Monday, September 26, 2005

Quiet down, class.

As a student teacher, my supervising professor would regularly comment that I allowed too much din, that low hum of puberty driven chatter, the bane of countless teachers. My master teacher had a fool-proof plan for eliminating unwanted chatter--though I was reluctant to enforce this plan. He simply doled out sentences. "I will not talk in class." Twenty-five times for first offenses and fifty for a second. Quiet down, class; I can hear you all chuckling at this mostly outdated method.
But today, in week number four of 9th grade English, the same as I student taught four years ago, I am considering this method. If you walked into that classroom four years ago, the silence of the room dominated your experience. Classroom mangament issues remained stories told by my student teaching peers. Now today, my classroom hums along with a gentle din.
I am set on putting an end to it. Not that I need it absolutely quiet; trust me, my normal teaching voice can be heard in the main office, two buildings and a stretch of sidewalk away. But there are students who need a quieter environment. I should give detentions, but that process seems so much more disruptive. "Johnnie, stop talking," I'll say. "I'm not talking," he'll quip. Then we banter back and forth about how when he opens his mouth and words come out, that is considered talking. He'll protest even louder. Or, I could just skip to, "Jill, you have a detention for talking." To which shouts of "you're so unfair, those boys were talking too" will ring out.
And at the end of the day, I'll be frustrated, bang my head against my desk and say, "How do I get them to shut-up??"


At 9:46 PM , Blogger Cassie said...

OH MY GOSH!! If you are talking about who I think you are talking about, I remember having to write those stupid sentences!! I think I had to do it once or twice. Grr. The sad thing is that it does in fact work. It did with me, my hand would get all cramped up cause you had to get it done before class got out, I think. I remember thinking how old school this was...and of Bart Simpson. (giggle)
Oh and the writing had to be you couldn't rush through them. :(

I remember the silence in that class room too. Heaven forbid you talk in that class!!!

Though the debating between student and teacher about talking or disrupting is so annoying!!

Good Luck with that. I'd say do that, cause if I got in trouble, I'd rather write sentences, than get a detention. ..hmm, just cause I would learn my lesson with the sentences. The detention would just make me mad, and rebel. Just FYI. Good Luck, Mr. McNamar!

At 5:46 AM , Blogger Matt said...

I cringe at the notion of writing as punishment. While, as Cass comments, this may quiet the class down, punitive sentence writing will do nothing to foster an enjoyment of the process of writing.

Do the students know the expectation is to be working silently? Do they understand why?

What other management techniques have you tried before going to this extreme? If there are key "offenders", perhaps a change in seating will decrease the problem.

There is also the love and logic approach, where the negative behavior is identified. "Johnny, you are talking when you are supposed to be working silently." Often, just pointing out the negative behavior is enough to stop it. If the problem persists, provide choice. "Johnny, you are talking when you are supposed to be working silently. You may work silently for the rest of the period or you may have a detention."

This approach diffuses some of the arguments. The key is being consistent. The first week may have some bumps, no matter what new plan you implement, but once the students get that you are serious and willing to follow through, the class should smooth out nicely.

At 4:57 PM , Blogger graycie said...

Giving them a choice is an effective way to deal with adolescents.

Something I have been part of for years requires the collaboration of teachers in the rooms near you. When Suzy-Lou won't hush, she is given the choice to settle down and work or she can take her work into the next classroom. Often, sitting in another class with a teacher she may not know will settle a kid tremendously. It also gives Suzy-Lou the chance to fix her mistake without after school time for anyone or office referrals. If she disrupts the other class or refuses to go, then a principal or counselor (whoever handles defiance issues) can be involved.

If she wishes to argue, then she can come after school, no discussion now.

At 8:42 AM , Blogger Teacher said...

If they were not noisy they would not need to be punished, simple as that. Teacher says "quiet" pupils should be quiet.

At 9:35 AM , Blogger r said...

Hard call.

As an English teacher, I don't like the idea of the sentences as consequence, but I agree it can be effective.

I don't want an absolutely silent classroom, but I don't want to have kids talking over others either.

Calls home? Before I ever assign detention or any other consequence, I call mom or dad. Much of the time, that makes a difference. Of course, it depends on the students you have in your classroom.

Btw, I hate calling home; it's time consuming, and sometimes difficult to hold my tongue. However, it seems to work the best with the least amount of paperwork.

At 10:21 PM , Blogger Debs said...

Have you considered the example you are setting them?

I hope this does not sound offensive here, it isnt meant to be, but it is something I learned the hard way.

You said your normal teaching voice can be heard along the hallway. If you speak loudly, they will too. They need to be heard over you for a start.

One of the quietest classrooms I have ever been into was one where the teacher spoke in little more than a whisper - quite deliberately. The children soon picked up on this. They had to be quiet to hear her and then started talking in the same way themselves.

It may be worth testing out.

Could you try gentle music in the background? Or the 'They know what I like method'?

It takes time to start it - maybe a week or so, but you ignore the rowdy ones (hard I know!) and make lots of fuss over the quiet ones. 'I like the way NAME is working so quietly'. You sound and feel silly, but keep doing it all the time. You will see it start spreading around the classroom. Even the older ones like a bit of praise and recognition and want you to like their behaviour too.


At 6:50 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Deb, that is worth giving a try. Yes, I am very conscious of my normally loud voice. Recently I've tried the stand there silent until they listen method, which has some students peer monitoring. I will certainly give a try to the "making a fuss" over the quiet ones. Offended? I am so far past being offended by people in my life! Good ideas should never be seen as offensive, don't you agree?

At 5:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of my current job is to assist and mentor new teachers at my school, and your problem is one that every one of my newbie teachers is facing. A couple of strategies that seem to have worked for them:

1) physical proximity--I have stressed to them that it is far less disruptive if you can correct behavior without talking about it (because every verbal exchange carries with it the potential for a debate of the sort you've described). So, one tactic is to walk over to the student(s) who are off task and simply stand there, giving him/her your full, silent attention. Depending on your school and comfort level, you might also place a steady hand on their shoulder to emphasize your presence.

2) Another strategy has been detention. However, detention is assigned by merely placing the written notice on the student's desk without comment. If the student wishes to discuss it, he/she must do so after class. They get one and only one reminder of this policy. A second attempt at discussion results in immediate administrative referral.
Of course, this policy needs to be fully explained to the entire class before implementation.

I also found the "standing there silent" method to be pretty effective, and I noticed that the longer I taught, the more quietly I spoke to my students. Over time the stand there silent method evolved into the catch phrase "I'm waiting...impatiently." Students knew it was the cue to cut it out. And most of the time, they did. Best of luck--it's one of the most frustrating tasks of teaching.

At 12:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a student teacher, I am having difficulties maintaining quiet. I have a tendancy to not want to see everything, how do I develop those "teacher eyes"? Do you use "teacher eyes" so that the talking doesn't get going? My 4th grade class is a pretty unfocused bunch and it is very difficult to have them focus for very long. How would it be to have each student that can't settle down lose recess time/priveleges (monitor duties, etc.) and do their schoolwork during recess or be sent to the counselor's office? Any ideas other have, I'd be interested!

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