Every class has a chatterbox who can stall an entire lesson and distract his or her classmates. It takes creativity and patience to keep these students focused, but you don’t have to figure it out alone. Advancement Courses asked 10 teachers for their best tricks for quieting noisy students. With these tips, no chatterbox will be a match against you.
Tips for Quieting a Classroom
I always play music in my classroom. I have transition songs that I use for students to get materials ready for the next subject area. At the beginning of the year, I teach each subject’s song so that students know what to listen for and what to have ready based on the song.
I had an exceptionally noisy group my first year of teaching. I had previously taught deaf and hard of hearing students, and one of their issues was they did not know how loud they are. For them, I had a microphone connected to my computer, and I used an app called “Too Noisy.” It would give them a visual for their noise level. I decided to try it with my fourth graders, and it worked! It was a meter with green, yellow, and red that they watched, and if it started getting too close to the red, I would hear someone say, “Shh, look at the meter!” It gave them a way to monitor their own noise level.
I begin drawing on the board – anything at all. What matters is that I’m engaged in something that occupies my attention fully, or that (the students) think I’m occupied. Normally, their innate curiosity will cause them to grow quiet, and of course, someone will inevitably ask what I’m doing. When that happens, the whole class grows quiet to hear.
I teach Kindergarten through 12th grade, so I use various techniques depending on the grade level. I have used the following:
I raise my hand, and those who are willing to help quiet the class raise their hands without making a sound. I count backward from 5. I start talking very quietly, almost a whisper, to those who are already quiet. I strum a wind chime.
To quiet a noisy class, I find it very effective to locate the few students who are quiet and give them stickers or other tangible rewards for their cooperation. Calling out their names and allowing them to stand is great. Instant gratification for adhering to rules and expectations works very well for the young ones.
I do a three-minute mindfulness exercise allowing my students to breathe and exhale, focusing their thoughts on their breathing. This exercise helps their bodies relax so when it’s time to transition to the next lesson, my students are in a calm state. Sometimes, I will use chimes during the mindfulness exercise; the sound is very relaxing to the ears.
When I wanted to quiet my classroom several years ago, I put on a self-meditation CD and had the students put their heads on their desks. I turned the lights off and had them relax and follow the prompts for breathing and stretching. The funny thing is I ran into one of these students recently, and the first thing he said is he remembered when we would meditate in class!
For middle schoolers, I choose a word related to the unit we are studying – for example, when we were studying suspenseful short stories, my word was “Poe,” then the students responded with “Creepfest.” Then we got down to business (yep – that is a call out, too, and the response, of course, is “to defeat the Huns”). In middle school, the interest is key. I change it like the change in middle schoolers.
At my school, we have a school-wide strategy for communicating to students that we need for them to quiet down. This strategy is the “Zero Voice” hand gesture. This gesture is simply the raising of one’s arm, overhead, with the hand held in a closed fist. When an adult does this, several students will usually respond, creating a ripple effect throughout the classroom.
My favorite way to quiet a noisy class is to stand at the front and center with a smile on my face, and simply say, “Good morning/afternoon, everybody!” A few will answer, so I will repeat it until I get full response back. So simple, yet so effective! And it allows me to really look at every student’s face with a smile.