Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Managing Noise Level

by Mark Warner
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Ages: 5-11

Do you worry about the noise level in your classroom? Do your pupils have to work in silence or is any noise level acceptable?

Explore the ideas below and add your own suggestions in the comments!

Mark Warner:

The Calmness Counter is a great resource for indicating the noise level in your classroom.


I’m a music teacher – noise is good as long as you break it up with listening. I allow parts of the lesson to work with low-level chatter (discussing ideas in pairs or small groups), but when starting a task and explaining sections, they must listen. If we are doing loud work (drums, beatboxing, stomping) – then we limit this with gaps in listening.


I work in open classroom situation – all of the classrooms open into a learning space that would have once been a corridor.I find that if you can keep your voice down as much as possible the kids will follow and encourage them to be as thoughtful as possible. They generally follow the teachers lead. Good acoustics help as well!!!


I usually tell my fifth graders that teachers know when students are done with their assignment/work when the noise level starts to pick up. So I ask everyone to hand in their work since it sounds like everyone is done. Student quickly quiet down and get back to the task.

I also say that everyone is allotted so many recess minutes a day. How the student decides to use them is up to them. If they are talking and passing notes during say math. Then during recess, out on the playground, they owe me those minutes to work on math.

Mrs Mcevil:

I am the envy of many because I actually teach the perfect class. There is always some level of noise in my classroom, however it is always related to work they are doing. Although, when they are engaged in independent work, you can rarely hear a pin drop. This isn’t down to some expert behaviour management strategy or having the best teacher in the world (me!) – they’re just a fabulous bunch of kids.

The only strategies I use are: after explaining what they have to do I give them the opportunity to ask questions or share their ideas before tasks begin (standard practice, tbh) and I used a visual 5-finger count-down when I need them to listen to me.

I have a couple of chatterboxes, but a suggestion they complete their work during break times usually shuts them up.

I do sometimes feel very powerful, but I know it’s just that the kids are brilliant, and I’m just very lucky.


This works well… for activities where a certain amount of quiet is needed to aid concentration, I appoint a ‘noise policeman’ for each table/ group. Their job is to remind others if their voices are too loud or if they are not on task and then report to me where this fails. Suitable sanctions, including working during break times, are then imposed! Works well for my Y2 class, and the children enjoy the responsibility.

Niamh O Neill:

My standard practice is that they must be silent and listen when I’m talking or when one of their peers has permission to speak (usually either asking or answering a question). If they respect these rule I then allow them to talk quietly while doing their work sometimes it’ll be a writting task other times it’ll be group work or discussions. I can’t keep totally silent for a full hour so I don’t believe it’s fair to expect my pupils to do so. A working level of noise as long as they are on task is acceptable.

Calvin A:

I teach high school and generally they don’t get excessively loud but I still have the problem of getting their attention when I need to go over something. We work in groups so during group work there is an acceptable level of conversation (indoor voices).

I never shout. I used to but then discovered that if I shout once then they assume that unless I shout they aren’t too loud.

One strategy that I have started recently (adopted from a third-grade teacher) is to raise my hand and very quietly say “Raise your hand if you can hear me”. The nearest students immediately stop talking and raise their hands and it spreads very quickly when the further groups realize that no one is talking and everyone has their hands up.

I’ve also found that talking more quietly in general, forces them to listen more closely to hear me. I have a naturally loud voice so I have been working on that.

I do have one class that is very enthusiastic and gets loud. They do their work, they are pretty smart as a whole, but it gets to the point where I can’t have discussions with the groups as I walk around because I can’t hear them talk to me. I am debating a stoplight sensor, and there is also a free iPad app that monitors noise, I’m just not sure that this class in particular is aware enough to notice. I do like the idea of a sound monitor in each group, perhaps tasked with keeping an eye on the monitor, so I’ll be looking into that.


I have a microphone and a noise level monitor. If it goes into the red, the children know they’re too noisy. Works a treat.


A few strategies that I have used are:

  • I have a small bell. the norm is, when it tinkles, everyone listens to it. I don’t ring it too long.
  • I usually instruct, give time for questions and then am particular that individual work is done individually; and group work means legitimate talk time
  • I have sometimes had a silence time. My instructions are up on the board. Any one who needs to clarify comes up and whispers. Everyone speaks in whispers in that class.
  • Whenever we have discussions, we are in a circle, and the rule is to listen when anybody speaks, put up a hand and wait a turn to speak: I don’t keep track of hands, and sometimes a child volunteers. At other times, I ask kids to observe and wait; often, they find themselves asking another person to go ahead instead.
  • Kids are kids, but they understand when one is serious and are quite serious if you are.

Julie M:

We have a marble jar, where they earn marbles for extra playtime/golden time, I give a warning, which shushes them, and if they continue, they lose a marble, a warning is usually enough!

Ashley Humbyrd:

I have a couple of strategies that work pretty well with my sixth graders. In order to get their attention, I clap in some kind of a pattern (five fast claps, or two fast, two slow, etc.). The students then have to clap back to me in the same pattern. Generally, it takes two or three times of repeating the clapping. Usually, there are one or two students who don’t clap back. I just stare them down or say “All of you are members of this class, and all should clap back,” if they don’t follow suit.
During class discussions, I have a beanie baby pig (Napoleon) that gets tossed around the room. If you want to speak, you raise your hand, and the last person speaking will send it to you. You cannot talk without the pig, or else you are “hogging” the conversation. They love getting to (gently) throw Napoleon, and they think it’s hysterical when I tell them not to be “pigs.”


I guess it depends on the situation.

  1. You can use countdowns. 5,4,3,2,1.
  2. Turn off the lights for a moment.
  3. Stop what you are doing. If you are playing or doing some activity that’s causing the noise then stop it.
  4. Change the students’ seating. Often buddies are the culprits of the noise. You can change their seating, so they are not next to one another.

Do you have any other ideas or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below…

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