. Don’t clean up after them. Resist that urge to tidy up after them. Those pencils on the ground? Tell your custodian to leave them. You have a plan. I’ve had mom friends that do it for their kids, and all I can tell you is the kid just starts to expect it, and they’d rather listen to their mom complain about it while she picks up their room than do it themselves.

Step two: Set the expectation and be explicit. It’s likely the middle of the year for you. Tell your class from this point forward, you will no longer be cleaning up after their messes. Provide visuals. Take photos of what kinds of messes you’ve are talking about. Take photos of what you want an area to look like. Display them on a screen. Be explicit. You may think they know what you mean, but they probably don’t, so you need to be super clear.

Step three: Give an incentive. You can provide rewards and/or consequences. If they leave a mess, the consequence will be ________ (provide an example for individual, group and whole class). If they keep their area clean (this works well for table groups), they earn _______ (provide an example). You can do group points (download this free group points page you can print off and keep in a page protector) or clean desk fairy slips (another printable in the free resource library), which work well with the help of their peers motivating them to clean up.