How to Manage Back Chatting

back chatting

Back Chatting

Students often use back chatting or answering back as a “teacher baiting” strategy. They want to distract you from your task. Kids who use this strategy are trying to get the teacher hooked-in. It is pretty hard to resist! 

How to Manage Back Chatting in Your Classroom

Back chatting is always challenging and sometimes rude. The teacher must stay in control and use behaviour management strategies appropriately.

The best way to handle this answering back is to first use the least intrusive behaviour management strategy. The most desired outcome for this behaviour is that the student stops answering back so that the teacher can continue to do.

Keep this goal is mind when applying the following behaviour management options.

Causes of Back Chatting

  • One possible reason for back chatting may be the need for some students to gain peer acceptance. Kids who answer back are generally the students who have poor peer acceptance. Answering back is a signal to their peer group that they are game enough to take the teacher on.
  • Some students like to get one-up on their teacher. Back chatting supplements their peer profile and will be revisited in the playground after the lesson. Back chatting is a way to pump up their bravado to their mates. This turns into a classroom power struggle.Are usually poor achievers:
  • Back Chatting is often the paradigm of the less capable students. These are the student who are difficult to motivate towards learning. The key issue is that the well-behaved and more capable students seldom use back chatting because they do not belong to the peer group of the ratbags. Ratbags need the approval of other ratbags.

I wish there was an easy answer to completely stopping back chatting, regretfully, there doesn't seem to be. It seems to be a continual problem.

The teacher needs to avoid the slippery slope by not getting hooked-in.

The last thing you want to do is to reward back chatting by giving it a higher profile than necessary.You certainly don’t want to destroy their social standing with their group because that would paint them into a corner.

Use behaviour management strategies that gives the student who continually use chatting a way of safely stopping the behaviour without looking like a goose to his mates.

After all, an animal cornered is the most dangerous of all. Let them have an escape route.

Managing student defiance.

Research shows some techniques seem to work better than others.

Strategies That Won't Stop Back Chatting

  • Don’t demand eye contact. Most kids will not want to make eye contact. Keep your eye contact on the student.
  • Don’t move in to the student too quickly.
  • Don’t invade the student’s personal space.
  • Don’t posture aggressively. Stand slightly side-on with your weight on your back foot (ie don’t lean in).
  • Don’t ask a question or use threats.Don’t get drawn into the argument.
  • Don’t use personal comments

Back Chatting in Focus

These behaviour management options can be adapted to suit the specific situation. It is not an exhaustive list and you may not need to apply all these actions. Be selective and be adaptive.

If you are angry, calm down.

You need to calm down before handling the situation. If this is a persistent behaviour you will naturally be a little angry. No solution is found in anger. Review your own self-calming techniques: self-talk; counting; slow, deep breathing; seeing the big picture; stance; and body language.Tactically ignore this behaviour.

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Tacticaly Ignore

Pretend not to hear anything. Don’t give it credence by responding – YET! There is nothing quite like indifference to switch off a behaviour – it has no effect so it may disappear as a way of catching the teacher.


Have a Private Conversation

Take your back chatting student aside. If a student is in the habit of getting in the last word, take her or him aside and give an “I message”. “When I say something Like you, I want people to listen. Thanks.”

Notice the use of the word ‘thanks,’ indicating that you expect compliance. Saying ‘please’ can be interpreted as a passive instruction.

Use “I” statements to acknowledge understanding. If the student continues to argue back, use a statement of understanding such as ‘Yes, I understand that,’ or ‘I can see how you feel.’

Continue to refocus the student on your original instruction: ‘Yes, I hear what you say. You need to start your work now. Thanks.’

relief teaching BACK CHATTING

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At this point move away from the student. This implies that you expect and anticipate compliance.

This gives the student an opportunity to save face and comply.Use your own words. If the student is unaware of what they are doing, just point it out to them. Remember not to name, blame or criticize.

Don’t use “you”, as in “you do this … etc”. The student will immediately become defensive and you’ll find yourself in an argument. Just point out what they are doing and how you feel about it. “John, Thanks for not back chatting. It really helps others so we can continue".

Keep the power base. Some children only feel okay when they are in control or when they can challenge you. Don’t get caught in a power struggle, nobody wins! You might seemingly be the victor but you won’t have built any kind of relationship with your student, and you would have just set the scene for more power struggles.

If this is the case: when you are feeling more in control and calmer, take the student aside and give an “I” statement, as above.Take control.


Move around the room and give bits of your lesson from where students are seated. Give your lesson from the back of the room so you can see the students. Move around a bit but make certain there is a purpose to the movement – give feedback, encouragement.

From time to time just stand near troublesome students.

Catch them doing something right. Manage behaviour from the positive not the negative. Take away their need to act out in class. Acknowledge something they’re doing well e.g. “I see you got that maths problem right – Great!”

Be smart - Give them no cause to disrupt your lesson with back chatting. Reacting to positives encourages students to come back on task. They have a purpose to seeking your attention.If you go over the top in your response – they’ll continue. It is fun to get such heavy reactions to something minimal.

Whatever behaviour management strategy you choose, keep your responses focused on behaviours.

Get Back To Learning

Emphasise the point. The only reason you need better behaviour in your class is to improve the learning for all.

Defiant students are really not interested in making your life easier.

Forget the "I'm sick of your behaviour!... I've HAD IT!" type statements. They carry no weight and make little difference in managing student defiance.

The defiant student doesn't care about your feelings. Mentioning that misbehaviour is hindering a mate understanding the topic may carry more weight.

Have A Crisis Management Plan

Crisis Management

Quite often you will need to be the first responder in a crisis situation. This is especially certain if the situation jeopardises the safety of others.

Every crisis is different. Crisis management calls for a substantiated process of action. Develop a crisis management plan for all of these types of situation.

If you don't have one, use mine.

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