How To Reduce Shouting Out At Whole Class Time

How To Reduce Shouting Out At Whole Class Time

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Are your classroom interventions falling flat when it comes to shouting out? Are some of your students reluctant to participate while others dominate conversations and drain the pace of your lessons?

Join us in this episode as we dissect possible underlying causes and give you strategy after strategy, enabling you to respond effectively for a respectful and more engaged learning environment.

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FREE Beacon School Support classroom management scoresheet.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

Experiencing lots of shouting out in class so that whole class time feels like wading through mud? We've all been there nightmare, right? So this episode is going to give you strategy after strategy after strategy that you can use today to curb the cause of shouting out in your classroom so you and your students can be heard and make your teaching feel easy again. 

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs, whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. 

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to this week's edition of School Behaviour Secrets. The educational podcasting equivalent of chasing your hat down the street on a windy day. I'm joined as ever by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:16  

Hi Simon.

Simon Currigan  1:17  

I think you know what's coming. Do you mind if I ask you a question before we get into the podcast proper?

Emma Shackleton  1:21  

I think if I got an issue with you asking me questions, it would have come up about 100 episodes ago. Go on ask me now.

Simon Currigan  1:29  

According to a 2018 survey what were the top three most annoying habits people complained about in their co workers?Bear in mind this is workers in general not people who work in schools and no asking questions each and every week didn't come up.

Emma Shackleton  1:45  

OK. only three you want the top three?

Simon Currigan  1:48  

 Top three, yeah. 

Emma Shackleton  1:49  

Here are my ideas then, in reverse order in number three, claiming other people's ideas or work as their own and taking the credit I think that's really annoying. 

Simon Currigan  2:00  


Emma Shackleton  2:01  

Number two bringing smelly food into shared areas you know like when someone brings like a fish dish and sticks it in the microwave and absolutely stinks out the communal area

Simon Currigan  2:13  

Egg sandwich. You know who you are!

Emma Shackleton  2:16  

 In at number one on the top spot I reckon generating pointless admin or like 'waste of time' meetings. I heard a really funny term for this the other day. You know when a meeting should have been an email I heard somebody referred to it as shebai should have been an email I thought that was really clever. So yeah, shebai I think that's it number one meetings that should have been emails. Go on then, And what did the survey find? 

Simon Currigan  2:45  

Well the top answer and I'm not sure if this qualifies as a habit or not was offensive body odour. So make of that what you will they came in with 43% of people vote for it. Second was ignoring emails at 31% Third was not washing up, I'm guessing in the sort of shared staff room area and that had 30% For those of you with itchy bells saying being in the toilet for too long was at number six 20%. And I can't remember where it was off the top of my head but that smelly food thing that was in the list? I think that was further down.

Emma Shackleton  3:17  

Okay, okay, so go on then. How is this related to today's episode?

Simon Currigan  3:22  

I'm glad you asked because today we're going to tackle one of the bad habits in the classroom that drives many teachers up the wall is shouting out during whole class time, we're going to look at why shouting out during a whole class time is something we should be concerned about. And then three questions to ask that will help solve the problem. If it's something that you're currently struggling with in your classroom,

Emma Shackleton  3:46  

That sounds perfect. But before we get into the details, we've got a free download that can help if you are seeing lots of shouting out or any other kind of persistent low level disruption in your classroom. The download is called the classroom management score sheet. Inside the score sheet, you'll find a list of 37 factors that have an impact on classroom behaviour as a whole. 

Simon Currigan  4:12  

The score sheet is a list of things that you are objectively doing or not doing. Think of it as having a clear roadmap to improve your presence in the classroom. It's based on 1000s of observations that Emma and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's based on sound classroom practice. 

Emma Shackleton  4:28  

Simon, did you realise that between us we've got almost 40 years of working with schools?

Simon Currigan  4:34  

That is really, really scary. That's a lot of observations in a lot of classrooms and a lot of schools I've seen a lot of teachers and a lot of kids. 

Emma Shackleton  4:42  

It really is. So if you are supporting a colleague with their classroom management, for example, it can really help you to make your feedback and the action points that you give even more clear and objective.

