Classroom Expectations: Do you dream of having a peaceful, quiet classroom? It’s a given that sometimes your students will be loud, so it’s very important to develop some tried and true methods of quieting them down. Tailoring your efforts to your student’s age range is a good starting place. Young kids usually respond best to creative, surprising requests. Older students want more communication and respond well to directness. Most importantly, keep your cool and you’ll find what works best for you.
Teaching Quieting Signals
1. Make a quiet signal with your hand. Teach your class a signal that means they should quiet down. When you make it, they should make it back at you. That way, they will help you quiet their classmates down without shushing.
- For instance, make a “peace” sign so they can “peace” back at you.
2. Clap your hands. This is one of the classic ways to get the attention of your students. Go to the front of the room, or walk around the room, and clap your hands slowly. You can start up a pattern that you ask them to repeat, such as clapping twice to respond to your single claps. This method works best with younger students but can be effective with high schools as a surprise tactic.
3. Ask for the 3 or 5 responses. The 3 response is “stop, look, and listen.” The 5 response is “focus, quiet, still, empty hands, listen.” Have these commands posted somewhere in the room and say “three” or “five” when you need quiet and attention. You could also hold up 3 or 5 fingers and ask the class to count down the commands with you.
4. Do a call and response. This is where you say a certain phrase or word and your students respond back to you with another statement in unison. It’s a great way to get everyone on the same page. Just make sure that the statement is easy to learn and age-appropriate. For elementary level students, you might say, “Holy,” and they’d respond, “Macaroni.” In a drama class, the director can say “Quiet in 2 [seconds]” with the class saying “Thank you 2”.
- For example, at the high school level, you could say, “The only easy day,” and they’d finish, “was yesterday.” This is an old military training slogan.
- You can say the call quietly so the students have to be quiet in order to hear it. The students nearest you can respond, then you can repeat the call to get the attention of students that are farther away.
5. Write quiet instructions on the board. Go to the board and begin writing a request for quiet. This statement should be friendly, but authoritative in tone. It should end with a statement that any student who does not comply will face some sort of penalty. The main point here is that students should quiet down before they finish writing and turn around.
- For example, you might write, “We need to be quiet to do a good job on this assignment. If you wish to continue being loud during this assignment, I will have to hold you after class for 5 minutes. If you wish to work at a quiet level, please lower your voices now.”
Turn off the lights. Go over to the main light switch in the room and turn it all off. You can expect that the class will get a bit louder right away, as they are surprised to suddenly find themselves in the dark. After the surprise dies out, they will lower their voices. That’s why it’s important to leave the lights off for a minute or so, don’t just flick them off and on.
- Right after you turn off the lights, say, “Okay, everybody please get quiet for me.”
- Be sensitive to students with sensory issues. It’s a good idea to let them know you will turn off the lights before you do it.
6. Set a timer. Pull up a timer on your computer so that it projects on the classroom board or screen for everyone to see. Set if for 5-10 seconds and then let it countdown. Let your students know that you expect your class to quiet down by the time it reaches zero.
- You can also offer a reward for quieting down faster or a penalty for ignoring the timer.
7. Ask them to imagine full mouths. This is an especially fun way to get younger children to cooperate. If the class is loud, say, “Eat a marshmallow.” Then, ask your students to pretend that they are eating a really fluffy marshmallow that fills their whole mouth. This will quiet them down quickly and you can switch out the imaginary foods that you use.
- It’s best if you model this behavior by puffing out your cheeks for a few seconds before chewing and swallowing your imaginary marshmallow. Then, move your students on to another activity.
- As an alternative, ask your students to “hold a bubble.” To demonstrate, puff out your cheeks and keep your lips pursed.
8. Make some noise. This is particularly effective for young children. Pull out a rain stick or metal triangle from your desk and move it around to create some sounds. Students will naturally look to see what you are doing and you can take this opportunity to ask them to quiet down. However, be careful not to scare them.
- Eventually, your students will start to lower their voices as soon as they see you pull out an instrument. This will save you some time.
- Be consistent with this technique and use it whenever it’s necessary. Keep the instrument in the same place so you can easily access it.
9. Play a music box. Get a cheap, wind-up music box. Wind it up fully at the start of each day and let it play each time that your students get too loud. Encourage your students to quiet down quickly, so that there will be music left at the end of the day.
- If there’s extra music left at the end of the day, consider rewarding your students with free time or a class game.
10. Install a traffic light. Get a large plastic novelty traffic light and install it in the corner of your classroom. When your students are loud and you need them to quiet down, flip the light on. Tell your students that “yellow” is a warning that they need to lower their voices. “Red” means to silence and “green” means that it is okay to talk as normal.
- To keep it easy you can leave the light on green throughout the day and only change the color when you need to make an announcement or alert your students about the noise level.
Creating a Calm Classroom Environment
11. Collaborate with students to create classroom rules. During your first day or two with a new class, sit down with your students and ask them what rules they’d like to follow in the classroom. Then, go through the suggestions and discuss which ones are possible and will improve learning. Going through this process will make students feel some ownership over the classroom and their behavior. Be sure to stick to a few simple rules and enforce them consistently.
- For example, you might create a rule that everyone needs to keep their voices down when working on labs, as it requires a lot of concentration.
- With younger students, you could also use this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of rules in general and listen to their teachers.
12. Offer group rewards. If your students follow your directions and quiet down quickly, then it’s a good idea to give them some sort of incentive to work towards. Let them earn points toward a pizza party. Offer a trip to a museum once they’ve aced quiet down requests for a certain number of days.
- You could also divide your class into teams and let them compete to earn rewards for themselves or the ability to choose a larger classroom prize.
13. Give your class jitter breaks. If your class is having a noisy day, ask your students to stand and stretch. It’s possible that your students may simply be jittery from all of that extra energy. Give them a chance to blow off some steam by asking them to stand up, put their hands up high, and stretch. You can also suggest doing a few, quick jumping jacks in place. Then, have everyone sit down quietly to begin work.
14. Use an app. Put an app on your phone that tracks noise levels in your classroom and lets you know if they exceed certain pre-set levels. This is a great tool to help teachers be consistent in managing classroom noises. You can set an app, like Too Noisy, to emit a loud alarm to alert students to quiet down.
- The average classroom can be as loud as 60-70 decibels, similar to the sound of loud city traffic.
- To teach mindfulness and self-regulation, practice yoga or meditation as a class using an app.
16. Be calm and don’t yell. Losing your temper only makes your students lose respect for you as a teacher. If you get too frustrated, it is better to step out of the door for a moment or to take a few deep calming breaths. If you yell, it is likely that your students will view it as permission for them to yell as well, creating a difficult cycle to break.
- Don’t engage in an argument with students over quiet time. Instead, make it clear that your classroom rules are for everyone’s benefit and need to be followed.
- Try not to take it personally if your students are being loud or disruptive. They’re just learning how to cope with their emotions, and it’s not about you personally!
17. More tips
Offer praise to those students who are following your directions consistently. But, keep it brief to avoid embarrassing them in front of their peers.
Do not use collective punishment on your students, as this punishes behaving students and may create resentment towards you.
Keep up your sense of humor. This will make your students like you even more and will make it easier to get them to quiet down or listen to any other commands.
Talk to a student’s parents and other teachers if they’re regularly disruptive in class. That way you can all work together to come up with a good solution.
Students will follow your requests for silence more closely if they know that you have careful plans for future activities. Make sure that you have a clear agenda for each day in your classroom.