How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?

This article is part 1 of the series Questions That Will Save Your Career. Before you can focus on engaging your students, or making sure they learn or whatever, you must learn how to keep your students quiet.

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The rest of the articles in the series are:

  1. How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  2. How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  3. How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  4. How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  5. How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  6. How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  7. How Do I Keep My Sanity?
  8. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  9. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  10. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  11. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  12. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  13. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  14. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

What are some things I do to keep them quiet?

Why is being quiet important?

I am convinced that classroom management is the key to success in teaching. It is something about which I have become passionate. Why? Because poorly managed classrooms waste the time and the lives of everyone involved. As a teacher, I hate it when I allow my students to be out of control. As a student, I don’t learn as much as I should. Either way, it is a no-win situation.

So what are some things I do to keep students quiet?

1. Accept responsibility

Everything that goes on in my classroom is my fault. Good things happen because I set up the expectations. Bad things that happen are because I allowed them to happen. While this is not entirely true — sometimes kids do dumb things and act like kids because they ARE kids — accepting responsibility will revolutionize everything that you do. Our culture likes to deny responsibility much of the time. Do not allow students to deny responsibility, and do not allow yourself to do so either.

2. Establish procedures

These must begin to be set up from the very beginning. How do you want the students to enter the classroom? How do you want them to ask to use the restroom? When is is acceptable to leave the seat? What happens when the fire alarm goes off? Does the bell dismiss the class? When do we sharpen pencils? How is homework to be turned in? When do we get our instruments out and begin playing? How do we go about asking a question?

READ  Be Prepared (Total Teacher Transformation Day 8)

3. Identify authority

Every group of people will have a leader. Is it going to be you or is it going to be a twelve year old? Figure out who the leader is. What if you’re not there? Who is the leader? I personally like the idea of finding out who the oldest three students are, and making sure that everyone knows that when I am not there, the oldest person in the room is in charge. Usually, that is a substitute. Occasionally, I may need to go into my office to get something. In that case, the oldest student is the one who is in charge. Even if it’s the kids who has failed two times, the responsibility will usually make them step up

4. Avoid arguing at all costs

This applies to life. Arguments never win friends. Arguments never prove your point. Arguments are what make Jerry Springer fun to watch. Don’t have them in your class, and especially not with a child.

5. Overexplain

While I do not like the idea of talking too much, I also like the idea of giving complete information. I plan to spend this year economizing my words and yet increasing their effectiveness. Overexplain expectations, but at the same time don’t say too much. “That’s not good enough” is usually good enough to get better results!

6. Overprepare

Do not get to class without a plan. Know where you are aiming to be by the end of the year. Know where you are aiming to be by the end of the six weeks. Know where you are aiming to be by the end of the week. Know where you will be by the end of the class. Do not let anything keep you from accomplishing your most important task for the day.

7. Raise your expectations

People will give you the results you expect them to give you. Low expectations are bad. High expectations are good. Good enough simply isn’t good enough.

8. Communicate

It’s amazing how one parent phone call can make a student work much better. This policy works wonders. if a child shows an inability to function correctly with the rest of the group, perhaps their parents want to know. It’s not always the case, but often is.

Classroom management is one of my favorite topics. It opens doors to a world of extremely successful teaching.

Five years after I wrote the article, I revisited this topic. Please check out 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?

I have written extensively on the subject of classroom management

READ  Failing Forward: Turning Setbacks Into Triumphs

I also find that good classroom management skills are vital in keeping teachers from quitting.

I have written extensively on the subject of teachers quitting


About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

14 Comments on How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?

  1. Thanks as always for your great insight. Love to classroom management articles as they relate to music education.

    I think one point you are hitting upon is that students will more likely be quiet and pay attention when they see that you have a game plan for the class session. When they can tell that there is no time to waste, they will be more inclined to follow your lead.

