28th May 2010 at 01:00
The problem: I am a student teacher in a primary school and I like using a simple hand signal to quieten the children. But it is losing its efficiency and I have had to start using my voice more. How can I quieten the class?

What you said

"For a whole-class silence you can use my favourite - wind chimes. A slight chime and the children will stop. When they are a bit louder you could use the old reliable Stop Look Listen Clap."


"You could try to arrange new gesturessignals with the main troublemakers before the lesson. Tell them that these signals are just for them (a private warning system) so that they don't get in trouble or need to be told off in front of the rest of the group."


"I make a joke out of it - exaggerating to the class 'Let's see how long it takes X to realise the rest of the class are sitting with their hands in the air and he hasn't noticed yet'."


The expert view

It is always a wonderful idea to use your voice as little as possible to control a class. Sometimes you just need to remind them what your signal means and why you are using it. If this is the method that you are most happy with, take five minutes at the start of your lesson to recap your high expectations and remind children of their responsibility to settle immediately when you give the signal.

But you may wish to try a new method, although you should always be consistent. Again, you will need to brief the group on what the signal is and what you expect, plus the consequences for individuals who do not stop talking. I once observed a student who used the effective countdown method, but did not explain it. When she randomly said: "Five, four, three, two, one" the class yelled back: "Blast off!" Even though other teachers had used this technique with them, they needed reinforcement from the teacher before they could associate it with her and her class management.

New ideas that you could use - such as wind chimes - are always more effective when they are simple. You could shake a tambourine, for example, and ask children to wiggle their fingers in the air while silent so that you know they are free of pencils and other distractions. Another idea is to perform specific actions with your own hands - such as pointing at your nose - and waiting for pupils to copy you in silence. Then point at your shoulders and so on. The pupils will copy and you will know they are focused.

It is always good to try new ideas as long as you explain them and are consistent, but sometimes all you need to do is recap the original and your expectations.

Verity Lush is a teacher in Hampshire and author of 'Get Ready to Teach: A Guide for the Newly Qualified Teacher'. TES readers can get a 20 per cent discount, go to www.pearson-books.comtes.

See for more advice.



- Remind the class what your signal means.

- Remind children of the consequences of continuing to talk.

- Keep your ideas simple.


- Assume that the pupils will know what your signals mean.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today