Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quiet Signal

     I visit many classrooms in my job supervising student teachers. One of the first things I noticed is that the chaotic classrooms have no consistent way to get the children's attention. I like to think of this as a rookie mistake! Creating a quiet signal is a simple, easy to implement strategy that will give you great payoff. Simply choose a method for getting the children's attention whenever you need it. I have found that auditory sounds  are more effective than hand signals since children will not always be looking at you.
     What works well as a quiet signal? My personal favorite is my Tibetan singing bowl, but it was a little expensive. I also love the sound of my single Zenergy chime, which I bought for a very cheap price (see below). Other people I know use a harmonica, which you can also get at a reasonable price, and is easy to carry in a pocket or apron so you always have it ready. Here's what they sound like:


     What all of these have in common is that they are pleasant, cut through the sound of children talking, and they are easy to carry around. You might want to have a couple of them in different places around the room. In the beginning of the school year, you'll need to teach the children what they will do whenever they hear the quiet signal. Depending upon the age of the child, and your preferences, this might be something like:
  • Stop talking
  • Hands at your sides
  • Eyes on the teacher
     You will need to practice this throughout the day in the first weeks of school. Try to get across the message that this signal is important, but at the same time, be light-hearted in teaching the children how to respond so they begin to associate good feelings with the quiet signal. I can't emphasize enough that you will need to practice this signal - and the children's response - many times. If you find the children are slow to respond, or are ignoring it, go back to your practice sessions. You can make it a challenge to see how quickly the children can get quiet. Here's a video from The Responsive Classroom that shows the children learning the quiet signal in a third grade classroom:

     In the comments below, please share with us what quiet signal you use!


  1. After reading this about the quiet signal I had to laugh. I laughed because you said not having one is rookie mistake and the classroom I am doing my student teaching in doesn't have a consistant one. I'm in a classroom that has 2 teachers and they co-teach. One teacher just starts counting or says " i'll wait" when she wants the children to stop talking the other teacher starts yelling" STOP IT, STOP IT" and screaming and gets all red. I have found some children laughing at her, others keep talking, and only a few actually listen. These children were never given a consistant signal, therefore there is never a quiet moment. I think i will suggest these different signals to the teachers and see where it goes.

  2. I had never seen or heard about using the quiet signal until a few months back when you mentioned it in class and I saw it in action in the class, where I'm doing my student-teaching. I really like this, I wish my own teachers in grammar school would have known/used this technique. Using the quiet signal effectively, keeps the vibe in the class calm, unlike the yelling that some do that I think just gets everyone jumpy. Yelling wastes too much energy, energy that could be used in keeping students engaged in learning! The same quiet signal is used in the whole school where I'm currently student-teaching in, which is great because the children know the signal no matter where they are and there is no reason or excuse for confusion.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the advantages of having the whole school use the same quiet signal. This is an excellent idea so that children know how to behave, not matter what class they are in. It also means that a new class in September will already know what is expected.