30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class
One day, in front of 36 rowdy sophomores, I grasped my chest and dropped to my knees like Sergeant Elias does at the end of the movie Platoon. The once chaotic classroom was suddenly eerily quiet, with students staring blankly ahead. I got to my feet and pretended like nothing had happened before saying, “Thank you for listening; now, let’s talk about love poems.”
That con trick was never utilised by me again. After all, it would be preferable if students called 911 in the event that a genuine emergency occurred, rather than uploading a video of my lifeless body to YouTube. I’ve given this some serious consideration.
The majority of educators resort to hushing techniques, such as flashing the lights, ringing a call bell (for a lovely demonstration, watch this video by Teacher Tipster), raising two fingers, stating “Attention, class,” or utilising Harry Wong’s Give Me 5, which is an instruction for students to:
They should concentrate on the person who is speaking, be quiet and still, put their hands in front of their chests, and listen.
There’s also the “three fingers” variation, which indicates that one should pause, look about, and listen. The good news is that none of these entail any sort of medical deception.
You will find a collection of lesser-known strategies suitable for use across all grade levels below.
HOW TO QUIET EARLY ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
The attention of younger kids is easily captured by anything novel, such as the chiming sound of a wind chime or rain stick. According to the article Cornerstone for Teachers, Beth O. tells her class, “Pop a marshmallow in.” The next thing she does is swell her cheeks, and the children imitate her. It is difficult to communicate when you have an image of a marshmallow filling your mouth.
Filling an empty bottle of Windex with lavender mineral oil and renaming the bottle “Quiet Spray” is an equally creative answer to the problem. You can also create the same effect by blowing “hush-bubbles,” which are magical bubbles.
Check out Super Sound Box, Class Dojo, or Too Noisy if you want to go the electronic route. These applications are available for both Apple and Android devices, and they monitor the decibel level in the room and produce an audible signal if the voices get too loud.
LATE ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE GRADE ATTENTION GETTERS
When I was a teacher of children in middle school, one of the ways that we would wrap up an activity was by having everyone remain silent for twenty seconds. After the kids had returned to their seats and maintained full silence for twenty seconds, I would move them forward one spot on a large replica of the board game Game of Life. When they finally completed the board, which took them about a month, we celebrated with a party revolving around popcorn.
Catching pupils as they enter the classroom rather than letting them in can be one of the most effective strategies to keep the classroom quiet. The expert on behaviour management Rob Plevin suggests utilising “nonconfrontational remarks” and “casual chitchat” during these interactions with children in order to socialise them into engaging in positive behaviours.
In a brief video narrated by Teach Like a Champion author Doug Lemov, two strategies for getting one hundred percent attention are modelled. These strategies are: a hand signal that is minimally invasive, and a countdown strategy (“I need two individuals. You are well aware of your identity. I’m looking for only one individual…’)
One further suggestion is to use a content-related “word of the week” as a signal that it is time for everyone to be quiet. Examples: integer, renaissance, or circuit.
QUIETING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
In rowdy high school classrooms, compliance may require a little bit more time than usual at times. Rob Johnson suggests in an article for ELT Notebook that educators write the following instructions on the chalkboard in bold letters: “If you choose to continue chatting during my class, I will have to take time from you at break.” You are required to be seated in complete silence by the time I have finished writing the title on the board. Whoever is still talking after that will be held back for another five minutes.
According to Johnson, the technique is successful each and every time because it provides pupils with sufficient advance notice.
Another method that creates an atmosphere conducive to learning is to play classical music (Bach, not Mahler) at a low volume when students enter the room. When I was teaching ninth graders, I played them music that contained positive subliminal messages until they complained that it gave them migraines.
This is a collection of memorable proverbs and sayings that can be used as reminders to be silent. The earlier ones are suitable for pupils in elementary and middle school, while the later ones have been demonstrated to be effective with high school students through field testing.
The instructor utters the word “Holy.” The response given by the pupils is “macaroni.”
The instructor counts to three and then adds, “1, 2, 3 eyes on me.” The response from the students is “1, 2, all eyes on you.”
The instructor will tell you, “You’re unbelievable.” The response given by the pupils is, “Like the Hulk. Grrrrrr!” (During the final sound, the children flex their muscles.)
“Hey,” calls out the instructor. Macarena is the response that is given by the pupils.
“I get knocked down,” the instructor adds at one point. The pupils give a retort that goes something like this: “But I get up again; you’re never going to keep me down.”
The educator compliments Mickey by saying, “Oh Mickey, you are so fine.” The response from the pupils is, “You are so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey.”
The instructor referred to today as “the one and only easy day.” The pupils’ response is “Yesterday,” which concludes the lesson. (A Navy SEALs catchphrase.)
As seen in this video lesson plan for primary school classrooms, teaching your silent signal and method will have the greatest possible impact. The next step is to have the children practise being loud until you provide the signal for them to be quiet. Insist on nothing less than full compliance from every single person. Then, describe the levels of noise that are suitable for various situations, such as when you’re chatting (when there should be no noise) or when you’re participating in a writing workshop (when voices should be low), etc.
If you feel intimidated by a challenging class (and trust us, we’ve all been there), try rehearsing in private how to say the following in an authoritative voice: “My words are essential. Students will pay attention to what I have to say. Repeat it to yourself until you truly believe it. Take solace in the fact that out of the three million teachers working in the United States today, two or three of them are likely to have battled to quiet down a raucous class at some point in their careers.