20 ways to get silence from a noisy classroom

If you are battling with a noisy class, here are 20 strategies that will help…

Signals for silence

1) Use a musical instrument/noise maker

Playing a musical instrument such as a tambourine, cowbell or bugle horn gives a non-aggressive but very audible signal that you want everyone’s attention. In extreme cases, keep a smoke alarm in your draw and ‘test’ it to signal that noise levels are far too loud.

2) Is there any music left?

Every time teaching and learning is disrupted, play some music. At the end of the day if there is any music left, the class earns a reward.

3) I’ve got my ‘Eye’ on you

Bags of ‘Googly’ eyes are cheap and kids love them!

One eye on a table = “I am keeping an eye on you”.

Two eyes = “I’ve got both my eyes on you – be careful”.

Third eye = a consequence.

5) Clap call and response:

When you clap a certain rhythm, the pupils clap it back.

6) Show me FIVE

Hold your hand up, palm facing outwards as you would to give a ‘High Five’ and say:

“Show me FIVE… Two eyes watching, two ears listening and one mouth closed.”

7) Countdown

5; Okay it’s time to stop and look this way. Excellent, very quick on that table.

4; pens should be down, books and mouths should be closed, very good you two, you’re listening to me.

3; still too much noise over here, that side of the room are perfect.

2; Just waiting for the last few people now, all conversations should be stopped, hands on the desk in front of you. Well done, you’ve got it.

1; Thank you! OK, this is the next part of the lesson…

8) Simon says

 “If you hear me, clap your hands.”

(Those that don’t hear will stop to see why other students are clapping). If the noise continues, add other actions:

 “If you hear me snap your fingers, wiggle your nose, or wink, etc.”

9) When the music stops…

During noisy activities or tidy up time, play some music and explain that when the music stops you expect everyone to be sit down in silence and face the front.

10) Lights

Switch the lights on and off once or twice to signal silence.

Attention grabbers

11)  Attention grabbing starters and energisers.

Riddles, puzzles, mindbenders, games etc are often used as fill-in or ‘early finisher’ tasks but they make great attention-grabbing starters too. Download our ‘Attention grabbing starters’ here.

12) The calming routine

Turn the lights down low, play some calm music and project the morning’s brainteaser or ‘settling starter’ activity onto the whiteboard.  The bright board in the dimly lit room will help focus their attention and will provide the basis for a calming ‘first five minutes’ routine which students will find easy to settle into.

13)  The unexpected

Done correctly this idea never fails. All you have to do is present them with something they’re not expecting and then hold back on the explanation. Kids are naturally very inquisitive creatures and will be desperate to know why you’ve arranged the classroom differently, switched on coloured lights, set up some weird equipment or arranged some party food on the main table.

This puts the power ball very much back in your court…

“I’ll explain everything as soon as you’ve all stopped talking.”

13) Challenge

  1. Bet them they can’t beat the last class – “they managed to be sat in their seats with their mouths closed and their books open in 7.5 seconds!”
  2. Challenge them to count the number of letters in a ‘Concentration Square’. A ‘Concentration Square’ is simply a 20 x 20 grid on a Power Point slide filled with random letters. Students are timed to count “all the B’s” or “all the F’s” etc.
  3. Challenge them to make as many words as possible out of a list of letters on the board
  4. Behaviour challenges (younger students): “Who can show me how we walk back to our desks?”  “Who can show me how we sit like statues on the rug?”  “I can see three students sitting perfectly and the last group got to twenty five. Can we get more than that?”
  5. Silent challenge: Get a timer and build up the time they can stay silent.  Start with 2 or 3 minutes of silent working, then 5, then 7…  You’ll be surprised how long they can build up to – 20 minutes plus is not uncommon once they start to experience some success and actually start seeing the benefits of silence. Reward those who meet your target.

14)  Magic tricks

Magic is amazingly effective for capturing the attention and imagination of your students and for quickly changing the mood of a negative group.

Other ideas

15) Divide and Conquer

It’s much easier to deal with a small group of four or five rowdy students than it is to try and control a large class of thirty-five. Issue numbered or colour-coded cards to students on their way in to the classroom to assign them to groups or partners of your choice and then tell them that if they want to sit with their friends they have to earn that privilege.

16)  Shhh you’ll wake the baby…

Have a baby doll on a table in the corner. If a pupil disrupts the class they ‘wake the baby’ and have to sit and do their work with the baby until you decide the baby has gone back to sleep.

17) ‘All Stand’

At the first sign of talking or murmuring, pause and say, ‘Stand up please’.  Have them stand behind their chairs while you continue with the lesson. If anyone carries on talking while standing, write their names on the board and tell them to move to the front desk.

18) Address one pupil at a time

When asking the whole class to be quiet they dominate you in numbers. Challenge one individual by name rather than the whole class

19) Start the Clock

Write on the board: ‘This lesson is 60 minutes long and you won’t leave this room until you’ve had the pleasure of 60 minutes of my awesome teaching.  I’ll start the clock whenever you hold up the lesson and add that time to the end of the lesson.’  Then stand with a stopwatch - start the clock when they are quiet.  When they interrupt stop the clock again.

20) Praise

Praising pupils who are sat quietly will keep the mood more positive than constantly challenging pupils who aren’t.