Behaviour: Noisy classes

10th June 2011 at 01:00
I'm struggling with noisy classes. I can't physically shout loud enough 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. The main thing is to persevere."


"It sounds daft, but I use this with good results: stand at front of class and say to yourself: "Ah, they're all chatting when I need them to be listening. Shame, I'll have to keep them in to make the time up." The ones at the front start shushing the rest and I put a tally mark on the board and keep them in for a minute."


The expert view

Routines are key here; you need to habituate pupils to a signal that they will always respond to.

First, 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, what you expect of them, then practise it. Have your signal expectation on a laminated poster or on the whiteboard at the start of every lesson. That way, pupils are constantly reminded of what to do when you call for attention.

Second, 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 sometimes saying "Shh" or clapping your hands. If you aren't serious about your signal, why should they be?

Third - and this is the bit that teachers often forget - scan the room, looking at every pupil to ensure they are doing what you expect.

Acknowledge those who are paying attention with a thank you; acknowledge those who aren'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



Make your expectations clear before pupils enter the room - line them up outside the door and don't let them in until they are silent.

Be consistent. Find a signal that works and stick with it.

Reinforce good behaviour with class-wide rewards.


Undermine yourself by constantly changing how you deal with noise.

Go it alone. Call on your head of department to back you up.

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