Strategies for Managing Talkative Students

managing talkative students boy and girl talking in the classroom

Anyone who has led a student discussion has experienced it: the talkative student who does not listen well. The talkative student may interrupt others or may simply make comments that are not linked in any way to what has been said previously. Managing talkative students by moving students from passive listening (waiting to talk) to active listening (paying attention with the expectation of hearing something worthwhile) is increasingly recognized as crucial to effective collaborative learning. Speaking and listening skills are now part of most learning standards.

How can you help talkative students learn from their peers in discussion instead of dominating the conversation? Start managing talkative students by using one or more of these four strategies should make a positive difference in your group.

  • Have all students write an answer to the discussion question before the session. This both encourages thinking time for quick-to-answer students and enables you to confidently call on any student to contribute.
  • Ask talkative students to respond specifically to others’ ideas. Asking students to agree and disagree with each other is important in any discussion, but it is especially vital with talkative students. Asking the talkative student why he or she agrees with another student’s answer emphasizes the responsibility to think through others’ ideas.
  • Don’t paraphrase what students say. It can be tempting to move discussion along by restating a student’s idea if a talkative student says, “I didn’t hear,” when asked to respond to another’s comment. Instead, hold the talkative student accountable for listening by asking the first student to repeat the comment and then asking the talkative student to respond.
  • Lead a group reflection on collaboration during discussion. Having students assess how the class as a whole is doing with listening and responding constructively helps talkative students see their behavior in a larger context. As they see that listening helps both themselves and others, they become more likely to work on this skill.

Senior Professional Learning Consultant and Editor. Nancy Carr has over 20 years of experience as both a professional development coach and a curriculum developer, working in schools throughout the country and with a wide range of student populations. Her work focuses on the intersection of curriculum materials and classroom practice, and she has helped develop many of the Foundation’s current K–12 materials. Nancy holds a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.