How to Get Silence in Your Classroom in a Few Seconds 

This is a very simple classroom management strategy which I use at seminars and workshops to demonstrate the power of giving students responsibility for their own behaviour. Not only can this technique get a group of students quiet in as little as 10 seconds, it also strengthens staff/student relationships, injects a little humour into the session and gives challenging students the attention they crave. It also works equally well with 8 year olds, 18 year olds, and even 63 year olds (I haven’t gone higher than that!).  

Indeed, it is so effective that at a teacher training seminar I was running in Dubai I overheard some of the participants talking during the break and one of them remarked...    

“He just got a room of 150 rowdy students quiet in a few  seconds!” 

This is how I did it… it relies on two key principles:  

  1. Responsibilities  
  2. Routines  

Some of your students will respond very well to being given a responsibility. In fact, it’s probably your most challenging students, the ring leaders, who will respond best to responsibility because they crave attention so much. A great way to give them this attention (in a very positive way) is to give them a job, and for this classroom strategy we are going to award three or four students with the job of getting the rest of the class quiet.   

These students are going to be our ‘Shushers’ and it is their responsibility to ‘shush’ the rest of the class members (in a special way) when asked to do so.  

To give them every chance of success we are going to train them. Each nominated ‘Shusher’ is asked to give their best and loudest ‘Shush’ – complete with an angry scowl and finger on lip gesture. After a few practices the ‘Shushers’ are then told that whenever the teacher shouts out “Shushers!” they are to give their best and loudest ‘Shush’ in unison.   

 The rest of the class are told that when they hear the Shushers shush, they must stop talking and sit in silence. After two or three practices, they all get the idea and we now have the makings of a very effective routine in place.  

To give the shushing routine the best chance of success there are three additions which I have found to be useful. Firstly, your Shushers need regular feedback. They need to be told when they are doing a good job and given hints and pointers when they are slacking or messing around. Both positive and constructive feedback should be given in private, out of earshot of other students. Remember that the students you use as ‘Shushers’ are likely to be natural livewires so they will need careful management to make sure they continue to do a good job.  

Secondly, I like to give each of my ‘Shushers’ a uniform to wear so that they can be easily identified. The ‘uniform’ is actually just a silly hat or joke school cap but they love wearing them, even though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it makes them feel special, maybe it just makes the whole affair less serious but whatever the reason, it works.   

Finally, I have found that ‘Shushers’ sometimes need a little extra help to get a particularly rowdy class to settle. I give them this by using another routine prior to calling on them – The Countdown.   

The countdown is a well-known classroom management strategy for getting students quiet at the end of an activity or session. Here, we’re going to use it to ‘pre-settle’ our students and calm them down so that the ‘Shushers’ only then need to deal with the minority who are still talking or whispering.  

 To make The Countdown really do its job, rather than just counting down from ten or five to one, make sure you give plenty of feedback along the way. i.e. give LOTS of praise to students who are doing as you ask while gently reminding those who are taking their time.  

The two strategies work together like this:  

“OK everyone I’m going to count down from 10 to 1 and when I get to 1 I want you all sitting in your own seats in silence with everything packed away. Let’s go… 

10… Excellent Carly and Sophie, you got it straight away, thank you. 

9… Brilliant over here on this table let’s have the rest of you doing the same. 

8… Paul, Brian you need to get that mess packed away. 

7… All done over there at the back, well done, just waiting for a few others. 

6… Come on, still some bags out at the back and people talking. 

5… Good. This table has done the job PERFECTLY – well done! 

4… Another table, and another. Thank you so much – excellent work! 

3… We’re just waiting for one group now. Ah, you’ve got it now and you’re sitting perfectly, thank you. 

2… Well done everyone, nearly there… 

1… Brilliant!” 



 So there you have it. A great way to get rowdy groups of students settled in record time. You’ll find in time, once the group has been trained to respond to this strategy, you might only have to count down from 5 or even 3 to 1. Sometimes you don’t even need the countdown at all and you really can get a group quiet in just a few seconds. Enjoy. 

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It’s PACKED with novel, actionable ideas you can use in your classroom tomorrow. 

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  • Ten words that guarantee respect from ANY challenging student  
  • The super-effective way to stop behaviour WITHOUT arguments 
  • The simple lesson plan addition that creates 100% focus and engagement 
  • How to instantly gain total silence whenever you need it. 
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