When the progress report says “Talks too much”…

…teacher progress report, that is.
When I get that exhausted, overwhelmed teacher feeling, the culprit is often my voice. I’ve used it too much.
There are a few common reasons that teachers talk too much. And as always, the first step towards solving this problem is noticing it. Here are some talk-too-much causes that I’m guilty of:
Repeating the directions too often is so easy to do. It can actually feel like good teaching. I need to repeat myself for the students who don’t process audio well, the teacher voice says. But what effect does this have in our classes? Michael Linsin answers in his article, “How to Stop Repeating Yourself and Start Speaking With Power.” He says that students learn bad habits when we repeat the directions. Students realize…
 “They can finish the paragraph they’re reading. They can carry on their conversation a bit longer. They can cruise through the day without urgency because they know you’ll repeat your directions—and anything else important—over and over again. You’re actually doing your students a disservice by repeating the directions so much”
Linsin nails it, so I won’t add much. This counter intuitive point hinges on our ability to cede control. We have to give up the desire to talk as validation for our presence in the classroom. Instead, we must trust our words the first time we speak. Further, we have to focus on the relevance of the lessons we teach in order keep our students on track. Phew, that’s a tough one, isn’t it?
Modeling for too long is another way to fall into the trap of believing we’re helping but actually not. One more equation, one more sentence, more is better. Again, that feels like good teaching, right? Well, consider the gradual release of responsibility. Fischer and Frey explain that teachers often do this:
 I do –> You do it alone  
Instead of
 I do –> we do, you do it together, you do it alone 
Notice what happens when you follow the former instead of the latter? Modeling becomes 50% percent of the instructional process instead of 25%. This is roughly speaking. If we model and then hand it over to students, we’ll feel justified in talking too much.  Instead, do your part (your “I do”) then practice the gradual release of responsibility.

A few more quick ones

Not knowing the lesson plan is a recipe for rambling.  If we are unsure about our plans, we do our thinking out loud in front of the class. That works out far worse than we do that thinking in the Google Doc or plan book the week before. I’m all about first drafts, but I don’t want first drafts ofmy plans to happen in front of my students. Plan well and you’ll speak well.
Talking while the students read and write is another thing that feels right but isn’t.  This is another version of the first item. After we tell the students what to do, let them do it. We can check in. We can conference. But don’t talk over the whole group. 
I like this topic because it has two-fold benefits: by talking less we preserve energy. And, reducing talk time makes us focus on good teaching like planning and lesson design.
Now I should shut up and get back to work 🙂

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