23 Classroom Management Strategies To Quiet Noisy Students

classroom management Dec 01, 2023

If you struggle with chatty, noisy students, these strategies will certainly help. Teachers using these classroom management ideas can gain immediate attention in any lesson with noisy young people aged 6-16, just like these two ladies did...  

“It made my naughtiest student as quiet as a mouse!” 
“Thank you so much for the superbly wonderful videos! I benefited a lot from your creative secret agent method! It made my naughtiest student as quiet as a mouse! THANK YOU…” 

Yasaman Shafiee, Teacher  

 “The noisy kids at the back got curious and stopped talking.” 

“The noisy kids at the back got curious and stopped talking. When they asked what we were talking about, I told them it was a secret but if they keep quiet, I’d tell them. They entered the classroom quietly.” 

Jo Anne Cabale, Teacher  

#1:  The unexpected 
Done correctly, this idea never fails. All you have to do is present the class 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, arranged some party food on the main table, or walked in backwards with your underwear on your head. This puts the power ball very much back in your court... “I’ll explain everything as soon as you’ve all stopped talking.”  

#2:  Envelope tasks 
It’s surprising how much intrigue can be built up with nothing more expensive or creative than an envelope with ‘Mission Instructions’ or ‘Top Secret’ written on it. We all love to receive an envelope and guess at the contents which make this humble but intriguing piece of stationery the ideal delivery boy for a host of quick activities such as ranking or sorting exercises, quizzes or even more elaborate activities like ‘scavenger hunts’. Simply hand a sealed envelope containing the activity instructions and resources to each student as they walk in with the instruction... “I’ll tell you what this is for as soon as you’re sat down quietly.” 

#3: Dance Off 
Dance Off is an example of a fun energiser and is a great way to add hilarity to your lessons whilst raising flagging energy levels, building group cohesion and sparking motivation in an activity. It’s also a great way to get attention. You’ll need a CD or MP3 full of ‘cheesy’ disco tunes – the type guaranteed to get you on your feet and shaking your booty. Announce to the group that as soon as they hear the music they must get on their feet and strut their stuff, throwing out the best moves they can muster for 10 seconds. Tell them you’ll be playing tunes occasionally throughout the lesson and that as soon as the music stops, they must stand still, in silence.  

#4: Noise makers 
Playing a musical instrument such as a tambourine, cowbell, guitar, piano or kazoo gives a non-aggressive but very audible classroom management signal that you want everyone’s attention. (And you’ll certainly get it if you walk into the room carrying a piano). You might consider linking the sound to a particular activity so that you have different signals/sounds for different actions such as sitting on the carpet (for younger students), putting pens down, clearing away, lining up, giving you dinner money etc. A bugle horn is a noise maker which we us during seminars/workshops and also in schools when we’re working with students. It adds a bit of humour (think circus clown) and cuts through chatter and classroom noise like a knife through a custard pie. 

#5: The Music Box 
Buy an inexpensive music box and wind it up at the start of the lesson in front of the students. Tell them that whenever they are noisy or off task, or whenever you need their attention, you will open the box and let the music play until they are silent. If, at the end of the day, there is any music left, they earn a reward. 

#6: Sir, Yes Sir!  
If you’ve seen the drill scenes in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’, you’ll know exactly how this one works. You might also want to warn teachers in any adjoining classrooms! You: Whenever I need you to listen really closely to me I’m going to say one word: “atten-tion!”... and I want you all to respond by shouting “sir yes sir!” Okay? Students: Okay Sir You: Atteeeeeen-tion! 

Students:SIR YES SIR!! 

#7: B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T 
Remember, it is better to focus on the behaviour we WANT to see rather than that we don’t in terms of effective classroom management. Tell the students at the beginning of class that every time they are listening attentively, staying on task etc. they will get one letter of the word BRILLIANT written on the board.  If they get all of the letters by the end of the day, they get a class reward. 

#8: Secret Agent  
Tell the class that you are going to secretly pick one student at random to be the Secret Agent (you can put names in a hat or, to save time, just pick a number from the class list/register). Important: None of the students must know the identity of the Secret Agent.  Tell the class that as long as this student has a good lesson (you can formalise this by giving them a behaviour or work target of some sort), the ENTIRE class will receive a reward. 

#9: Anchors 
These work like magic. Anchors can be locations, pieces of music, body positions, props, crazy hats etc. and can be used to automate a variety of teaching processes. Here’s an example of how a ‘location’ anchor can be used to get attention from noisy students whenever you want to tell them something: Start by sticking a piece of tape or paper on the floor to mark a location in the room and tell students that whenever you stand on this mark, you will be telling them something extremely important.  