Simon Currigan  4:56  

I'll put a direct link to where you can get your free copy in the episode description so all you have to do is open up your podcast app and tap the link directly through to the download page. It works like magic.

Emma Shackleton  5:07  

And while you've got your podcast app open, remember to click that subscribe button, so that you never miss another episode of school behaviour secrets,

Simon Currigan  5:16  

Subscribing feels like having a really buttery piece of toast on a winter's evening, you'll get that warmth inside. That's exactly how tapping subscribe feels. So with that said, the now means it's time for us to steady our focus, put our finger into our mouths, squeeze our teeth firmly together and tear off that broken nail we call behaviour. 

So what we have to do really is to start thinking about why is managing shouting out important during whole class time, we're not saying children should never have the opportunity to talk. But whole class time is a specific time usually, where you're trying to impart information or give children instructions about how to complete a task or give them information about the learning that they need to be doing. And that needs to be done in a structured way. Because when you've got 30 children and one teacher or a couple of adults, it can't be a free for all. Otherwise, no one gets heard when we have lots of shouting out during whole class time. That interrupts the learning. And what you find is it just drains your lessons of any pace. And we know that pace is really important, that sense of forward momentum to get children engaged with their learning and get them making progress. The issue you can have is if we tolerate lots of shouting out is the children who do put up their hand and they wait and they do the right thing. Well, they get ignored or shouted over by the children that aren't following the convention and the rules for engaging in whole class time basically putting their hand up and waiting and contributing one at a time in a shared fair way. And then you kind of lose those kids. They're set, they're doing the right thing, but they get the feeling that they're not being heard. So it creates this, either this resentment, or a feeling of well, I'll just give up and I'll start shouting out as well. Otherwise, my voice never gets heard. This isn't about having Victorian expectations for class interaction in the modern world, you simply can't successfully manage a whole class conversation with loads of people just talking all the time, you've got to have a system to manage the children being able to input in the lesson, or no one gets heard, or people feel disrespected, or ignored or overlooked. And whether that's true whether it's the child or the teacher, what you have is chaos. 

Emma Shackleton  7:40  

Yeah. And if you think about it, even in adult conversations, for example, where you've got a shared call, maybe like on a zoom call, or something like that, even the grown ups have got ways for people to be able to contribute. So you can do the little hand up signal. Or maybe they use the chat box, but they take turns. So it's an organisational tool to be able to manage everybody's contributions and give everybody a chance. And you're absolutely right, Simon shouting out sucks the pace out of the lesson, especially if the teacher keeps on stopping to address the shouting out. Because then the whole essence of the learning the message just gets lost in a load of correcting behaviour. And it just takes twice as long. So it's really stressful. It's really boring. Everybody just gets fed up. However, if you simply ignore shouting out and don't get me wrong, tactical ignoring can be useful, but not on its own. If you just let shouting out happen, that's going to be detrimental to your children's learning for sure. Because over time, what happens is it just becomes a habit. And more and more people start shouting out even some of the ones who weren't doing that before. And over time, the shouting out gets worse. So just ignoring it isn't going to work. So we've got to think about okay, what can we do to manage it then?

Simon Currigan  9:11  

So we've got three key questions for you here. They're going to help you dig into the causes of why we're seeing such a lot of shouting out in the room. And the first question is to ask, Have I been specific about what my expectations are during whole class instruction? Because sometimes we assume children have this implicit knowledge about what we want them to do about what the routines and expectations are in the classroom. That simply isn't true. And I'm thinking particularly here about before and after the pandemic, at the moment before the pandemic or after the pandemic that seems to be having reference things at the moment. But before the pandemic, my kind of lived experience and talking to lots of teachers that kind of experience was kids kind of knew what the expectations were and might have had difficulty with it. But as a whole, the class as a group coming up through school through primary and secondary had the shared expectations that were embedded and understood of how to join in with whole class instruction. And it seems something happened during the pandemic and lockdowns where kids came back. And to this day, they seem to have lost this knowledge of routine and expectations, not just around social interaction, but all sorts of aspects of school life. And it's almost as if we need to go back now, and explicitly reteach what our expectations are. I'm not sure why that happened. I'm not sure if it was about being at home and forgetting those expectations, or perhaps just not seeing those expectations as being important anymore. But we as teachers certainly have a job of work now about being really specific about how we join in with whole class time why those routines or structures are important, because they're there to make sure that everyone gets heard and feels respected in class.

