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.

About Mr-Butler

Math Geek Volleyballer Crochet Crazy

Posted on January 23, 2015, in Good Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Jedidiah,
    Thanks for your amazing presentation at OCCUE yesterday. I also have struggled with acceptable noise levels in my class – especially when I have students work together. I bought some preschool signs in the dollar section at Target (one of them says Quiet Please) and, surprisingly enough, just holding the sign up often works. I think you’re right about not needing to speak to get our students to quiet down – otherwise we are just adding to the noise level. I do like your idea of setting a level – we are starting a new semester tomorrow so I am going to try it out.

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