Dreaming of a class that will work in silence the whole time? A class where you can tell them what work needs to get done, and they will just get it done in beautiful peace? Chances are if you are reading this post, that seems impossible with the class you currently have. Sure, I’ve had my share of pretty amazing classes where they would do their work in silence without much intervention on my part. . . But the reality of most classes is that there will always be a few chatterboxes to get the ball rolling, and then that quick spiral out of more students talking, if not dealt with quick enough, the volume is quickly followed . . . And voila there it is, a noisy classroom where learning is probably not happening, those who are still quiet can’t focus, and you’re probably pulling your hair out because bringing them back to silence seems impossible at this point.
Boiling point reaches, it’s gone too far! You know you shouldn’t yell, but out of pure desperation you do. . . And it most likely works to silence the students if you are blessed with a loud enough voice. Otherwise, you’re left trying all the tricks you can think of to get their attention. Whichever way works for you, both will neither solve the solution in the long term. Whether the angry and scary yells shocks them into silence or your special rhythmic claps helps get them back in line, I guarantee you will be doing the same monkey dance again within minutes.
There are a few ways to fix this issue, but one strategy that has worked well in most classes is first using a traffic light poster as a visual to set noise expectations. Then pair a motive/consequence strategy to reinforce it.
I’ve provided a free download for the traffic light poster as in the image shown below. Simply print off in color, cut the arrow out separately to the traffic lights, paste the traffic lights onto some black cardboard, laminate both and find a place in the classroom to hang it (somewhere that can be easily seen by all students). Keep the arrow handy with some blue tack behind it. The arrow is to visually show which light you are expecting your students to follow.
Next, set up the reward/consequence part to go with the traffic light expectations. An easy strategy that I have found to work well is the promise of a game at the end of the lesson. To implement this, Write on the board in big block letters the word ‘GAME.' Every time the class breaks the traffic light expectation, erase a letter. Remind them of your expectations by visually pointing to the arrow on the traffic light. If all of the letters of GAME disappear, there will be no game at the end of the lesson. It is important to enable the class to earn the letters back. If all of the letters disappear before the end of the lesson and there is no chance to earn them back, the class most likely will get noisy again.
For individual student disruptions, implement your behavior management strategy system for the individual. As a suggestion, you can give strikes to miss out on the game if it is just a particular student ignoring the traffic light expectations. I don’t believe it to be fair to punish the rest of the class if it is only one or two individuals that I catch breaking the traffic light rules.
I hope this strategy helps with noise control in your classroom.
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.