Chime In: How to Get Your Classroom to Settle Down

By Cindy Schwartz, co-founder and executive director of secondary education

A very real problem that many of us have faced in our classrooms is the act of “settling down” or “quieting” a class. So here we go. Does this sound familiar?

It’s 7:50 am and the morning announcements are over. The room is noisy, buzzing, kids talking oblivious to the fact that you need to start class now.

High school classes are technically 42 minutes long, but after attendance and announcements, you’re left with maybe 35 minutes of precious learning time. You need to get the class moving, and pronto!

So, you’ve asked the kids to settle down. They ignore you. You ask again, and they don’t give.  Then a student sitting near where you are standing asks you a question that only you can hear.   You bend down to answer the question, knowing that your movement is the unwritten signal for the other students to talk even more. Now it’s even louder than before, and you’re thinking that it’s been awhile since an administrator has ‘popped in’ to observe you and you get that butterfly feeling that today may be the day

How will you settle the students down and begin your lesson in an empathetic, non-reactive, calm way?

Why not try this…it has worked for me. 

  • Stand in the middle of your room and ring a meditation bell.  Most students will quiet down almost immediately, especially if you’ve never used it before. As it’s ringing, gently ask kids to raise their hand once they don’t hear the chimes anymore. They have no choice but to be quiet because they won’t be able to hear when the chimes stop chiming if they aren’t quiet. 
  • When the chimes stop ringing, pause. Look at your students and say, ‘I’d love to ask you the most important question of the day…how are you?” after they respond a bit, ask if there is a volunteer who might like to ring the bells tomorrow. 

Here are some other suggestions for quieting down a class that have worked wonders for me. 

  • Play welcome music.
  • Tell a joke.
  • Have a piece of art, either a painting, sculpture, or architectural building up on the whiteboard and ask, ‘Who knows what this and what it’s message is?” 
  • Draw droodles on the whiteboard…it’s fun, engaging, puzzle-like and will quiet everyone because they will have to pause and think!!!  What is it that i’m looking at? For example, you can draw a ship that’s arriving too late to save a drowning witch, or a man’s bowtie getting caught between two doors. 

After you’ve had about five minutes to complete one of these little ‘settling the class down exercises,’ you’ll probably have a calmer, more attentive and smiley room of students ready to focus on your lesson for the day. You will have had them at hello! And think about it…you may have single handedly changed a student’s day by settling them in with a connecting, bonding experience that gives them solace and hope that someone will consistently set boundaries, make learning fun and relevant while modeling self-regulating behavior. 

I hope that this has given you some doable tips on quieting your class. Respond in the comments section below if these tips worked for you or not and if you have any suggestions on what you have done in the classroom to help your students settle in.

This blog post has been adapted from this week’s Attentive Teaching podcast, available on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and other major podcast platforms.

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