3 Reasons You're Struggling to Get Your Class to Be Quiet

I see teachers asking over and over in Facebook groups about how to get their chatty class to stop talking. There seems to be an epidemic of disrespect in our classrooms these days, but there are a few reasons you might be struggling to get your class to be quiet.

3 Reasons You're Struggling to Get Your Class to Be Quiet

Let me start by saying that a noisy classroom is not necessarily bad. Learning can be a noisy endeavor, and the sounds of productivity and excitement are awesome.

In this post, I'm referring to the disrespectful noise teachers are complaining publicly about every day. The noise that they're looking for help to calm.

With that caveat out of the way, let's get to the goods.

There are three big mistakes that I see teachers making.

And not only younger, more inexperienced teachers, either. Teachers with years of experience under their belts are doing the same things, and it is a big part of the problem.

Let's back up a little bit to when I was a new-ish teacher. I was taking courses to upgrade and had the most fantastic instructor. He had a couple of pieces of advice that have stuck with me into my third decade of teaching.

"Don't be a rescue ranger."

That was his first tip, and although it isn't really related to calming your classroom's noise, it does go hand in hand with the mindset in the room.

You see, when kids aren't given responsibility for the way the classroom is run, they don't take any ownership of it.

This leads me to the first of the big mistakes.

Set Expectations

Teachers need to make their expectations of what is acceptable noise and what is excessive FROM. DAY. ONE.

My instructor's second tip was that our students need to be explicitly taught what our expectations look like and sound like, even in the upper elementary grades.

They need to see, hear, and practice before they can master it.

Some sort of noise monitor or indicator is a great way to let your students know how they're doing. They aren't mind readers! 😉

In the past, I've used colored Solo cups for this in my table groups. The kids found them very motivating and watching the volume became a bit of a challenge between groups.

Photo of green, yellow, and red Solo cups.

Follow Through

On to the second big mistake, and maybe the one that drives me craziest - when expectations are set, and teachers don't follow through with them.

YOU are the person in control here. (At least you should be!)

Take that back and follow through on what you've told your students you expect.

In my classroom, I use a hand signal to get their attention when it is too noisy. I start with five fingers in the air and count down to zero. If they're still talking by that time, they lose a point in our whole-class behavior management system.

Photo of hands doing a five-finger countdown.

You can work this in with any system that you're using in your classroom.

If you don't follow through, your students learn that you aren't really serious and the expectations are just suggestions.

Don't Talk Over Them!

Your expectations are set, and students know what you expect, but time and time again, I still see teachers shouting over the kids to get their attention.

Don't talk over them!!

You're going to exhaust yourself hollering over their voices all day, and the kids aren't even listening.

Photo of a frustrated teacher with a class not listening.

Once again, by talking over student noise, you're sending them the message that it doesn't really matter if they're listening or not. The things you have to say aren't important enough for them to stop what they're doing and focus on your words.

But It's Too Late In The Year To Change

You might be thinking, "How can I possibly fix the problem this late in the school year?"

It is never too late to take charge. You are the boss, and they are the employees!

My advice is to retrain your students today. 

I've always told my teacher candidates that classroom management is the most essential part of your job to master. If you can't manage these small things, you'll never do your best teaching. 

Be respectful of your students and demand their respect in return.

Explain to them why things need to change and how you're going to do it together. There will be consequences along the way. That's natural. Maybe a couple of minutes of missed free time in exchange for the minutes of instructional time they wasted with social conversations. You make it work however best suits your classroom and community.

Then set an intention to make classroom management your first priority in the new school year.

You've got this!

If you teach younger students, you might find these 16 call-and-response cards useful for calming your class down! They're FREE in my Freebie Library!

16 Free Call-and-Response Cards.

You might find the idea I've shared in this blog post helpful as well:

How to Manage Students Demanding Your Attention

Find other great classroom management resources and ideas on this Pinterest board:

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3 Reasons You're Struggling to Get Your Class to Be Quiet


  1. Thanks a bunch, Erin! They're helpful ideas.

  2. I would agree with all of these. The ONLY thing I would add is to build relationships. A class will not respect you if they have not made a personal connection with you!


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