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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.

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