How to Effectively Make a Noisy Class Quiet

By Altiné Moumouni
Imagine entering your class and noticing that class is noisy; what do you do? One of the greatest fears most teachers have is being perceived by other colleagues or administration as incapable of managing classes or as a bad teacher

Imagine entering your class and noticing that class is noisy; what do you do? One of the greatest fears most teachers have is being perceived by other colleagues or administration as incapable of managing classes or as a bad teacher

Let’s discuss some tips on effectively making a noisy class quiet and getting them to pay more attention to you.

1 Stand in front of the class quietly

Whenever I enter a class and find out that the class is noisy, I stand in front of the class quietly with my shoulders back, and I patiently wait for the class to quiet down. 

Generally, my students will look at me and say, “Oh, teacher Altiné is about to say something.” This works well, and the key is to stay calm and confident. I don’t get upset. 

Most teachers make the mistake of shouting to get their students to pay attention. Instead, I suggest you use your students’ names to ask them to settle down.

For example, you can say “Nelson take your seat” or “Bobby please be quiet”. And then address the class by saying, “Please, everyone, I want to start today’s class now.” You can do so in a loud voice but never shout because that will show that you have already lost the battle and need to shout to get their attention.

2 Use call-and-response techniques

Typically, when students are engaged in an activity in class, they are focused on it and are busy having fun. So as a teacher, you need to use pattern interruption to snap them back to reality. Most teachers use a call-and-response technique, where the teacher calls out something, and the students have to say something back or perform some action in reply to the teacher.

I suggest you train your students from the very first day if you want to use the call-and-response technique, and practice it several times until it is ingrained in their habits. It does not have to be something complicated.

I usually say “yes, yes, yes” and my students reply “yes” three times. You can also say “one, two, three, eyes on me” and your students reply “one-two eyes on you”.

3 Try putting imaginary marshmallows into your mouth

This works better with younger students where you put imaginary marshmallows into your mouth and train your students to mimic you. Since their mouths will be full of marshmallows, they cannot talk. And there you go, you will suddenly have a quiet class. 

4 Use the water-and-ice rule

Another one you can use is water-and-ice. You say “our water water water flow like water”, and ask your students to copy you flowing like water, and then suddenly you say “ice freeze” and they have to freeze. This will help captivate your students’ attention.

You can also use animal sounds to get them to pay attention. All these will not only help quiet your class but also improve the general discipline in the class. 

A few techniques that I found helpful and effective: 

  • “Sing a happy birthday song to you,” pointing to one of your students; you will notice all the students will start singing along. This technique is great for pattern interruption, but be careful when using it in class as it might make your class noisier.
  • Talk to a small group of students and share a personal story or “secrets.” You will notice that the rest of your class will get curious and be quiet and start to listen.
  • Use a hand gesture and a countdown to get the students’ attention. For example, you can say “I need five students” (the number of noisy students), then “4, 3, 2, and one” (as they do in an auction), and you will quickly grab their attention. This technique particularly works with younger students.
  • You can also start writing something on the board and inform your students that if they are not quiet by the time you finish writing, they will all get detention. You will see that most of the students will be quiet before you are done writing.
  • If you have a very energetic class you can get them to exercise, do some jumping jacks, do a quick stretching activity, or even perform yoga poses. You can end the activity by saying good job, everyone. Now, let’s take our seats.

Whichever technique you choose to get your students’ attention should be rehearsed and practiced from your very first day of school. And make sure you repeat your strategies to get your students quiet until it is 100% ingrained in their minds. More importantly, don’t accept anything other than total compliance in class, especially if you are a new teacher.

Finally, it is important to remember that the best way to get your students quiet and paying attention is to be positive and non-confrontational as this will earn their trust. 

Written by Altiné Moumouni for Teflnet April 2022
Altiné is from Toronto, Canada, and currently teaches mathematics at a high school in Guangzhou, China. He has a master's degree in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Canada and is passionate about helping people worldwide through his blogs. He writes about TEFL Teaching and Health and Fitness. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling, and anything that allows him to experience the beauty of nature. You can find him at altinify.com.
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