10 Simple Ways to Manage Noise in a Classroom

Managing a class is sometimes too much to ask. Hello teachers, Kenyan teachers. Teaching a day school, a mixed class with 50+ students in an urban area in Kenya…?

I entered a class, found it so disorganized and rowdy that I couldn’t get them to keep quiet. Everything I did got them into more fuss, fun and laughter. You can waste as much as 5 minutes trying to get the attention of students in such a noisy classroom.

Well, you have so far come to realize that teaching is not just about teaching, it is about coaching. You need to make your students ready to learn. The first step is to reduce noise in the classroom even before the lesson starts. Here are 10 simple steps you can take repeatedly and religiously to manage a noisy classroom.

1. Set the standards right

Create a culture of silence from the beginning. To manage a noisy classroom, make students understand that the class is a noise-free zone. Tell them from the start that a noisy classroom is not tolerable. Take time once in a while to teach your students about classroom rules, including how to reduce noise. This sets the tone and creates awareness in your learners to understand that they are required to keep quiet once they enter the classroom. They should understand that the classroom is a place of learning rather than telling stories and playing.

Create an image of possible positive outcomes of their silence, such as increased employment opportunities in future, respect from people, higher level of intelligence, etc. Be friendly with them while doing that, and always be cool with them. Let them see the importance of keeping quiet rather than trying to make them fear your authority. However, if you do not take further steps to reinforce this behavior the kids will not take your instructions seriously.

2. Use signals and reinforcements

When a classroom is noisy, make a signal rather than shouting. Noise does not cure noise. If you make a signal, learners will suddenly be aware of the increased noise in the classroom. Signals remind learners of the rules you set in the first instance regarding noise in class.

Some of the signals that can be used to manage noisy classrooms are: hand bells; clapping hands; raising hands and/or finger; counting backwards from, say 5; and standing in a specific spot.

Ring a bell

You can use a hand bell to manage a noisy classroom. Make your class keep quite by simply ringing a bell every time noise gets too high. Doing this routinely will reinforcement the behavior of silence in the class. Every time they hear the bell, they realize that the noise become too loud and they start to tone down.

Clapping hands

Another signal that I have personally applied as a teacher and succeeded is clapping hands once, twice. In this case, you stand in front of the class and ask learners to clap once if they can hear you. Clap twice if they can hear you. Do this routinely as well, it will catch the attention of the class and make it a habit. Works well for junior learners.

Standing in a favorite spot

You can also reinforce silent behavior by going to a specific place in the class where students can see you whenever the classroom is noisy. Then raise your hand, wave, or put your index finger on your lips to signal silence. Make your learners know in advance that they should keep quite within a specified period of time as soon as you go to that position and show the signal. Lucy (below) will pick up your signal and pass it on…

Counting backwards

Stand in front of class and say, I want you to be quiet in…5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Try to slow down as you approach 1, but not too much to give them a window of opportunity.

3. Punish noisy students by Denying them privileges

Let your class know that there are consequences for every behavior. After showing signals, raising up hands, or counting from 5, whichever works for you, punish those who still make noise. Make the punishment consistent, but not too punitive. If it is a large percentage of the class making noise, you can hold them in class for 5 minutes after class. You can also deny them game time, or any other activity that they like. You may also make a noisy student to stand alone at the corner of the classroom, or give them extra homework. It is proven…most students prefer keeping quiet in class to doing homework.

4. Reward Silence

Keep a reward chart in which you record names of students who do their work on time with minimal noise, and give them a reward. That can be something fulfilling such as a skipping rope, keeping a ball for sports, and playing beads. If they make noise, you take the privilege away from them. Being able to keep the class’s playing kits is a fulfilling reward for students, they wouldn’t make noise just to see such opportunity taken away from them.

5. Identify the Cheerleader

Noise in class usually emanates from one or two group leaders who make the classroom noisy. They create a noisy classroom by making jokes or starting stories. Although noise can sometimes be spontaneous, in most causes it emanates from somewhere. Observe the classroom when it becomes noisy. See where the noise could have emerged from, and take appropriate action. You can change sitting arrangement, give responsibilities to the source, or talk to their parents.

6. Stay close to noisy students

When you see noise rising, pause a bit, show a serious face, and move around. Go to the place you think the noise emanates and look at the noisy learners straight into the eye and stand very close to them for a short while.

Keep them engaged by asking them questions, telling them to write notes when they start making noise, or any other activity that will preoccupy their minds.

7. Make them your friends, the noisy ones

Identify notorious noisemakers in class, but do not intimidate in front of other learners. Make sure you are right. Then talk to them after the class, try to make them be on your side by using your persuasive approaches. For instance, you can give them some responsibility to do things they like in a position of leadership. This works well for high school students.

8. Make the classroom interesting

You can make the classroom less noisy by capturing their interest through fascinating teaching approaches. For example, let learners compete in groups, give and take points for certain activities and behaviors, and engage learners in any other game that suits your class. For instance, when learning English vocabulary put learners in groups. Tell them to choose a leader, identify words and list as many key terms as possible within a timed period. This keeps the concentration of learners in a high level, leaving them no room for noise.

9. Pray Before the Class

I’ve seen only one teacher using this method in my entire life, and it worked pretty well. Our chemistry teacher would come to class and say, “Who will pray for us today?” The Christians in the class would volunteer, and everyone keeps quiet as he prays. No on one would dare make further noise after such a spiritual experience. It really worked.

 10. Act Silly

You can go mad, record students making noise in class and post them on instagram, twitter and facebook. Shout, scream, slam the door, crash the window, and overturn desks…

Then wait for a dismissal letter from your employer. You deserve that for the job well done, and you won’t worry about going back to the same noisy classroom again. But eventually you might look like poor Mary:

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