Dealing with classroom noise

It is unrealistic to expect the classroom to be quiet and peaceful all of the time, but you should expect the quietest possible atmosphere, in which all pupils are able to learn effectively. To achieve this, you must create the appropriate noise level at the beginning of every teaching session and maintain it throughout.

Confidence (or at least appearing confident) is essential: approach the pupils you are teaching with a firm tread, shoulders back and a purposeful, easy and confident poise. You need to be firm, with a clear set of rules and expectations, which you are always consistent and fair in upholding.

Start as you mean to go on

Ideally, you should control how pupils come into the room. Tell them exactly how to do it and make sure they follow this. Don’t let pupils sit next to friends who they like to talk to – it is worth changing seating plans regularly.

However, if you arrive in a noisy classroom, stand still and absolutely quiet. The pupils near to you will notice and gradually others will see you, causing a ripple effect that should mean that everyone will quickly settle down and wait to see what you do next. Starting to talk quietly to pupils near to you should cause a similar knock-on effect.

Pupils should be expected to wait quietly and there should be sanctions for individuals who are too noisy. If the class is waiting to start, make sure they have a fun and absorbing task to do (eg “How many four- or five-letter words can you make out of the word ‘television’?”) to reduce noise.

The goal is not to waste time and to avoid permitting pupils to ease themselves lazily into a lesson – begin with a quick activity, expecting fast responses.

Keep everyone on-task

To attract the attention of an individual, rather than calling across the room, move to their seat, stand close to them and then speak to them in as quiet a voice as possible.

In a question-and-answer session, pick a pupil, name them and ask them a question. Most pupils will recognise that it might be their turn next and will take interest.

Don’t regard pupils who are making noise at the start of an activity as being disrespectful to you. It is human nature to want to talk to each other.

Maintain the standard

After a few lessons, you will know how best to get the attention of a class, for example, by tapping on the desk, writing on the whiteboard or switching on any devices that you will be using (such as an overhead projector or interactive whiteboard).

Finally, remember to praise pupils for getting the noise levels right, particularly during practical activities or discussions.

NAPTA, 10 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1JP — tel 01223 224930 — email