As the end of the school year approaches, students can often start to wind up. Think “senioritis” when you were a high school senior, but bottle up that same excitement in smaller humans. Every spring, come May or June, even a superstar teacher with the most effective classroom management system in place can still suffer the wrath of (dun dun DUN) chatty class syndrome, or as I like to call it, “June Bug.” Even if something has worked all year long, you may feel the need to reach into your bag of tricks for a little extra reinforcement.
June Bug can typically lead to core problem areas: blurting out, excessive noise levels, loud transitions, and less-than-desirable behavior when walking in line. Here are a few student incentives that help target these 4 areas. They can be implemented any time of the school year, but I usually wait to bust one out as needed if I feel like the full moon behavior has started creeping in during those final weeks.
Catch a Bubble
You may have heard teachers use the expression “Catch a Bubble” or “Put a Bubble in your Mouth” when telling their kids not to talk or make any sound. This is a classroom management novelty that plays on that phrase, and it can be helpful when you’re experiencing a lot of distracting side conversations and interruptions.
Have a whole group discussion about all the times when it’s beneficial to talk in class (collaborating in teams, when it’s time to turn and talk with a partner, etc.) AND the times when it’s not okay to talk in class (if this were Family Feud…”while the teacher is giving directions- number one answer!”)
You can then provide specific scenarios, and students decide which category they fall into and sort/display them on a poster.
This was done with scenarios printed on pre-made cards, but you could easily customize with examples that are specific to your class community with sticky notes or by writing directly on a laminated poster.
You might also choose to go a step further in having students reflect, and pose the question: “Why do you think it is important not to talk during inappropriate times in class?” Students can write their responses on sticky notes and you can place them around the edges of the poster.
Once students have a clear understanding of the expectations, you can introduce “Catch a Bubble” cards, where each student has their own card with 5 bubbles. These can either be displayed on a poster, or they can be taped individually to students’ desks instead. A student has to “pop” one by crossing it out if talking at an inappropriate time.
Whoever has any bubbles in tact at the end of the week is rewarded by getting to chew bubble gum in class on Friday afternoon! If all of their bubbles have been popped, they do not get to chew the gum with the rest of the class.
I can only speak for my own students, but they LOVE getting the chance to do something that is usually never allowed at school. They do NOT love being left out of something fun that the rest of the class gets to do on Fridays. It really makes them think twice before they blurt and can really help minimize those disruptive side conversations during instruction.
I stock up on gum in bulk so that I don’t have to think twice about purchasing it each week. If you happen to have the store Smart and Final near you, this tub of 300 pieces is only $7.99. The kids get excited to choose their flavor each week (sour apple is a popular favorite this year). If you don’t have a Smart and Final nearby, this same tub is also available on Amazon.
Sometimes there are kids who don’t like bubble gum (shocker, I know, but it happens!) or who aren’t allowed to have gum per parents, and those students can receive an alternative reward.
If you’ve been teaching longer than a day, it probably goes without saying that you’ll just need to make sure to go over some ground rules before dishing out the gum. It has to stay in their mouth (no playing with it in their hands or sticking it anywhere), it has to be thrown in the trash can before leaving the classroom, etc. I tell the kids that if anyone abuses the privilege, they will miss out on getting to have bubble gum the next time. Let’s not jinx it, but I’ve never had an issue.
And while this strategy is effective for many chronic talkers, there will still sometimes be those repeat offenders. If a student pops all of their bubbles, you could have them reflect on their behavior by filling out an “Oops, I Popped a Bubble!” slip. It can be used as jumping off point to guide a one-on-one conversation with that student about their behavior, or it can also be sent home to be signed by a parent.
Is noise level the issue that’s causing you to go for that second pour of Chardonnay at night? These are ideas for keeping your kiddos working at an appropriate volume.
A powerful visual reminder is a good place to start. Here is one of my favorites from Miss 5th on Teachers Pay Teachers:
The “voice level” letters and numbers are FREE in her TpT store. You could place a magnet under the desired number, or you can find push lights like the ones shown in the photo on Amazon. They come in both white or bright colors.
If you’ve tried visual cues and they just aren’t cutting it any more, here is a Stage 2 Intervention for classroom noisiness:
All you need is a wind up music box. Here’s the one I have (the kids like that it’s personalized with their photo):
Let students know that you’ll be winding the music box all the way up every Monday. When it’s time for the kids to work independently and they’re being too loud for others to concentrate, open the music box and let it play. Close it back up once it has quieted down to an appropriate noise level. If the kids still have music left at the end of the week, they earn a letter that spells out a mystery prize. You can keep the blank letter spaces displayed on the board (think “Wheel of Fortune”).
The kids really get into trying to guess what the prize is each time they get a new letter. Once they’ve filled in all of the letters, they earn the prize.
Say Hello to Smoother Transitions
If a simple direction like, “Take out your math book and turn to page 503” seems to be code for, “Forget what you’re supposed to take out of your desk because talking at your table is more important,” then you need some KerPlunk in your life.
When kids are not making those quick and quiet transitions like they used to, sit them down and review the expectations. Clearly explain what a transition is (I tell my second graders it’s any time that we move from one activity or from one place to another). You may also want to create an anchor chart and do some role playing to act out the examples and non-examples of what expected transitions look and sound like.
And then, wow them with Kerplunk!
Many kids might have played the game before or have it at home, in which case they will excitedly tell you all about it. Explain to them that every time the whole class follows the expectations for transitions, you will select a student to pull out a stick. As more and more sticks get pulled, the marbles start to fall (if only my kids could be as excited about 3 digit subtraction as they are about seeing those marbles drop).
Once all the marbles have fallen, the class votes on a reward. Whole group rewards my kids have voted on: free choice in computer lab, teacher comes out to play at recess, mini dance party, etc.
Get ‘em in Line
Toward the end of the school year, some kids seem to suddenly forget the correct way they’re supposed to walk in line (amnesia is one of the stronger symptoms of “June Bug”). This is the time of year that I sometimes introduce Secret Walker.
Choose a student at the beginning of the school day, and don’t tell the kids who you chose (hence the term “Secret” Walker). If you have popsicle sticks with the kids’ numbers, playing cards with their names written on them, or some other kind of equity tool that you use to call on them, these work great for picking a student each day.
Tell the kids that while you are watching everyone’s behavior while walking in line, you are paying special close attention to the Secret Walker. If that student is following expectations while walking in line for the entire day, then they get to choose a prize coupon when the Secret Walker is announced that afternoon.
What are your tried and true remedies for June Bug? The irony in all of this is that teachers are actually the hosts of this ailment (pretty sure that the kids indirectly catch it from us)!