Five Top Tips for a Quiet Classroom

A quiet classroom is one of the key elements for successful learning. Certainly there are activities that require more noise than others, but in this post I am focusing on those situations that require focus and concentration from your students. Getting your class to work quietly can be tough but I hope that these ideas will give you some tips for getting your class quiet, focused and learning!

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1) MODEL MODEL MODEL!
It was not until a few years into my teaching career that I came across the concept of modelling, but I am so glad I did! It really works. You may be telling your students over and over to ‘work quietly’ or to use ‘inside voices’, but do they really understand what you mean? At the beginning of the year, or whenever they need a recap, show your students exactly what you mean. Run through each voice level expectation (silent, whisper, table talk etc) and demonstrate them to your class. Gather your class and tell them that you are going to demonstrate a voice level expectation. Tell them that you are going to show them ‘silent working’, for example. Pretend you are a student, walk to fetch your work, sit down at a student’s place and begin working silently, eyes on the work, not looking around etc. After your demonstration ask your students what you were doing, not just with your voice, but with your whole body, i.e. were you looking around at other children or were your eyes firmly on your work? After your discussion, ask a volunteer student to demonstrate to the rest of the class. I then usually get a small group to demonstrate before getting the whole class to try it together. Repeat this for however many voice levels you will be using within your classroom to ensure that your students really do know what your expectations are.

2) Play quiet music in the background
I find this particularly useful during silent work. I usually play classical music, meditation music or natural sounds, i.e. waves breaking, rain, jungle noises etc. I find that this calms the class and keeps them focused. Try out different types of music with your class and see what works best.

3) Have a noise monitor on each table
Give a student on each group the responsibility of reminding others to stick to the voice level. The noise monitors will enjoy the responsibility and it will put the responsibility back on the children. When I have used this technique in the past, at the end of the day I awarded the table a who had been the quietest by placing a soft toy on that table the next day for extra motivation stick to the voice level!

4) Quiet Critters
When your class are working silently get out the Quiet Critters! These are simply little pom pom type toys/creatures that I place around the room, or on a shelf when my class are working silently. I tell my class that they do not like noise and only come out when they are working silently. If your class start to talk, put them away. Your class will try extra hard to stay silent so they can see the Quiet Critters come out and stay out!

5) Noise Traffic Lights
When your students are working at the voice level expected display a green traffic light symbol. This could simply be a green circle stuck onto black card. This lets the children know that are working at expectation. If they begin to talk/ get too noisy change the green traffic light to an amber one. Give the children one minute to get back to the expected noise level, in which case you change the traffic light back to green. If however, they do not quieten down, change the traffic light to red. Agree beforehand with the children what the green and red traffic signals mean in terms of consequences and rewards. Red may mean one minute knocked off free time/recess/break time etc. The children could work to stay on green by the end of 10 lessons which could mean an extra 5 minutes of free time/recess/break. This idea could be a lot of work for the teacher in terms of changing traffic light colours but for a particular noisy class it can be great to get them working together for an end goal.

Classroom Layout

Hi everyone,

Over the summer I like to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved next year. One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is my classroom layout. This is such a crucial aspect of the classroom and has such a big impact on the students’ experience and learning in the classroom. I thought I would share some thoughts on planning your classroom and the different set up arrangements and their pros and cons.

Collage2-1 Firstly, you must also consider what the activities will be that the students will be undertaking. This may be group work, independent work, drama/role play activities. Will you need different areas in your classroom for whole class teaching, guided reading, center work etc? All of these factors must be considered when planning your layout.

The next step is to plan your layout. You must consider a number of factors – will you use desks or tables? How many students will you have? What is the size of your classroom? Next think about how the students will be grouped. Will they be grouped by ability? Will they have free choice? Will you have different groupings for different lessons and therefore will the size of the groups change throughout the day?
When I began to plan my classroom layout, I cut out small shapes of card to represent the number of desks, chairs and my interactive whiteboard. I have tables in my classroom and 30 students, so I used the card pieces to experiment with different arrangements that would be best suited to the needs of my class. It is much easier to manipulate pieces of card that drag desks around a classroom to design your layout!
Here are some of the different arrangements and their advantage and disadvantages:
Large Groups
These are great to group students by ability. All students of a particular ability sit around one table. it makes distribution of resources and worksheets etc very simple if each table has a different task to complete. Resources such as pencils and rulers can be stored in the center of each table. It is okay for group work, but slightly too large to have all children on one table group working together. It can encourage talking and students can become distracted as they are facing each other. Not all students are facing the board which is not the best for whole class teaching and instruction when you want everyone looking at the front.
Small Groups
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Similar points to the large grouped tables, but these are great for group work and collaborative learning as the students can easily interact with each other as the number of students around each table is much smaller and they are closer to each other. Resources can be stored in the center of each group of tables and it is easier for the students to reach the resources as the tables are smaller than the large grouped tables. It can encourage chatter as students face each other and it is not so good for independent working. This arrangement can also take up a lot of classroom space if your room is on the small side. Some students also have their back to the front of the classroom.
Traditional Rows
 
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All students are facing the front which is great for whole class teaching and seeing the board. Students do not face each other so they are less likely to become distracted with chatty behavior. The teacher can easily access each student’s work, which is slightly more difficult in a grouped table set up. This makes it easier for the teacher to provide support if required. Ideal for independent work. It is more difficult to store resources on tables as they are likely to fall off. It is not good for group work as the students do not face each other. Teacher led group activities such as guided reading are difficult to run on in this arrangement as it is difficult to interact with one another along a row.
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Like the traditional rows, all students can easily see the board and teacher during whole class instruction. Students are not as close to each other as they would be on grouped tables so unwanted chatter will be discouraged. The teacher can easily access the students’ work and give guidance and advice. All students are facing each other (apart from the small desk in the center) so it is ideal for whole class discussions and debates. The small desk in the center can be used for small group activities such as guided reading. However, as children are further away from each other, this set up is not the best for group work. Resources will also fall of the tables easily.
L- and U- Shaped Arrangements
 
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After much experimenting, I settled on this set up this past year. The students face each other so group work can be undertaken easily. However, they are also far enough apart so that unwanted chatter is discouraged. It is easy for the teacher to access all students’ work and give support where needed, by positioning yourself on the other side of the table to the student. Some students have their back to the board and this layout takes up a lot of space, so if your classroom is small it may not be the best set up for you. I also kept walking into the corners of the desks as there were so many sticking out! So take care if you use this set up!
What classroom set up do you use? What are its pros and cons? I’d love to hear about your ideas!