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Readers Respond: Teacher-Tested Ways to Quiet Your Students Without Saying a Word

Responses: 12

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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. How do you quiet your students and get their attention?

Try a Wide Variety

I teach third grade chatter-boxes :) Here are my “tricks”- most mentioned previously. Start singing a song which the whole class knows (I’ve taught LOADS of them, so I am never wanting for a familiar song)- this works well when students are in transition, getting out books, turning in papers, etc. We sing instead of talk. Stop teaching and say nothing. I will put down the book/marker/pen and just calmly wait until they are quiet. It’s usually pretty quick! When they are all looking at me, I say, “Thank you” and continue on. If things get really chatty and it is a whole class issue, I will write “LUNCH” or “RECESS” on the board. I explain that if they choose to talk/play now, they will not have the privilege of doing so at lunch or recess. I will respect their time to be “just kids” as long as they respect our time to teach and learn. (Each letter represents 5 minutes of talk/play…with each letter lost, part of their talk/play time is lost. I always let them earn back time for attentive listening and learning.) “If you hear my voice…” techniques. After a few physical commands (clap, stomp, etc), I often use “Hands on your head and eyes on me”- it forces them to stop what they are doing and look up! Finally, and my favorite, EXERCISE. An active, chatty class usually denotes boredom or need for physical release. We will do things like jogging in place (with high knees), push ups, jumping jacks, or a mini-Dance Party for about three minutes. (Work them HARD!! It is physically SO good for them!! It is seriously like a natural dose of Ritalin for each child!) Then spend a minute having kids “cool down”, slowly breathing in and out through their noses. This helps them get the wiggles out and focus!
—Guest Jasmyn

Copy the Teacher

I teach elementary students and one of the ways to quiet down children, especially those in the lower grades, is to put my finger on my mouth and they’re taught to do the same once they see it. Another one which is effective during an assembly is to teach them the (what I would call) 1-2-3- clap method. As soon as the students hear me say 1, they’ll all put both hands on their heads, 2 – they’ll raise both hands in the air ready to clap and 3 – they all clap together 3 times and the next speaker is ready to talk. And of course, there’s the old method (which usually takes very long) of just standing there staring at them until they all quieten down. And yes, I like that one mentioned by Scott – whisper singing!!!
—Guest Jokapeci Kurabui

Clap a Rhyme

One thing that I like to do is to clap a rhyme, it catches the students attention. Once one student starts to clap the rhyme, others quickly follow suit. My students know to repeat the rhyme. I also like the whispering technique. This also works great with my students.
—Guest Justine

Easy as 1, 2, 3

I have two main ways of capturing my students’ attention. The first is when I say, “1 2 3 Eyes on Me” and they have to respond “1 2 Eyes on you” from where I expect silence. The second way I use is a system called “Check.” At the beginning of the year I explain how we listen with our eyes,ears,mouth hands and body. If I am talking, all those things need to be listening (ie still etc) If a student is not doing that while I am talking, I just say, “check” which means they hav to check their body as something is not doing the right thing. I tie all of the above in with Robert Phelan’s Magic 123 wich works like a charm. If I say my 123 cue or check them and they do not respond or react within certain boundaries, their names move down the 123 ladder. At the end of the lesson they get a token for the number they have on their name on. At some point we have spending days for our token. Works like a charm for me.
—Guest TeacherMum

Use Poetry

I teach bilingual children, when I am trying to get them to be quiet and listen or when transitioning to another subject, I use poetry. Always funny ones. I introduce them about once every 6 days. We practice them and on the last day they get to have individual or group performances to show they have mastered it. Whenever they hear me say a title, together they begin to recite and by the time we are done they know they need to be ready. This also helps with fluency of the English language.
—Guest Linda

Marbles for Treasure

I taught third grade and I had desks arranged into groups of 3 or 4. Each group had a small container (plastic margarine container with lid and hole). Every group started the day with 5 marbles. During the day I either added marbles to quiet groups or removed a marble from noisy groups. At the end of the day the marbles were counted and the group with the most, got to pick something from the “treasure chest” filled with trinkets, candy, etc. It was a very effective and quiet method.
—Guest Donnalyn Yates

Ritual for Respect

I work with a before and after school program. We have a “special” ritual we do before snack to gain the attention of the children. At first the teacher would be the one to clap and continue until all students were clapping. This worked well. Then we used other motions or movements in the same context. Now the ritual has evolved into a jar with the names of the children and each day a new leader is chosen. The leader picks a motion and does it until ALL children are following. Then the leader does two more before we stop for a moment, give thanks, and eat our snack while a story is read. For us it is teaching the children to respect and show respect to each other while having fun! Hope it can work for someone else too!
—Guest Dottie

Clap and Count

Any signal that is established in the beginning of the year is effective: I have used a countdown, “I need quiet in 5-4-3-2-1, shh.” This year, I use a different signal also: “If you can hear my voice, clap once. (kids clap) If you can hear my voice, clap twice (clap-clap). If you can hear my voice, clap three times (clap-clap-clap).” You can also have a kid make the announcement for you. They *love* being the leader.
—Guest Shaantio

Try a Chime or Bell

If one has a regular classroom, teaching the kids (esp. elementary kids) a sign such as raising a hand and keeping it up until others join in and stop talking can work. Now that I’m retired from one state and living in another without my own classroom yet, I sub. This type of teaching remains the most challenging for me. If I see a chime or a bell on a teacher’s desk, I sometimes use it. I wear a whistle I crafted, but it isn’t very loud, so it doesn’t usually work. A loud whistle (fingers in mouth type) gets a momentary pause and I can say, “OK, let’s settle down, folks,” or something. I often warn the students nearest me to put their fingers into their ears before doing this because it IS loud. I recall working with first and second graders one summer school session. I apologized to the principal for being so loud and he said, “Don’t apologize. These kids come from large families and they’re not going to hear you at all if you’re not loud.”
—Guest Russ

Use the Lights

I teach deaf students. While you may think my classroom would be a quiet place, it is quite the contrary! I flash the lights, and students stop and look to the light switch.
—Guest Cindy

Whisper

One thing that I have tried and works pretty good is to start whispering when I instruct. The kids usually quiet down in order to hear me.
—Guest Deb

Sing a Song

I teach Kindergarten so I am always trying new things. One thing that works well 99.9% of the time is to sing a familiar song ex. Humpty Dumpty or Twinkle, Twinkle. Then repeat by whisper singing. It’s amazing how quiet the kids will get without ever having to raise your voice.
—Guest Scott

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