Emma Shackleton  11:02  

Yeah, you're absolutely right, Simon, we mustn't just make the assumption that children implicitly know what we want. And then we get frustrated because the children don't do that. And we also mustn't make the assumption that just because the children are older, maybe they're in an eight year old, or nine year old or 10 year old or 14 year olds body, that doesn't necessarily implicitly follow that they understand exactly what we mean when we ask for quiet and when we're trying to give our input. So this is really all about training, isn't it training to make sure that our idea of the expectations is clearly communicated, and everybody understands what's expected of them, and that they can then be successful in doing it. So at the start of every whole class time, we have to be specific, it's not enough just to say, show good listening, or be quiet, because that can be interpreted in a number of different ways, we've got to be really clear. And we've got to say up front, this is a mistake that I see quite often, because people are short on time, they launch into what they want to happen in the lesson. And then they get frustrated that the children aren't doing it. What we need to do is tell them up front, front load the expectations, be very clear what exactly we want before we want it. So if we want good listening, what does that look like? If we want good walking? What does that look like? If we want quiet working? What does that look and sound like? And I don't know about you, Simon. But more and more, I'm finding that children are not so great at tuning in and listening to adult voices. 

Simon Currigan  12:51  

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's like this confluence of things. It's social media, it's the pandemic, it's all sorts of things sort of coming together in this sort of tidal wave that we've got to manage.

Emma Shackleton  13:00  

My big go to with this, and I talk with teachers a lot about this is make sure that you are backing up your spoken words and instructions with visual reinforces and signed. And my personal favourite, actually, is photographs. So if you've got an idea in your head of what you want the children to look like, for example, you're giving the whole class input at the start of the lesson. And your expectation is that every child will be sitting with their lips closed and their eyes looking towards you. If that's the picture in your head, get the children into position, even if it's staged, momentarily, capture that image with an iPad, take a photograph of the children as you want them to be. And then use that photograph, blow it up, laminate it, put it on your board, put it somewhere prominent where the children can see it. And this is what you refer to. And this is your routine. So every time you want a whole class listening, you ask for whole class listening, and you point to the photograph. And children can see themselves in the photograph, getting it right. So if you can see yourself doing it, that means you've done it, and you can do it as long as the conditions are right. So reduce talking, reduce words, reduce nagging, because that never works. Go with simple clear directional language and the picture of what you want.

Simon Currigan  14:35  

And we're talking about a lot of repetition and grind here, this is not a one and done. This is something you're going to have to come back to over and over and over. And that repetition is hard because we feel like we want to get into the content into the subject that we need to teach. But unless we are investing in this groundwork, then we're never going to get through the amount of content the amount of lessons that we need to get to you know the amount of stuff To acknowledge, because we're constantly being undermined by this difficulty interacting in whole class time. And then the next thing we've got to do is once we've done that, once we've been explicit about our expectations and backed it visually, we need to make sure we are reinforcing the children who are doing the right thing, making them feel good about doing the right thing, not just taking that for granted, especially if you're in a class where this is difficult, and you're in a transitional period. So if the class are doing the right thing, a make sure the class feels good about it and recognise it and make sure individuals get that recognition, make sure you notice them with specific language, say, oh, I can see that you're taking turns, you put up your hand and waited, that's really polite, I'm going to wait for you that takes just five seconds, but makes the child feel good makes the student feel proud about following the routine, it makes them realise that they get noticed for that it's easy to get dragged down into noticing negative behaviour all the time, right? You want to lighthouse, the behaviours you want. And when we talk about lighthouse and wait to imagine that the teachers words and actions are like a lighthouse beam on a dark night, if you look at a lighthouse on a dark night, all you can see are the areas where the lighthouse is casting its rays, and picking out you know, kind of details in the ground and in the sky. Right, everything else is darkness. And the teachers voice and actions are like that, if we as teachers publicly recognised negative behaviour, and sometimes we have to do that, then we are drawing everyone's attention in the room to that negative behaviour. And we're sending a message to the rest of the class, saying that I am currently awarding my attention as a teacher to negative behaviour. And we need to reset that we need to make sure that the children notice the positive behaviour in the room. And that we send the message that we award our recognition and praise and attention for that. And we should be aiming to hit a five to one ratio for noticing children following expectations and think about what that five to one means is five positive. For every one negative, it doesn't mean there are no negatives. What it means is that one that one interaction, that one negative interaction is so powerful, we need five positive interactions to undo the damage. Because positive interactions are actually in terms of how we perceive them are actually quite weak do lots of good in the long term. But we need 345 Just to balance out every one negative kind of act of recognition by the teacher.

