What Strategies Can I Use to Help Manage a Noisy Classroom?

In a recent survey of teachers in the UK almost 60% of them cited noisy classes as their main classroom management problem. Does “SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!” not work any more? Did it EVER work? Probably not.

Eliminating unnecessary noise from a classroom starts long before the students enter the room. An important part of any classroom management strategy is developing your expectations and conveying them to your students. So where should you start?

It goes without saying, which is probably why I feel the need to say it, that you need to be prepared with an engaging room, curriculum and teaching methodology. Each of these warrants a book or two on its own.

Let’s begin by defining noise and distinguishing between productive and non-productive noise. Noise is any kind of sound that is loud, unpleasant, unexpected, or undesired. In an examination the only acceptable sound is the turning of pages. In the classroom, talking, scraping chairs, books falling could be considered noise. But if your room sounds like an examination hall as Alfie Kohn would say there is probably very little learning going on. Students actively engaged in the topic need to be talking and perhaps moving around and manipulating materials that produce noise. Sounds directed at learning, exploring and discussing are productive sounds in the classroom. This is why an engaging room, curriculum and teaching methodology are essential.

Once your room is full of engaging materials, and your curriculum is directly related to real world issues and problems that students can solve your “noise” problems are almost over. You are now ready to add students to the mix.

Only in very rare circumstances do you get to choose which students are in your class. But we always get to choose how we interact with them. What expectations we have for them both academically, socially and behaviorially.

We need to begin before our students enter the class for the first time, and continue this strategy each time they enter. If your students are noisy in the hall, the noise will come with them into the classroom. So where should we start? In the hall. Have the students line up and make an announcement before they come in. It could be about the new year (first day of school) or what the plans are for today. They need to be quiet and listening to you right away.

After you make that brief announcement invite the students into the class. In order to maintain the calmness that has been created stand in the doorway so that only one student can comfortably pass at a time. Greet each student by name (when you have learned them) and make some personal comment to each. “Wow I like that new sweater!” “How was the game last night?” “You look upset, is something wrong?” Make personal contact with each student before the day begins.

The students also need to know what the expectations are once they are in the class. On the first day tell them briefly what they are to do. “When you get into the class put your school bag in the cupboard and then sit at a desk that is the right size for you.” As the year begins you can outline all the details of the “class entering” routine.

When you don’t have to devote all your energy to getting the students under control at the beginning of each class you are free to start right in with the lesson. Following this routine every morning will insure that you and your students get off to an organized and productive start.

Yes but what comes next? What do I do as the noise level rises? Classroom management strategies for the rest of the time together will be the topic for next week’s post.  Take a look at the post on students who disrupt the class by arriving late.

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