Monthly Archives: January 2015

Classroom management: Pictures are louder than words


“I need you to quiet down class.”

“I mean it, we’re going to lose a chance to get to our fun activity at the end if I can’t get your attention.”

“Class can we get the volume down a bit here, I don’t think this is working type conversation.”


We know this doesn’t work.  Sometimes we get a routine that gets the attention needed for direction, but it shouldn’t be like an on/off switch.  I’ve resorted to the number system, “Alright we’re at like a 6, and we need to be more like a 4.”  It kinda worked.  Once.

We want students to talk.  We want them to be active in their learning.  Sometimes it’s just hard to give the students a structure for managing their own talk.  One simple classroom management tool I worked on with a teacher was to use a wordless chart, and reference it for what the expected conversations would be like in the classroom.  Here it is:

Noise Level Chart

The grey markers are used for what’s our target volume (star) and where are we currently (arrow).  The chart includes silent, partner talk / seated, table talk / standing, and all out loud.

Less talk from the teacher makes it harder for students to talk back to a teacher, argue, or escalate in some other way. Using simple cues like this can help structure your students into a productive classroom.  If you’d like to get the poster for yourself click the picture and it’ll take you to the Google Draw file.  I enlarged the poster using a poster making machine at our student services center.  Your district may have something similar.

If you have other ways of managing productive volume in the classroom, please share them in the comments.

1 word: scale #youredustory

scale (3)

This word has been on my mind a lot lately.  One of the most awesome things in education in celebrations of success.  A successful teacher, student, school, program, anything.  With all the variables in teaching and learning, it’s often challenging to make significant gains.

When a little bit of the awesome does happen, people notice.  Here are some reactions that seem common:


Admin and leadership:

How do we replicate that experience for a bigger group?

Let’s grow that.

(and within budget)



That’s cool!

Would it work for me?

(my classes are unique)

frustrated student


I wish school could be more like this.

Why can’t school be more like this?

(school is always the same)

I’ve had some great times in the classroom, often working with other teachers to get some of this awesome to happen.  Now I’m in a position to support teachers as a district Math Coach/TOSA.  I get to help them incorporate or expand the awesome.  No matter what I’ll be doing, this concept of scale is sticking with me.  How do we take something and make it fit for the teacher on his/her scale?

Let’s make the awesome work, for each person and everyone.

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