Discipline and classroom management are, by far, the top battles that you must win in the classroom. Without focused and relatively quiet students, you might as well forget about hard work and significant academic achievement.
Believe it or not, it is possible to quiet your students and keep them on task with simple nonverbal routines that save your voice and your sanity. The key here is to get creative and do not expect one routine to work forever. Many times, effectiveness wears off with time; so feel free to rotate through the various methods listed below.
Here are some teacher-tested student discipline strategies that meet the objective of maintaining a quiet classroom with ease:
- The Music Box - Buy an inexpensive music box. (Rumor has it that you can find one at Target for approximately $12.99!) Each morning, wind the music box up completely. Tell the students that, whenever they are noisy or off task, you will open the music box and let the music play until they quiet down and get back to work. If, at the end of the day, there is any music left, the kids receive some type of reward. Maybe they can earn tickets for a weekly drawing or a few minutes towards end-of-the-week free play time. Be creative and find the perfect no-cost reward that your students will really want to quiet down for. Kids love this game and will quiet down immediately as you reach towards the music box. Special thanks to my colleague Michelle Nisly for passing on this soothing nonverbal trick!
- The Quiet Game - Somehow, when you just add the word "game" to your request, the kids will generally snap right into line. After my repeated demands for quiet were virtually ignored, I decided to have the kids play "The Quiet Game." Basically, they get 3 seconds to make as much noise as they want and then, at my signal, they become silent for as long as possible. Students who make noise receive dirty looks and peer pressure to quiet down again. Often, I set the timer and tell the kids that we are going to see how long they can stay quiet this time. So far, this has worked well without any rewards, consequences, losers, or winners. But, the effectiveness may wear off and I'll have to add some other components to the game. You might be surprised at how well this simple technique works!
- Eye the Clock - Each time your students get too loud, eye the clock or your watch. Let the students know that whatever time they waste by being noisy, you will subtract from their recess or other "free" time. This usually works really well because the kids don't want to miss recess time. Keep track of the time lost (down to the second!) and hold the class accountable. Otherwise your empty threats will soon be discovered and this trick won't work at all. But, once your kids see you mean what you say, a mere glance towards the clock will be enough to quiet them down. This is a great technique for substitute teachers to have in their back pockets! It's quick and easy and will work in any situation!
- Hands Up - Another nonverbal way to quiet your class is to simply raise your hand. When your students see that your hand is raised, they too will raise their hands. Hands up means stop talking and pay attention to the teacher. As each child notices the cue and quiets down, a wave of hand-raising will envelop the room and you will soon have the whole class' attention. A twist on this is to raise your hand and count one finger at a time. By the time you get to five, the class needs to be quietly paying attention to you and your directions. You may want to quietly count to five along with the visual cue of your fingers. Your students will soon get used to this routine and it should be pretty quick and easy to quiet them down.
The key to any successful classroom management plan is to think carefully about the goals you want to achieve and act confidently. You are the teacher. You are in charge. If you don't believe this underlying precept wholeheartedly, the kids will sense your hesitation and act on that feeling.
Consciously design your discipline routines and teach them explicitly. Students love routines as much as we do. Make your hours in the classroom as productive and peaceful as possible. Both you and the kids will flourish under such circumstances!