Behaviour - Cut out noise in class with our 35 top tips

13th December 2013 at 00:00
From storytelling to Star Trek quotes, there's an art to keeping students quiet. Here, teachers share their tried and tested methods

Yasuyuki Kuwahara tells stories. Elicia Shepard sings. Mary McCarney uses a small bell and her husband pretends he is on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

These teachers - working in Japan, South Korea and the US respectively - all have the same aim: to get their class to be quiet.

Teachers want to quell the natural noise of youth for various reasons: to give instructions, to teach, to create a productive environment for individual work, to ensure the pounding headache that has been knocking on their temples since lunch does not escalate to a critical level of pain.

But getting a class to be quiet is tricky. So TES decided to look at how teachers around the world were performing this conjuring trick. What we uncovered was a range of techniques as varied as they were ingenious, a treasure trove that you can plunder for your own uses. We present to you 35 golden rules for silencing your class.

1. "I always have my guitar with me and explain that by the time I've finished playing all six strings of a chord, they need to be sitting down quietly."

Craig Clarke teaches at Anfield School, a primary in Hong Kong

2amp;3. "Our teachers use strategies such as writing riddles on the board for the children to solve and playing classical music."

Amanda Dickson is head of primary at Academia Britanica Cuscatleca in Santa Tecla, El Salvador

4. "When the class are sitting down and I'm explaining something, I'll move around among them. If anyone's talking, I'll tap them on the head or put my hand on their shoulder - or even stand in front of them."

Kirsty MacPhee teaches at Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen, Scotland

5. "I tend to pinpoint the noisiest individuals and tell them to be quiet by shouting their surname. Everyone else falls in line as a result. This means that I am not telling people off who are being quiet, as can happen with some whole-class techniques."

Jeremy James teaches at Lyce Champollion in Grenoble, France

6. "I start sharing a brief story. Most of the time the students become quiet, because those who are interested in the story make the noisy ones stop talking."

Yasuyuki Kuwahara is a citizenship and cultural studies teacher in Tokyo, Japan

7. "Take two minutes and let them make as much noise as they can with the agreement and understanding that this noise is purposeful and within a set time."

Jennifer Murray teaches at the Deira International School in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

8. "I use chants and songs. One chant I sing is `Look, look, look at me' and the students will say `Look, look, look at you!' I sing it loudly, then quietly, and then in a whisper until all the students are looking at me."

Elicia Shepard teaches children aged 5-11 in South Korea

9. "Shake a shaker or rattle a tambourine. It will automatically gain the children's attention. If you make it into a game, they will get used to standing still and being quiet when you do this."

Alice Edgington teaches at St Stephen's Infant School in Canterbury, England

10. "I like to say `1, 2, 3 eyes on me'. They put their hands on their head, say `1, 2, eyes on you' and go quiet in a flash."

Denelle Calafiore is a teacher in Melbourne, Australia

11. "I give short, easy-to-follow phrases that the students have to repeat in a certain way. So I may say `Class, class', and they all have to say `Yes, yes' in response. Another example is `Classity class' with the response `Yessity yes'."

Amber Ernst teaches at Sleepy Eye Public Elementary Kindergarten in Minnesota, US

12. "I use a stick to hit the desk of any student who speaks when they shouldn't. Although I never use this stick on the children, the rap on the desk gets their attention."

A teacher in the Kedah region of Malaysia

13. "Talk quietly. The students then go quiet so they can hear you. It doesn't always work but when it does it's surprisingly effective, and it saves your voice."

Greg Ashman teaches at Ballarat Clarendon College in Victoria, Australia

14. "For the younger kids, I love a game of `Miss S says' (a game like Simon Says). I give them a quick succession of `Miss S says. ' actions and finish with `Miss S says ready to listen'."

Anna Slssinger teaches at Kendal School, a primary in Christchurch, New Zealand

15. "Developing `the look' is vital in keeping control when chat starts to simmer. It can be a raised eyebrow, a tilted head, a pursed lip - whatever works. It's non-verbal and non-confrontational."

Zofia Niemtus teaches at Lambeth Academy in South London, England

16amp;17. "I have an old-fashioned bell on my desk. One short ring and my fourth graders (aged 9-10) usually respond very quickly. My husband (who teaches third grade at my school) calls out `Captain on the bridge', to which his students respond `Ready and waiting, Sir' - he is a Star Trek fan."

Mary McCarney teaches at Atlanta International School, US

18. "If I give them a warning for talking when they shouldn't be, they get a yellow card. Three yellow cards result in a red card, which leads to an anmerkning - 10 of these would result in a lowered grade for behaviour."

Anne-Gro Hoyer-Trollnes teaches at NTI Gymnasiet in Stockholm, Sweden

19. "I clap my hands and say `Look at the screen', where I have this great online tool displayed. The meter shows that the noise level is not acceptable."

A teacher at the Rock Academy in Fish Hoek, South Africa

20. "I call out `freeze' and everyone freezes in whatever position they are in. They know this is the cue to be quiet."

A Rock Academy teacher

21. "I stand in front of them and perform actions like the Macarena dance. It gets their attention quickly and they quieten down and join in."

A Rock Academy teacher

22. "I have a flowery necklace called a `lei' that I wear when I want quiet. The students know that nobody should talk when I am wearing it. When I take my lei off, they can talk to me."

A Rock Academy teacher

23. "I get the children's attention by saying `class' in a variety of ways and the children respond with `yes' in the same tone and way. So I'll say `claaaass' and they say `yeeees'. I mix it up all the time."

Rajdeep Corby teaches children aged 7-11 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

24. "The key is that when the bell rings there is something clear for the students to be doing, such as working on some warm-up problems."

Gary Rubinstein teaches at a high school in Houston, Texas, US

25. "I set them a goal to achieve a certain number of good behaviour points. I often involve parents in setting the initial targets."

Daniel Dunlevie teaches children aged 5-11 in Melbourne, Australia

26. "Humour can be a really effective tool - a joke or bit of banter - but be careful not to cross the line."

Georgia Neale teaches at Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, England

27amp;28. "Clap out a rhythm and get them to repeat it. I also use a singing egg timer - they have to be silent before it runs out."

Mairead Doohan teaches at SCL International School in Surat Thani, Thailand

29. "I use ClassDojo, an online behaviour management system that allows teachers to award points to students when they meet expected behaviours."

Bianca Hewes teaches at Davidson High School in Sydney, Australia

30. "I stand at the front with my arm in the air. The class copies the action. Silence follows very quickly."

Rhian Davies teaches at Marple Hall School, Stockport, UK

31. "I decide, together with the students, the success criteria for a quiet class and use a reward and sanction system to enforce it."

Anne Taffin d'Heursel-Baldisseri is head of pre-preparatory at St Paul's School in Sao Paulo, Brazil

32."A sound-effect machine works really well. The device I use has a variety of different noises. I particularly like using the BBC `breaking news' sound."

Helen Staniland teaches at Deira International School, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

33. "I use a tally system. The children are grouped and each group has 100 marks at the start of the lesson. When a student makes a noise, a mark is deducted from their group tally. At the end of the day, I announce the winning group."

Archard Ruyange was deputy headteacher at the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania

34. "My aim is to motivate children to be quiet by rewarding them with interesting experiences. The one that really controls noise levels is the promise to be involved in things such as Megaconference Jr, which connects them with schools from all over the world."

Suzana Delic teaches at Primary School Horvati, Zagreb, Croatia

35. "The best way is simply to wait patiently, without saying a word, and the students calm down one by one."

Hanna Pohjola teaches visual arts in kersberga, Sweden.


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