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How to Regain Classroom Control When Students Are Loud and Unruly

Students in kindergarten class with teacher

If your students' behavior has you tied up in knots, use these lifelines.

As a teacher, classroom control isn't always easy. Imagine walking into a classroom that's out of control. Students are running around the room, chatting with their friends, or even standing on desks and chairs. The dynamics of the room are unbearable and your blood pressure rises as you begin to lose your patience. You take a deep breath, walk to the front of the room, and turn off the lights hoping that at least some students will realize it's time to get started.

Now, imagine that all students are engaged in the lesson, asking questions, discussing their own learning, and excited to participate. We all want this in our classrooms, but it's not always easy. It's important to remember that while there's no such thing as a teacher with perfect classroom management, having some tips and tricks can help you consistently quiet your class and regain classroom control. Try these three techniques.


Call and Response

Using the call and response technique is an effective classroom management strategy for gaining classroom control in a very short amount of time. For this technique, the teacher calls out a phrase, and the students reply using the corresponding phrase. It's important to note that it may take repeating the phrase a few times to get the full attention of your students. In that case, I often say, "I did not get 100 percent of students responding. Let's try that again." Also, try changing the intonation of your voice to make it interesting. Here are a few of my favorite examples that work very well in my kindergarten classroom:

  • Teacher: "Class, class!" Students: "Yes, yes?"
  • Teacher: "Yo, yo, class!" Students: "Yo, yo, what?"
  • Teacher: "Hands on top!" Students: "Everybody stop!"
  • Teacher: "Macaroni and cheese!" Students: "Everybody freeze!"
  • Teacher: "All set?" Students: "You bet!"


Acknowledge Positive Behavior

As teachers, it can sometimes be difficult to not focus on the child who's exhibiting the bad behavior. However, kids often exhibit certain behaviors for attention or other motives. One classroom control technique is to shift the attention to the students who are exhibiting the right behavior. Here's an example: "I like how Ashley is sitting in her seat with a zero voice. She's ready to listen and ready to learn. Thank you, Ashley!" By acknowledging the positive behavior, you encourage students to shift their behavior in order to hopefully be recognized for their attentiveness.
Further reading: Manage Extreme Student Behaviors 

Establish a Quiet Signal

Turning off the classroom lights might seem like one of the easiest and most logical quiet signals for students. However, it's not always the most effective. Using a wind chime, rain stick, or music are just a few great ways to easily get students' attention. Designate a song for each transition (clean up, head to the carpet, go back to your seats, etc.) and practice the procedures connected to each song so students know what you expect from them. This is something that I use in my classroom, and it's very effective and doesn't take a lot of transition time.

Another great quiet signal is "Give me five!" For this signal, students hold up their hand, representing the number five. As you count down, students show each number on their fingers. By the time you reach zero, the class must have a zero voice, which means that they're completely silent.

Further reading: How to Deal with Entitled Behavior in the Classroom

Having classroom control is a constant battle. It takes time, practice, and patience. It's also important to switch things up throughout the year and introduce new, fun, and exciting techniques to your students. This will keep them engaged, on their toes, and ready to learn.

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