Anything for a quiet life

14th September 2007 at 01:00
Throw a fake tantrum, draw a clock or even sprinkle silent glitter dust just how far would you go to get your pupils to listen and learn? Sue Cowley is here to help

Ah, the joy of a silent attentive class, the bliss of hearing that pin drop to the ground. It's crucial to get silence before addressing your class. If the pupils aren't listening, they won't know what the lesson's about. And if you let them talk once, they'll talk a bit more the next time, and the time after that.

How do you achieve silent attention? You might stand frozen, looking ominously at your watch. You could praise the pupils who are paying attention and say: "I can see that you want to go to break on time." You might draw a circle on the board, gradually filling it with minutes until the class falls quiet.

More bizarre methods often work a treat. How about throwing a fake tantrum or pretending to walk out? That should shock them into submission. Or sprinkle some glitter (silent dust) over the class. That should please the cleaners.

What works for me won't necessarily work for you. Years ago I got an email: "I did what you said, Sue, I waited for silence and I was still waiting 20 minutes later." Er, yes, but that's not quite what I mean*

Sue Cowley is an educational author, trainer and presenter. Her books include Guerilla Guide to Teaching (Continuum). For more information, visit

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