18th November 2011 at 00:00
The problem: I want to stop shouting at pupils, but it feels like it's the only way to get them to pay attention. I feel it is unprofessional, and my voice is going. I'm an NQT with a Year 5 class. How do I get them to listen?

What you said

Try whispering! Believe me, it works - though not for ever.


Use non-shouty methods: clap, rattle a tambourine. With my Year 7s, if I can't get quiet. I write a sentence on the board like: "I'd like to tell you all something, but you're being so noisy that you can't hear me." I give them a minute to settle, then write: "Minutes staying behind at breaklunch time ."


The expert view

Shouting sometimes feels like the right thing to do, but it's usually an emotional reaction to frustration. It is a tactic that just provides sport for the children and undermines your authority. So stop shouting. I only shout at a class if there is a safety issue or if there is so much noise that I have to raise my voice to cut through it to issue my instruction - in a playground or on entering a noisy room.

Speak slightly above conversation level, slowly and carefully. Say as little as possible - if that. And make sure you communicate with maximum impact by saying only what you mean and always doing what you say you will.

Replace shouting with effective communication: if you say you want silence, say it once, twice, three times. Then start taking names and keeping kids behind. They will soon get the message that you aren't to be ignored.

It isn't the volume of a command that makes it an imperative, but the sincerity and the consequences. This way, you show them your words have meaning. If you don't set clear boundaries and reinforce them with tough love, the words will fail to engage.

Back up words with actions and you'll never have to raise your voice again.You deserve better than ruining your throat until you can barely speak. Your voice is a vital teaching tool, so look after it.

Tom Bennett is author of `The Behaviour Guru' and `Not Quite a Teacher':

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