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!
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.