20 Ways To Get A Noisy Classroom’s Attention

1. Help students understand 

No matter the grade level, let students know right away exactly why you need them immediately responsive when you signal for the class to be quiet. Visualize the impact somehow–lost learning, future earnings potential, lowered intelligence each generation, which makes makes it harder on their great-great-great grandchildren, etc. (That’s obviously sarcastic–don’t use that unless you know what you’re doing.) Regardless, help them understand that it’s not about authority, it’s about knowledge.

2. Clap once, clap twice

This one is the old standby. After clearly explaining to the students on the first day of school how this will work, stand at the front of the room and say out loud “Clap once if you hear me, clap twice if you hear me,” while modeling the clap.

3. Use a timer

If you’ve got some easy way to instantly project a time for all to see, set it to 3-5 seconds, and let students know the expectation is that each time that the timer reaches zero, the class should be completely silent.

You can also tie this to a reward, offering some sort of bonus time once a week or month, and detracting “time wasted” from that bonus time.

4. Stand in a designated spot

And let students know whenever you stand there and raise your hand, a certain finger indicating a requested noise level, etc., that the expectation is that they’re fully quiet within a certain time limit, or even a silent countdown on your fingers.

5. Count backwards from 4

Or count backwards out loud from 4, and experiment with slowing your countdown for certain classes to “adjust” to their characteristics, but without giving them too much flexibility.

6. Thank students that are already quiet individually

Thanking each student that is quiet, even with bonus items, etc., is a way to positively reward a desired behavior.

7. Use a notable name

Iggy Azalea. Ed Sheeran. Lebron James. Seth Rogen. Use a key word or phrase that grab’s attention–or even have a monthly theme, and whenever students hear a name from that category, they know to be quiet, and reward their performance.

8. Use a stop light

This was from Finley’s list on edutopia, and it’s perfect, Green they can talk, yellow they’re becoming quiet, red they’re silent. eBay, Amazon, etc., all carry products like these. Post it where everyone can see it.

9. Use an app

Quiet Classroom, or Too Noisy, for example. Experiment and see what works.

10. Have them stand

This one may not work for some classes, but many of my classes that had trouble becoming quiet weren’t being defiant–they were just full of energy. Have them stand and stretch, then begin

11. Use proximity

Stand near, or even touch select talking students on the shoulder while beginning to speak. (In some schools, classrooms, grade levels, etc., touching any student for any reason ever isn’t okay–obviously if this is the case, don’t.)

12. Record them 

This wouldn’t work every day, and would only work if you have signed permission from each student’s family and the principal and….but if it fits, start recording, with some visible evidence of doing so–maybe a screen capture of Skype. Or even a fake red light that implies recording video. Tell them it’s for a project for a video all parents will see at the end of the year (for elementary), a YouTube channel, documentary, etc. You know them better than I do–what would convince them?

13. Get the right ones on your side

For more challenging classrooms, especially 8th grade and above, this one is incredibly important. Know who the key “players” are in the classroom, and get them on your side right away. Help them use the leadership skills they have to promote learning in the classroom, and periodically let them know–perhaps away from other students for older kids–how much it helps.

14. Use non-verbal cues 

Using non-verbal cues that reflect a behavior system, perhaps one based on positive reinforcement. This can allow you not only to communicate simple messages, i.e., please be quiet, but also more complex messages, such as “The noise level so far has cost us two minutes from our game-based learning lesson on Friday.” How? Use GBL for 15 minutes each Friday, and hold up one additional finger every time students lose a minute. Through that routine, they’ll get the picture.

15. Gamify it

Give points, take away points, offer badges, let classrooms level up, let them compete against one another, section off groups within a classroom to compete against one another; let their “scores” be rest so those that struggle don’t celebrate being “last” and get worse.

16. Turn the lights off

Who knows why, but most students love the lights off. You don’t have to turn them off and on like a madman–just off, and wait.

17. Resist the temptation to get emotional

Once students sense you’re upset, the implication is that you’re lacking control, and that has a snowball effect. Even if they aren’t, in fact, doing what you want them to, don’t let them in on that secret.

18. Ignore certain misbehaviors

Trying to quiet a noisy classroom is less about discipline, and more about routines. If a student makes a joke that gets the class roaring just as they were quieting down, smile a quick smile, let it go, and move on.

19. Be silly

Record audio, Vines, or Hyperlapse videos on Instagram that aggregate their progress and relative success.

20. Scream at them, slam the door until the glass shatters, flip desks, etc.

Then you’ll get fired and won’t have to worry about it any longer.