Emma Shackleton  17:32  

Oh, for sure. And actually, when you don't recognise those positive behaviours frequently enough, it's a bit of a downward spiral. And what you find is that you actually lose the rest of the class. So the children that were sitting, the children that were listening, the children that were putting their hands up, are now getting fed up, because they've clocked, they're actually, the children who are showing the undesirable behaviours are the ones who are getting all of the focus and attention. Even if that focus and attention is getting told off. They're realising, actually, there's nothing in it for me to do the right thing. And little Johnny over there who keeps calling out while the teacher keeps looking at him, she might be frowning at him, or telling him off. But actually, at least they're getting in the ray of the lighthouse, at least they're getting some focus on them. So other children who need more attention, who need more connection, and who need more focus, start to think, well, I'm going to do that too, because they've worked out, the way to get noticed in this class, is by calling out or by showing the undesirable behaviours. So when you're in it, this pre work this training about expectations feels like hard work, it feels like it's going to be so time consuming, you're not going to have time for anything else. But I always think actually correcting behaviour, sorting out problems after they've happened, takes loads of time and energy anyway. So it's a little bit of a stitch in time saves nine, if you do the work up front, ultimately, you train your class into what you expect them to do, and they get it and you set them up for success. And then they can be recognised for being successful. That cycle takes time and effort. But over time, you'll need to invest less time and effort, the children will get it they'll know what to do, they'll feel recognised and rewarded. And you'll have less negative incidents to deal with. So it's really really worthwhile putting in that energy and effort upfront to make sure that you've been specific about your expectations.

Simon Currigan  19:53  

OK, and just be aware as well that this won't have an impact on day one. This is something you're gonna have to grind out over For the weeks, but its impact over time is actually massive. Okay. And most of the classrooms we see in our work where there's any kind of low level behaviour, actually, there's often an issue of imbalance of positive to negative interactions from the teacher positive to negative recognition, you get what you feed. So that was question one that was about the whole class. Have I been specific about my expectations? The second question is, do individual students within the class have a skills gap? Now, I love the quote from Dr. Ross Green that says, "kids do well when they can" Right "kids do well, when they can". So let's start by asking the question, why isn't a specific child or student doing well in this situation? So this is no longer about whole group? This is our drilling down into individual kids, why is that specific student not doing well in this situation? And we need to start to ask ourselves, if we've done all the explicit teaching about what the expectations are on the reinforcement, and we're still seeing issues, we need to start asking, is there an underlying need that is causing this difficulty? So let's assume that the student, if they had the skill to do well, in this social situation, this whole group time, they'd be using it? And as they aren't doing well, what you could do is look at inappropriate shouting out as a skills gap. So think about a skills gap in reading and writing, what would you do if you've got a child is having difficulty reading, you would go back with them and do some specific reteaching of those skills, reviewing their progress, finding different ways to explain it, and so on. We wouldn't get angry with a child or frustrated with a child because they weren't able to read. Likewise, when we've got children who are not participating in a whole class time, well, actually, we need to be thinking, instead of getting frustrated, we need to be drilling down and thinking, right? Why is this specific student not able to engage? Because if they had the skill, then presumably they'd be using it. And there are lots of ways of doing this. We're going to share just three with you. 

