During the first day back at school, establishing a set of classroom rules is key to a smooth running and productive classroom.
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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.
It's no secret that exercise helps get the mind focused and releases those beautiful feel good hormones we all desperately need when life feels a little tough. Because of this, getting some exercise as a class around test time will certainly help keep those stress levels down. Do a class workout (I usually pick two students to be the personal trainers for the session), play a sport, do some yoga, or follow a dance video on YouTube to get moving and relaxation levels improving!
2. Meditate & breathe
Carry out some meditation exercises with your students before the test. There are plenty of meditation audio videos available on YouTube. Plus, you can use meditation to help teach students breathing techniques to help calm nerves.
3. Teach positive self-talk
You could do this in conjunction with meditation by inviting students to close their eyes and imagine feeling calm and confident when taking the test. Here's a quick example - 'Some questions may seem like large monsters to begin with, but with a few deep breaths you read the question again and find it starts to shrink . . . you read it again to find it is starting to make sense . . . you read yet another time to find that it's just a cute bunny, you may need to take a look one more time and then finally you'll know what to do.'
4. Play games and do fun activities for review
Making test review time fun will help keep the stress levels down. You could easily do this by incorporating games into your review lessons or you may like to try a math mystery, project or quest to keep them working hard whilst also keeping it exciting and fun.
CLICK HERE to find a large range of Math Mysteries, Projects and Quests.
5. Have healthy easy snacks available for your students
Explain to your students what the snacks are for and set some guidelines to keep it all in check. Point out that you have chosen these snacks to help keep minds fresh and energized to deal with testing. It is for help and not a party.
Some good food examples include: air-popped popcorn, apple slices, plain crackers, orange wedges and bread sticks. (Keep it high carbohydrate but low salt and fat. I recommend nothing too exciting so that it doesn't distract the students and will be seen as a source of nourishment rather than fun.)
6. Make sure students are comfortable
Check to see if all students have adequate seating and desk space to take their desk. Ensure lighting is appropriate in all areas of the room. Keep windows open, make sure the lights work well in the classroom.
Freezing or sweating during the test is a massive distraction and will reduce concentration. So, make sure the temperature is just right for everyone.
7. Encourage & Reassure
Before a test, I like to:
- Remind my students that I believe in them,
- Tell them that the best they can do is to try their best,
- Assure them that while these tests are important, they are not life threatening or the end of it all.
I also like to tell students not to discuss the test afterwards. Students talking about questions and sharing answers has a tendency to cause more unnecessary doubt and stress than ever! If possible, follow up a test with a fun activity or game to help students move forward from the test.
I hope these tips help ease the stress faced during testing time. I wish you all the best of luck and calmness!
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.