I completely agree with Ira’s comment. When I was a beginning teacher I would have loved to have had this list of techniques. But then I learned the real answer to avoiding the problem of students acting up, talking, etc. It is not a matter of controlling the students at all.
As I was reading this post I had the same thoughts as Ira - why all this effort to control the kids? What I am hearing is a very traditional, teacher-centered classroom philosophy and an attitude of Us vs Them when it comes to students and teachers. The techniques and their underlying beliefs suggest a teacher-centered paradigm – the students sit and listen to the teacher delivering the information. That won’t work any more.
There is a way to create a classroom environment in which there are virtually zero behavioral, or more specifically, “talking” student problems. Begin with an intentional design of the learning environment – 1) the physical environment, 2) the emotional environment and 3) the academic environment.
1. The physical environment that supports engaged and well-mannered students is one that allows for freedom of movement, a variety of areas where students can work independently, or with a partner, in a small team, or at times – for a whole-group discussion or activity. In other words, get rid of the rows of student desks facing the teacher’s desk in the front of the room. See this article by Prakash Nair, The Classroom is Obsolete. Take a look at some 21st century physical learning environments.
You then begin by teaching the students strategies for being self-directed, working independently and interdependently. After all, they do not yet know how to be self-directed.
2. The emotional environment should be one of mutual respect and trust; you establish this the first time your students enter your classroom, and then you work with the students to ensure the ongoing health and development of your classroom community. It is not just one time do an activity and call it done; it is ongoing maintenance. It takes just a few minutes each day, and pays off with students who are totally engaged, focused and productive the whole time they are in your classroom.
3. Third, the academic environment, is one in which the teacher maintains the highest expectations. Learning is not an option. No excuses. If a student is having trouble with a skill or a concept you find a way to help them make it happen – perhaps a different approach is needed, or a bit more time. There are ways to get the student the needed help. It may be one of a growing number of excellent online resources, a few minutes of one-on-one time with you or with a volunteer . . . there are options.
Then, you design and implement a curriculum that is project-based, rigorous, relevant and real world. There are an infinite number of ways to design project-based, and/or interdisciplinary curriculum units based upon themes. From Cowboy Culture to Frankenstein, from Frog Jumping Day to Disaster Preparedness - it is so easy to ensure that the standards are learned at very high levels.[ii]
Allow for student choice as much as possible. Get ready for students who are highly motivated!
It has been my experience that when you create a student-centered classroom which meets the needs of the students for Power, Freedom, Fun and Belonging (as per Dr. William Glasser in The Quality School), and you intentionally design and support the proper environment - physical, emotional and academic - you will have no need of such tricks as those listed in this post or techniques as those offered in Plevin’s video.
Note – I agree that there should be some kind of understood signal to get everyone’s attention at certain times. Suppose the classroom is humming along with students fully engrossed in their activities, whether alone or in a group discussion. There will be occasions when you would need a signal to get everyone’s attention. The lights, the music, the rain stick or many other techniques listed would work well for this purpose.
Creating a classroom environment with excellent, student-centered, engaging curriculum will result in the virtual elimination of behavioral problems. Instead you will have students who love to come to your class – can’t wait to get there – and who will be so engaged in what they are doing that the problems just don’t happen.
Building Community and Calming the Riot
The technique I use on Day One of school (or it may be introduced at any time if you just learned of it) is what I call, “Take What You Need.” You can read about it here. I saw amazing, instant results when this same technique was utilized by some middle school teachers at a school in the Bronx, New York City.
This particular school was about as out of control as it gets! The environment could be most accurately described as toxic, and an ongoing riot. There was constant screaming – both students and teachers – fights breaking out continually, students tearing up the classrooms, throwing textbooks out of windows, throwing chairs through windows (closed windows),lots of teachers in tears, etc.
I had one day with the teachers, and the first thing I did with them was the “Take What You Need” activity. It is a community-building tool. The next morning when I arrived at the school I saw a number of teachers in the process of this activity with their students. The difference was like night and day. Students were paying attention, participating and polite.
Of course that one activity on one day could not cure all the problems in that school, but it was an incredible start on the journey. I am still in touch with one of those teachers; he starts every class at the beginning of each year with “Take What You Need”. It works!
[i] 30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class
[ii] Request a password by subscribing to 21st Century Curriculum.