10th June 2011 at 01:00
The problem: I'm struggling with noisy classes. I can't shout over the pupils and when I try my voice goes wobbly, which some children find funny. Taking the register is a nightmare. What can I do?

What you said

"Have you tried making them line up outside the door until they are quiet before you let them in?"


"I rarely shout. There is usually a better alternative. If it is afternoon registration or before a break, wait for them to be quiet and keep them behind if they don't. Set detentions, inform their head of year, phone home. But persevere."


The expert view

Routines are key; habituate pupils to a signal they will always respond to.

Catch them early. Line them up outside the door, being clear about how you want them to stand and the silence you expect. When you have that, bring them into the classroom.

Getting what you want is a three-stage process: tell them your signal, then practise it. Have your signal expectation on a poster or the whiteboard at the start of lessons so pupils are reminded of what to do when you call for attention.

Be consistent. If your signal is: "When I put my hand up, I want everyone to face forwards, put hands on desks and feet on floor and silently wait for my instruction," don't undermine it by saying "Shh" or clapping your hands. If you aren't serious about your signal, why should they be?

Scan the room, looking at every pupil to ensure they are doing what you expect. Acknowledge those who pay attention with a thank you, and those who don't by reminding them by name, and, if appropriate, issuing a warning. The trick is to ensure that each child hears the message as if it were directed only to them.

You can reinforce this with class-wide rewards: every time they do what you want, they earn a point which ultimately results in prizes. This takes time, and you may have to call on your department head to back you up in the initial phase. Remember, this is not a sign of weakness, but of professional strength.

Raymond Soltysek lectures in behaviour management at the University of Strathclyde. For more behaviour advice, go to

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