Rehearse by walking slowly and deliberately to the mark several times over the next few minutes so that students get into the habit of quietening each other down when they see you approaching it. The first time you use the anchor make your announcement of benefit to them e.g. “OK... Important announcement everyone; because you’ve all worked so well I’m going to let you all... (insert reward of your choice).”   messages throughout the lesson and your anchor will be sufficiently embedded. From this point on, you should only need to walk towards the mark on the floor and the students will suspend talking to hear what you have to say.  

#10: Use the ring leaders 
Many of the most challenging and difficult to manage pupils in school tend to be those with leadership potential – the ringleaders. You can use this to your advantage and get them on your side by giving them responsibility for getting other students quiet at the start of the lesson. Ask them quietly before the lesson begins and out of earshot of other students: “Ryan I’m going to need you this lesson. The other kids look up to you so I’m counting on you to help me get their attention.” 

Giving jobs to your students like this is a very positive strategy but always make sure you give them clear instructions as to exactly what their job entails. It would be counter-productive for you to award a responsibility (such as getting the class quiet) to a student only to have to then challenge them for doing something wrong (such as punching anyone who talks out of turn).  

#11: Give them a routine 
Spend some time teaching a classroom management routine for giving attention quickly so that students get into a HABIT of becoming quiet whenever you ask...  

  • Explain the routine: “Whenever I say, ‘I need you to be quiet right now’(insert a phrase of your choice – or use a noise-maker), I want you to stop what you’re doing and look at me.”  
  • Model the routine: Show how this will work in different scenarios. Make it fun by playing the role of a noisy student (with some eager volunteers) while the rest of the class give you the instruction.  
  • Practice the routine: Get your students to start talking and then give your signal for them to be quiet. Do this a few times until they do it instantly. Practice when they aren’t expecting it – wait until they are engaged in an activity and then give your instruction. 
  • Give them a score each time they practice: Giving them a score adds a touch of fun to the routine and also appeals to students’ natural urge to want to do better. Having the class work towards a common goal also builds community.  
  • Repeat if necessary: If they don’t manage to quiet down straight away repeat the routine. Make them go back to talking with each other and then give your instruction again. Repeat this until they get it right – especially in the early stages.  
  • Praise them for getting it right: During the initial early stages of teaching any new routine make sure you acknowledge the fact that they are doing as you have asked. Give them plenty of verbal praise and perhaps a class reward such as a video or early dismissal – they need to know that their efforts are appreciated.  

Variation: At the beginning of class, show them that when you want them to stop, look and listen in a hurry, you will perform a certain action or make a certain noise. For example, every time they see you put a finger on your lip and a hand in the air, they will know to immediately do the same. This is easier and usually more effective than raising your voice or trying to talk over the crowd when they are busy or off-task.  

#12: Consequence Cards  
Here’s how to turn a simple deck of cards into a classroom management tool that students’ attention right from the start of the lesson:  

Get a regular playing card for each student in your class and write each child's name on a different card. Shuffle them up and get ready to wave goodbye to unresponsive students. From now on, whenever your students come to class they are going to be like putty in your hands – at least for the first few minutes. Why? Because you’re going to assign a nasty task to the unlucky soul whose card you pick at random from your deck.  

Kids love to see their peers suffer so this is a real winner. Don’t worry though, I’m not suggesting you give them a painful or embarrassing forfeit, just a challenging one.  

As an example, I drink wheatgrass juice whenever I want to annoy my partner, Sally. Despite its many health-giving properties, it has the most disgusting, pungent smell (and taste) and turns our kitchen into a hazardous area for several hours. A small shot glass of this dark green, slime-like liquid is enough to send most students scurrying for cover so the threat of ‘tasting’ it offers the perfect penalty.  

Indeed, any task which is slightly unpleasant yet entertaining should get the desired response – a classroom full of cheerful, wide-eyed, hopeful young people, all enthusiastically waiting to see what happens next. All you need to do whenever you want silence is to reach for the pack of cards. I’m not kidding when I say this works beautifully.  

Now, I’m not suggesting you turn your lessons into an amusement park – so before I get accused of putting entertainment ahead of learning please remember ideas like this are to be used sparingly! Unless they work for you as well as they do for me. ;-)  

#13: Pictionary  
An abstract picture sketched on the board with the words ‘Can you guess what this is?’ will catch students’ attention as they walk in the room. Don’t say anything but as soon as someone guesses what it is, give them a card with a keyword related to the subject topic and get them to come up and draw a sketch to represent the word on the card. The person who guesses what it is swaps places with them and is given a new keyword. You can formalise this game by creating teams, giving time limits etc. or you may prefer it as a quick impromptu starter.  

#14: Hands up!  
Put your hand in the air and say: “Next time I want you to be quiet I will put my hand in the air. The last person to put their hand in the air and stop talking will have their name put on the board/will have to come and sit at the front for ten minutes (or some other appropriate consequence).” You may also add: “If you put your hand up but carry on talking, I find that even more disrespectful so will keep you in at break even longer.” 

