For those who prefer to see and listen rather than read check out the video above, but be sure to turn up your volume. Be sure to read the end of the blog though as there are 3 additional tips!
Technique #1 Keep students involved
Make sure you are changing activities enough to keep students' attention. Have activities that are level appropriate. Students usually act out when the lesson is too easy or difficult for them so differentiate the lesson so each students is working at a comfortable pace.
If technique number one fails try one of the following techniques. Though they are all great it is usually best if you pick one or two and use them consistently with your class.
Technique #2 Use the Magic Word!
I am not talking about please! The magic word in this case is anything you want it to me. My 3rd grade teacher’s word was, “MAGIC.” At the start of the year she told us that she had a magical word that would make the entire class silent. Whenever we started to get to rowdy she’d turn and begin writing a HUGE capital M on the blackboard, then a capital A, then a capital G, we never actually saw her write the whole word because by the time she got to I we were usually all quiet. Part of the reason this works is the timing; don’t write it too quickly! You need the students to notice what you are doing and have time to react.
Technique # 3 Eyes on me
This one is a favorite of mine with elementary students and SOMETIMES with certain groups I have used it in high school.The teacher says something like, “One two three eyes on me” and the students respond back with, “One two eyes on you” By having to stop what they are doing to respond to you usually the class will be snapped out of what they are doing and go back to concentrating on you
Technique #4 Feel the rhythm
Many of the primary school homeroom teachers would have a clap or snap combination they would use to get students attention. Essentially they would snap and clap a certain beat and the students would have a certain response. Similar to technique number one and two this works by snapping students out of what they are doing to pay attention to you out of habit. This was NOT effective for me in Korea because I didn’t see the students enough to have them hear my beat and instinctually respond. However, if you have students you see all the time this should work well.
Technique #5 Monkey See Monkey Do
No, I am not suggesting you act like a monkey. With younger students if you are quiet and start making big actions (touch your nose, then your shoulders, then your ears, then mouth, then head, etc.) you’ll find they start copying you. Once you have the whole class copying you clap and get back into the lesson
Technique # 6 Dance
This is actually a specific version of Monkey See Monkey Do. Essentially you’ll use a TPR song that your students are familiar with (Opposite, Sweet Little Bunny, Head Shoulder Knees and Toes with clothes, etc.) Without singing the song, just act it out. If you like you can mouth the words, but normally just the actions will suffice. Once all of your students are doing the actions with you sing one line (as a reward) and then continue with class.
Technique #7 Whistle while you work
I have a whistle my mother gave me to stay safe in the street. It has a flashing light, and a whistle! So often I use these in conjunction. I first put the flashing light on as a visual warning, but if they need the auditory sense I’ll quickly blow the whistle. This is preferred to yelling because it shows less emotion and anger. It makes you appear as if you are still in control which is key with older students.
Technique #8 Lights out!Another great way to get students to settle down is to flash the lights on and off. This works well because you aren’t yelling (what they expect) and trying to beat their noise Instead you are letting them know visually that they need to pay attention to you. Some teachers find turning the lights off completely works, but I prefer the flashing lights technique. An alternative is to have a flashing light you can turn on and use that in class.
Technique #9 Final Countdown
I use http://www.online-stopwatch.com/ a lot. I project it to the whiteboard or the TV screen and let students know how much time they have left. At the start of class I give out Quick Quizzes. Pretty easy 5 question quizzes which take 5 minutes and are graded like homework. The intention is to see what students understood from the last lesson and make sure they show up on time. If they show up after a quick quiz is given they may NOT make it up. Often the hardest time to get students to settle is when class begins. I pass the quiz out to any row sitting quietly and then I put the stopwatch on the board for five minutes. Once students realize they are wasting their quiz time they quickly quiet down so I will give them a quiz and they can get started.
Technique #10 Participation Points
I’ve talked about one way to “grade” students’ participation (by giving participation points). You can use them to help in situations like this (and reward quieter students). Essentially when you have a rowdy class make note of the students who are acting appropriately and pass out the points to them. Once the other students see what they are missing out they’ll usually slowly settle down. With younger students you do not even need to use points just orally praise the students behaving, “I like how Jessica is sitting down and coloring. It is so nice to see Stephen quietly helping John. Johnny is doing very well reading.” Most students do want to be told they are doing well and others will seek this by mimicking them.
These are three techniques NOT mentioned in the video for the sake of time.
1 action. Instead of having students copy numerous actions, as most of the previous techniques do, this one just has one motion. For example the teacher puts her pointer finger to her closed lips. Students are expected to follow suit. Eventually you should have the whole class quietly sitting with a finger over their mouth. This can be any action. I’ve seen putting your hands on your head, touching your nose, putting both hands on your desk. As long as you are consistent it should work well.
2. Stop Teaching This is not my favorite and is used as a last resort. I sit down in a desk at the front of class, take out homework and start grading. The shock value of seeing that I am no longer trying to control them often snaps them out of whatever they were doing.
3. Let them leave Treat them like adults. “Hey guys I know you have a lot of exams this week so if you would rather leave and study for other classes please leave now. I won’t mark you absent. But this review is really important for your exam on Wednesday so if you are going to stay in the class I need you to be speaking English and staying on topic so as not to distract those who need to review.” I often make this announcement during finals week when classes are filled with stressed students. Occasionally I have a student leave, but usually they all stay and their behavior is much better knowing that they elected to stay. Clearly this only works when it follows school rules and the students are old enough, but if possible it is an amazing solution for certain times.
What other ways do you have to keep your classes in control? Please let me know in the comments!
I have seen ClassDojo (I even signed up), but I am not sure it would work with older students. If anyone uses or has used it with high school or University students please let me know in the comments!