Classroom clinic – Noise level

“Dear classroom clinic,
In one class, all students refuse to lower their voice level.
They start ok but then progressively disrupt everything and walk around the room.” 

Sometimes the lesson goes off track so badly at no one is doing any learning and all the students are distracted. In these situations, it’s important to ‘reset the class.’ This means using a strategy to bring calm and silence to the room before refocussing their attention and reinstating the class expectations. This is much more effective than trying to sanction every student in the class and giving out dozens of warnings and ending up having to use your own time to keep them in detentions!

Using non-verbal signals, a ‘deadly stare’ and confident body language to settle down a class can often be more effective than over-using your voice. Students will quickly start to ignore a teacher who is constantly raising their voice and saying ‘stop talking!’, ‘get on with your work’, ‘sit back down’, ‘warning’, ‘warning’, ‘second warning.’ Remind yourself that you are in charge, you are in control, this is your classroom. Some strategies do cope with this include:

  • Using language which refocuses clearly and concisely: ‘I’d like you all to look this way and listen very carefully’, ‘looking at me and listening please.’
  • Showing confident body language and a stern look.
    This would also need a ‘class reset.’ Have a rule in your class that no student leaves their seat without permission. Once you’ve brought the class back to silence remind them of or restate your expectations in terms of the noise level. From the beginning of the lesson, ensure that you do not let them get away with behaviour like leaving their seats. Don’t let little behaviour infractions slip, deal with them as they occur otherwise they could build up.
  • Going around individual tables giving them the work and explaining that you do not want them to end up with detentions.
  • Giving out textbooks and telling students they need to be working in silence in one minute to avoid a sanction. Write the page number on the board and what question numbers they should do. Do not interact with questions, giving non-verbal signals like a finger on the lips. Once the textbooks are out, start writing down the names of students doing the right thing and praising. ‘Well done Josh, Ciara, Alex, Ellen and Eddie – you won’t be having detention. Let’s see who else can behave in a proper way.’
  • Put the instructions on the board and do the same as above.

Sometimes the class is so disruptive that it might be appropriate to actually restart the lesson. Tell the students in a very firm voice to go outside, line up in silence and try again. This should only be used in extreme circumstances, as otherwise, students will learn that this is the way to avoid doing any work. Use the techniques as were mentioned in the previous lesson entry section.

If students are not able to work sensibly, then maybe they need completely independent work to do one lesson where they can practice being silent. If you have a class like this, then until their behaviour is better, try and avoid explaining things in front of the class, and instead use activities where the students can learn separately from the teacher.

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