#15: The Quiet Game  
Somehow, when you just add the word "game" to your request, the kids will generally snap right into line. Get immediate attention of a noisy group by shouting (or writing on the board if they’re already louder than you) “Let’s see how much noise you can REALLY make.” Go on to tell them that they can have five seconds to make as much noise as they want – but after the five seconds, when you raise your hand, they are to be completely silent to see how fast they can do it. Repeat the game a couple of times letting them have a few seconds to shout and yell. This is surprisingly effective, but you may want to warn staff in rooms nearby. 

#16: Acrobatics  
If you can do a cartwheel, flip nimbly across the front of the room and round off with a double somersault while juggling kittens, then:  

  1. a) you’re probably in the wrong profession;  
  2. b) you’ll definitely get their attention.  

I tried this once without the kittens. Once. 

#17: Role play  
Many kids love role play. A colleague of mine started a fantastic history lesson on Henry VIII with an audition for ‘dead people’. “Right everyone!” he boomed as he walked through the door. “I’m going to turn my back and count to ten. When I turn back round I want to see your best impression of someone who has died horribly.” This quick audition grabbed their attention from the word go and led perfectly into the subject of the lesson.  

Often we start our lessons by writing down an objective because consultants and education experts have told us we have to. In many cases though, this can cause students to switch off there and then. As soon as you finish saying “Today we’re going to learn about particle theory”, they all groan and put their heads on the table - you’ve lost them.  

Instead, if the teacher was to offer students to get up on their feet performing in some way, she would get immediate attention and, likely, at least some participation. 

#18: Be nasty  
Take a deep breath, bang loudly on the desk and shout SHUT UP!!! It has a place, occasionally.  

#19: Be nice  
When you consider that most of the students in a ‘challenging’ group will feel less than enthusiastic as they walk into the classroom, particularly first thing in the morning, it’s not difficult to see why this strategy works so well. After all, many students come to school carrying all manner of ‘baggage’ that will have a direct influence on their behaviour in the classroom environment. They may be hungry, lacking in sleep or burdened with complicated emotional problems from home and these pressures can often manifest as a student who is withdrawn and easily upset, or one who is aggressive, disruptive and non-compliant.  

If you could lift their mood on arrival at your classroom it would almost certainly prevent the possibility of confrontational or challenging behaviour and would give you much greater influence when you need to get their attention. So how do you do that?  

Here are a few suggestions…  

  • Give them a warm greeting. A warm personal welcome (handshakes and high-fives convey more feeling than words) sets the tone for the day and gives you chance to assess each student's mood and head off problems before they start. Their responses will tell you a lot about their feelings.  
  • Have some welcoming or calming music playing as they walk in.  
  • Give them a cup of tea or a refreshment of some sort. Yes, I am serious. It’s difficult with a class of thirty but with a small group it’s a great way to create a supportive, positive atmosphere. Stay clear of wheatgrass though.  
  • Help them put their problems to one side and write an organised plan for the day.  
  • Let them have a few minutes to chat and catch up with their friends.  
  • Give your room a good tidy or even a coat of bright paint. The positive effects of environment and colour on mood have been well researched and litter, graffiti and chaos can have a hugely demoralising effect on behaviour. 

#20: 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. Use a calendar to show the number of lessons there are left this term and tell them that as long as they work quietly and respectfully, you will change the seating plan after another ten lessons. That way, as long as they behave appropriately, they will be able to enjoy the majority of the term’s lessons sitting with their friends. 

#21: Challenge  
I’ve often heard it said that there are two ways to quickly get the attention of disinterested students – bet them or pay them. I don’t want you to be out of pocket so let’s look at the first one. Challenge is a universal motivator and as long as you get the level of challenge correct, you’ll find most students are intrigued by the prospect of any kind of contest.  

Obviously, if the challenge is too easy there will be no feeling of success and the student will likely deem it too boring or childish to bother with in the first place. If it is too difficult they will be put off from trying in future challenges. So, make sure you set your task at the right level if you decide to use any of the following challenge ideas…  

  • Tell them they can set the maximum number of mistakes they are each allowed in a piece of work.  
  • Let them choose the question they can reach in a specified time.  
  • 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!”  
  • 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.  
  • 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?”  
  • 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. 

#22: Whisper  
Instead of trying to be louder than the class, lower your voice to a whisper. This often piques students' curiosity and they quiet down to hear what you're saying. It's a simple psychological trick: when you whisper, students have to be quiet to hear you, and it naturally lowers the noise level in the room. 

#23: Get to know them  
This is easily the most important classroom management strategy of all. The others are, in the main, ‘quick fixes’. What works with a tough group more than anything else is to get to know your students and build positive, trusting relationships with them. Once this essential piece of the teaching puzzle is in place your ability to manage tough, noisy students will improve beyond belief.  

For a stack of relationship-building ideas to help you bond with hard-to-reach kids, see my book ‘Connect With Your Students’ by Rob Plevin. It’s available on Amazon.  

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