I have to be honest, I have never been a big fan of shushing. Oral language is the foundation for student learning. We want to immerse our students in a language rich learning environment. That goes a bit beyond reading stories to them and putting words up on the wall. It also means creating classroom conversations and dialogues. It means letting them share their ideas with one another and it means not shushing them while they’re sharing ideas. Sometimes the most clever ideas and responses are the ones that teachers shush.
Now, I am in no ways suggesting that we should just always allow students to talk all the time. We need to consider the purpose for their talk and allow a lot of talk time throughout their day. That is the way they will grow as learners and as humans. Take a moment right now to think about the kids in your classroom. How much time do they have to talk with one another throughout the day?
Earlier this year my morning routine had students come in, put away their snack, and read a book. I noticed that my class was a very talkative one. For a while I would remind them of the procedures and have them grab books to silently read. Then one day I had to respond to an email while they were arriving and I didn’t have a moment to redirect them. Instead, I listened in. They were talking about what they did the night before and were sharing stories and plans with each other. Regular chit-chat that most teachers have over their first cup of coffee. I love it! Why should they be forced into silence at the start of the day? From that day on I allow the kids to chat amongst themselves when they arrive at school and I can tell you that it has strengthened our classroom community. It hasn’t gotten out of control. I love our morning chats and I actually have less management issues throughout the day.
Listen in while your kids are chatting this week. What are their conversations about? What ideas are they developing together? Does their chat sounds similar to teachers chatting before meetings? Try to build on the language in your classroom.