Emma Shackleton  22:01  

OK so how do we communicate this, then how do we teach that skills gap? Well, one way to do it is through something called a comic strip conversation. This is a technique that was pioneered by Carol Gray, and a comic strip conversation is a really easy pictorial way of demonstrating what's happening, what are people thinking when they behave in a particular way. So it's a really simple technique, all you need to do is to be able to draw stick people. And what you're doing is illustrating in a particular circumstance, how people might be thinking, because the way that they are thinking drives the way that they behave. So for the example of calling out, you would be able to draw a little sequence of pictures like a comic strip, where perhaps the teacher is trying to address the class. And a pupil is continually interrupting and calling out and the way that that comic strip would play out. So the child is able to start to understand the impact of their calling out because they start to learn about how the calling out affects the teacher, affects the other children. Because you can use little speech bubbles, you can use little thought bubbles, and rather than lecturing or droning on about stopping learning and all the rest of it, it's a bit more fun and a bit more easy to interpret when it's drawn out like a comic strip, which might be a familiar method for a child.

Simon Currigan  23:35  

Another method is a social story, which in many ways is similar to a comic strip conversation, also developed by Carol Gray, but it's a way of instead of showing that pictorially, like you do in a comic strip conversation, it's a way of writing out different social situations, what's expected in that situations, what people might feel what people might do, say in a whole class time to be successful in that situation. It uses a specific approach to writing what the student experiences, what the expectations are, and how to be successful. Now, there are loads of social stories on the Internet, you can get them from Carol Gray's books and materials. So if you're using social stories with older children, I definitely recommend that you go on the internet and do some research because there will be loads of pre written social stories out there about supporting children were shouting out during whole class time.

Emma Shackleton  24:24  

And method three of teaching to that skills gap is helping the child by giving them an implementation intention. So rather than just saying stop calling out or calling it is rude, or why are you calling out, which is a bit of a daft question when you think about it, rather than grilling them in that way. You try to teach them that when they have the urge to call out that they do something else instead. So they need cueing in to specifically the time that they are making the social mistake. So it might be something like like, when I want to call out my answer, I will put up my hand and wait, or something like that really easy. So you're not just telling them what to stop doing, you're telling them also what they need to start doing. And that's putting up their hand. But they need the cue, they need to know when when are they supposed to use this skill? So when I want to call out my answer, I will put up my hands and wait, and you need to practice this. And of course, any time that the pupil ever manages to do this, that's big progress. So they need recognising for that in whichever way they prefer. So it might be public recognition, or it might be a quiet word later, where you say, I saw you earlier, I noticed that you wanted to call out but I was really pleased that you managed to put up your hand and wait for me to ask you.

Simon Currigan  25:55  

So we've asked do the group as a whole understand the expectations we've asked do individual pupils have skills gaps or needs that are preventing them from hooking into school expectations. The third question we need to ask ourselves is what happens when a pupil does shout out? So we've re-taught our expectations? We've done that systematically. We've used recognition that we've looked at individual students and work with them, assuming there isn't an underlying skills issue. We've got children who are just shouting out because they want to, what do we do? Well, the first thing we have to ask is What does happen if a pupil shouts out? If the answer is nothing, really, then we've got a problem. Because sometimes what we tolerate speaks louder than what we promote. Think about if you were at work and loads of your teaching colleagues, loads of your teaching colleagues kept turning up late to work, you know, half an hour, 45 minutes late. And if nothing happened, if the management took no action, what would you think about that? How would that change your behaviour, you might find that you start turning up late to work, too, because nothing seems to happen. So why wouldn't you? 