  2. I was reminded of that during my percussion class today. I currently have two bands combined during the percussion class, and so it’s tough to get anything done. We began working on contest music with them today, and I really didn’t have a plan for how to start them or anything. Things began to get out of hand…and the worst part of it was that I was personally responsible for the problems. I hate that!

  3. While I am quickly learning that your advice is spot on, I am sort of saddened at the fact that I was previously disillusioned about how I imagined teaching to be. You see, I am currently in a teaching program and about to enter in the next phase of taking responsibility in the classroom as a student teacher. The teachers that I watch model what I will soon be doing are experts. They really have classroom management down to a science and the room is NEVER loud. In fact, it is often so quiet that I am uncomfortable. When my stomach gurgles everyone in the room can hear it. If my chair squeaks (yes, on occasion I sit down, but only when I am purely observing) I will no doubt be the focus of the room for an awkward moment. My issue seems to be that I am quite uncomfortable with that.

    Coming from a setting where I taught art classes in groups of 12 to 15 I appreciate friendly banter, energy, conversation, getting messy, and being creative, while still maintaining some semblance of an organized classroom where I am in charge of course. I have made this work for me. I have found my role in this setting and found the limits of where getting messy meets out-of-control. I love this balance.

    And now I enter the public school classroom and am saddened at all the quiet. Is this how it must be? Would it be plausible to have more “noise” if class sizes were smaller? I suppose it couldn’t hurt, but it sounds like you really believe that even if it were possible it is not necessarily beneficial in any way since it is the act of having an agenda and taking the lead that really cements kids into following you. Perhaps it is our own philosophies as to what is important in education and what is pertinent to students lives and growth that is at odds here. Perhaps, with a heaping truck full of luck, I will someday be able to transfer the energy from my art classes successfully into the public school classroom. ??? I won’t hold my breath, but I will try hard to make the classroom a place that is not only full of diligent learners, but a place that is comfortable, relaxed, and yes, sometimes noisy.

  4. LoVe: I think it’s important to remember that, even though I love it when my class is quiet and I am able to get a lot of work done, each classroom is different. Because of the nature of band teaching, when the students are not playing, I expect them to be quiet listening to my quick barrage of instructions, take in what I said, and then demonstrate their understanding when we play again. Talking and playing while I am instructing breaks up the flow and slows down the entire rehearsal.

    If I taught a math class, I would definitely make things much more interactive. Again, it’s the nature of the beast. Great teachers learn how to vary their instructional techniques depending on the situation!

  5. I find myself in this situation quite often. My classroom management skills are not the sharpest, that’s for sure! I struggle with finding the fine line between discipline and reinforcement; I often can’t find a common ground. This post offered a plethora of ideas that can help me get started in finding that balance, and sticking to it!

  6. Mallory, I have found that classroom management just gets easier over time. The more comfortable I am doing it, the more naturally it comes. I’m going to revisit this post actually sometime this month and look at it from perhaps a slightly different perspective. Keep your eyes open! :)

  7. Hi, my name is Ariel. I am currently a music education student and I was wondering if you all could share some insights for my future teaching endeavors on this subject of classroom management. Right now, I am in a field placement which is an afterschool program for kindergarten. I am having some difficulty managing all of them, and they seem to recognize that I am not their actual teacher. Do you have any suggestions for establishing authority even though they know I am still a college student and not their actual teacher? I think this will be a very important skill to learn!

  8. Joel I’m very excited about finding your blog and look forward to lively exchanges – especially on Twiiter (I am carbru)! I totally agree tho’ when you’ve established too much quiet it’s dismal and you want the working noise back ;-))

    • I guess silence isn’t something I ever have to deal with as a band director. But you’re right, it can be a bit unnerving at times (especially at first).

  9. drama and games dont give the desired results since the students get out of control in such activities. What should I do while playing games or in drama lessons to get a desired result?
    Thank you

  10. This is why children get stupid, avoiding argue only makes you a brainless authority and the kids will grow up thinking they just have to listen to and do. Thats the way people program machines not the way "teachers" should educate children.

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