Five fail-safe ways to silence a noisy class
1. The unexpected
Done correctly this idea never fails. Present the class with something they’re not expecting then hold back on the explanation. Kids are naturally inquisitive and will be desperate to know why you’ve arranged the classroom differently, switched on coloured lights, set up some weird equipment or walked in backwards. This puts the power ball very much back in your court. “I’ll explain everything as soon as you’ve all stopped talking.”
2. Envelope tasks
It’s surprising how much intrigue can be built up with nothing more expensive or creative than an envelope labelled "Mission Instructions" or "Top Secret". This humble piece of stationery is the ideal way to deliver a host of quick activities such as ranking or sorting exercises, quizzes or even more elaborate activities like "scavenger hunts". Simply hand a sealed envelope containing the activity instructions and resources to each student as they walk in with the instruction: “I’ll tell you what this is for as soon as you’re sat down quietly.”
3. Noise makers
Playing a musical instrument such as a tambourine, cowbell, guitar or kazoo gives a non-aggressive but very audible signal that you want everyone’s attention. You might consider linking the sound to a particular activity so that you have different signals/sounds for different actions such as sitting on the carpet (for younger students), putting pens down, clearing away, lining up and so on.
These can be anything from locations and pieces of music, to body positions and crazy hats. Here’s an example of how to use a location anchor to capture students’ attention whenever you want to tell them something: stick a piece of paper on the floor to mark a location in the room and tell students that whenever you stand on this mark, you will tell them something extremely important. Rehearse by walking slowly and deliberately to the mark several times until students get into the habit of quietening each other down when they see you approach it. The first time you use the anchor ensure the announcement is of benefit to them – eg, “Because you’ve all worked so well I’m going to let you… (insert reward of your choice).”
5. Use the ring leaders
Often the most challenging and difficult to manage pupils in school tend to be those with leadership potential. Use this to your advantage and get them on your side by giving them responsibility for getting other students to be quiet. Before the lesson begins ask them, out of earshot of other students.
Giving students duties is a very positive strategy but always make sure you give them clear instructions as to exactly what their job entails. It would be counter-productive for you to award a responsibility to a student only to have to then challenge them for doing something wrong (such as punching anyone who talks out of turn).
This collection is a small sample of the type of novel strategies featured in Rob Plevin’s new book, Take Control of the Noisy Class – available on Kindle and in ebook format at Amazon.co.uk and at Crownhouse.co.uk for £1 until 5 March. Each copy includes 35 bonus downloadable resources.
Rob Plevin runs workshops on behaviour management, student motivation and mindfulness. He can be contacted through his website at www.needsfocusedteaching.com