Emma Shackleton  27:08  

Absolutely. So some children need a really clear boundary in order to contain their behaviour. And this is also true of some adults. Look how some people behave when they feel like there are no consequences for their actions. So you know, sometimes when people feel like they are anonymous, or they feel like they're not gonna get caught, social media is a great example, isn't it, you know, the keyboard warriors who love to go on there and type their opinions and wind things up. Because they feel anonymity, they feel like no one's going to catch them, they feel like they can get away with it. So there's no boundary. So this applies to the classroom as well. Children need to know what the boundary is and where it is. They need to know what happens when you stick to the rules, and you do the right things. And what happens when you break those rules and you make poor choices. They need to understand, how does this classroom work? What are the rewards? What's the recognition for toeing the line for doing the right thing? And what's going to happen if you don't do that?

Simon Currigan  28:14  

Most teachers are intrinsically motivated people. And that means that we believe in doing the right thing, largely because it's the right thing. We do it for moral reasons. You know, most teachers are in the profession, because they want to make the world a better place. That's an intrinsic reason, they largely don't come into teaching for the money. Or if they do, they're fools. But not everyone is like us, right? Some people are very extrinsically motivated, both positively and negatively. So intrinsic motivation is doing it for internal reasons doing the right thing because you care about it. And it's the right thing and it's your morality. Extrinsicly motivated people do what they do, because of external factors, things that happen to them either good or bad, when they engage in certain behaviours. So, if we believe that behaviour is chosen, and yes, there is such a thing as chosen behaviour, so we need to recognise that those extrinsically motivated students don't need it intrinsic motivators at the moment, what they need is boundaries, and an understanding of what happens to them, when they do shout out. So if you believe their behaviour is chosen and yes, that is a thing, rather than driven by an underlying need or lack of social understanding, then action does need to be taken.

Emma Shackleton  29:30  

And you can do this using traditional consequences and sanctions, you can approach it with restorative conversations, and you can keep the individual children back at play time to practice putting up their hand and waiting until they've got it. It's amazing how fast children learn, especially the ones who are choosing when the consequence or the coaching happens in their free time. But no matter how you do it, something has to happen. Having consistency with routines and boundaries is super important for all pupils, and especially those pupils with additional needs, boundaries, help them to feel safe, help them to understand the expectations and give clarity around what to do, which means that they can succeed in the classroom. And obviously, you're going to need to work in line with your whole school behaviour policy. 

Simon Currigan  30:25  

So what we're using here is a needs led approach first digging down to see if there's a barrier to the child or the group as a whole, accessing whole class time successfully. High expectations are fair, if the children have the skills and the capacity to meet them, and then we have to drill down and do specific teaching about that. So we need to be specific about teaching our expectations, you need to ask yourself, Am I actively reinforcing those expectations enough? Or am I noticing the negative behaviour at the expense of recognition for children who are exhibiting positive behaviour? 

Emma Shackleton  31:02  

Yes. So you've got to think about whole class and then drill down into individual needs asking, actually, have I ever seen this child manage to sit through a whole class input without calling out? Or are they not really physically able to do what I am asking yet? That's the killer question, isn't it? Can they do it when the conditions are right? Or do they need coaching, helping, teaching supporting until they've mastered that skill? Remember that quote from Dr. Ross Greene, "kids do well, when they can". They want to achieve, they want to be recognised. So if they can't do it, why not? What's the barrier for them? 

Simon Currigan  31:47  

And if you're working with children who are choosing to shout out, bear in mind, that there needs to be something that happens when they do shout out natural consequences tend to be more effective than artificial ones. We'll talk through more about that in other episodes.

Emma Shackleton  32:00  

And if the behaviour is genuinely chosen, ask yourself what happens when the child repeatedly shouts out? Because if the answer is not a lot, and you're extrinsically motivated, then why would you change your behaviour?

Simon Currigan  32:16  

If you found today's episode useful, don't forget to share it with friends or colleagues using the share button in your podcast app. So we can get the strategies and ideas out to as many teachers, school leaders and parents as possible. 

Emma Shackleton  32:27  

And that's all we've got time for today. We hope you found this episode useful and that you go on to have a brilliant week with very little shouting out during whole class time. And we can't wait to see you in the next episode of School Behaviour Secrets. Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  32:42  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)