I am taking this from another teacher (Yolanda Hankerson) from another post because there are so many good ideas here!
1. Notice times when the students are displaying the correct attentive behavior and/or voice levels. Use specific praise that identifies the action that you appreciate. ("The red group is doing a wonderful job of using their table voices.")
2. Develop a signal system. When you want quiet and student attention directed toward you, show the signal (hand raise, finger to closed lips, etc.). Students acknowledge you by showing the same signal. Of course, this system needs to be practiced, and students need to be positively recognized for having followed your lead.
3. Develop a classroom chant that the students repeat when they hear you say it. They then close their lips and attend to you. For example: "One, two, three. Eyes on me." at which time the students reply, "One, two. Eyes on you."
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4. Teach the students to repeat your clapping sequence. When you need their undivided attention, clap a rhythm. Students repeat that cadence. Then clap again using a different "tune". At that point students attend to you.
5. Count down from 5 to 1. At one, students should be silent and attentive to you. (Again, practice, practice, practice... and praise, praise, praise.)
6. Rather than getting louder to try to talk over noise, reduce the volume of your voice so that the students have to lower their volume to hear you.
DO NOT penalize the entire class for the loud behavior of one or two students. Recognize the efforts of the majority, and set up separate systems for the persistent offenders.
7. Teach correct voice levels with the teaching tool found at: http://elearning.autism.net/visuals/main.php?g2_itemId=135
(while designed for teaching students with autism, it would serve as a useful tool for any teacher)
8. Give warnings about being "too loud" in a non-verbal manner (so that we don't yell louder than the volume of our students). Say a student's name quickly (or otherwise gain his/her attention), and hold up one finger (symbolizing "first warning"). Hold up two fingers for the second warning. Wave the student to you for the third consequence (whatever you have decided upon and discussed previously with the students).
9. When the classroom is noisy, look for students who are using the correct voice levels. Recognize them positively.
10. Model the voice level that you wish them to show.
Everyday Math has poster that show reminders for partner or 6 I inch voices, small group voices, inside voices, etc. before starting a lesson, teach and practice these volumes and post the visual.
I have been using the Whole Brain Teaching approach. there are lots of free videos you can watch. I started it day one in my class, but it can be started anytime. The score board is really great- the more positive feedback they are getting (and occasional groans) helps them keep on track. Most students are on task during the day. Rewards are fast and fun- like a song, a short "Sperhero" Dance. (Btw 1-2 mins.) or listening to music while writing, or take our shoes off during a math period. You can check it out on YouTube- I started learning about it the day before school started, and I just keep trying and watching and adjusting. So far this is my best year ever.(I teach first grade)
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