Less teacher talk means better student behavior

By Tim Bedley

2012-12-13 14.30.54Have you been around teachers who constantly yack at their students? Give them command after command after command? Have you noticed students in these classes tend to misbehave more?

Teachers with effective classroom discipline choose their words carefully and use as few of them as possible. Commands are brief and used only when essential.

Of course, classroom discipline is extremely complex and cannot be narrowed down to one factor, but a teacher who understands this concept will increase her effectiveness.

Train your students in classroom procedures instead of relying on spur-of-the-moment teacher directives. Use gestures to signal your kids. Be careful, or you will become the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher and your students will tune you out.

Why do you shake with respect when a police officer walks up to your window? “Do you know why I pulled you over? License and registration.” Imagine a police officer standing on the corner incessantly lecturing everyone that went by. The effect would be greatly diminished.

Classroom Snippets:

  • The teacher wants a student from across the room to close the door. She looks at the student and makes a swinging door motion with her hand and then points to the door.
  • The students come in the room loudly after lunch. Instead of giving the kids a big lecture about how many times they’ve been told, the teacher says, “Our class comes into buildings silently. Go outside and do it correctly.”
  • Several students turned in math papers without names. Instead of berating the class for their laziness, the teacher says, “Please stand if I say your name.” After reading all the names from the math papers, the teacher says, “These students followed directions by putting their names on their math papers. Go take a ticket.” Then the teacher lays the remaning papers on the floor and points to them while looking at the class.
  • A student is talking instead of working independently. The teacher calls the student’s name, beckons the student, and then says, “Sit up here and do your work.”

Watch a video of Tim teaching.


Published by

Tim Bedley

Tim Bedley has been teaching elementary school since 1988. He was recognized as the 2013 Riverside County Teacher of the year. Tim is also the founder of America's number one educational rock band, Rockin' the Standards. He also produces two podcast found on iTunes: The Bedley Bros. and The 5-Minute MishMash. Tim and his brother Scott are co-founders of Global School Play Day, a grassroots movement to promote unstructured play with today's youths.

2 thoughts on “Less teacher talk means better student behavior”

  1. I liked this post. I think a mix always works best, such that verbal and non-verbal (gesture) commands are both useful depending on the situation.

  2. It took me a while to learn this. Mostly, it was after I had my own children. Somehow, we know to keep directions to one or two words with babies or small children and then forget when they get older that people still respond best to simple directives. I perfected “the look” with my own kids and then learned that it works in the classroom too! Who knew?! The other behavior I have noticed that is hugely ineffective is getting angry about disappointing student behavior and then lecturing or getting mad about it. It seems that whenever that happens, the teacher has lost control. Students know they can derail instruction and get the teacher going on a harangue that will eat up 30 minutes of class. The teacher also loses respect. “Never let them see you sweat” is a good motto in the classroom. I think if we have clear expectations and consequences, we never have to be a meanie, we just have to calmly say, “Go (insert consequence here).” They know why, they know it’s fair because they knew ahead of time that could happen, but silently decided to test whether or not you would follow through. they respect you more for it.

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