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Dr. Ken Shore's
Classroom Problem Solver

Noise Making in Class

Students make noise in a variety of ways. They tap their pencils, click their tongues, sing a song, or crack their knuckles. The noises can drive you and other students to distraction. Although you might be able to ignore some extraneous noises, others interfere with your lesson or with your students' ability to concentrate. At those times, an active response is required.


Make certain the student is aware she's making noise. A child might tap her fingers or roll her pencil without knowing she is doing it. If one of your students appears unaware that she's making noise, take her aside and tell her specifically what she is doing that is distracting to others. Explain that if she makes that noise in the future, you will signal her that she's making noise and needs to stop. Agree on a cue (touching your finger to your lips, for example) to alert the student. If the noise occurs again, don't stop what you're doing to reprimand the student. The idea is to remind her of what she is doing without interrupting the flow of your lesson.

Move toward the student. If she's making noise while you're teaching, walk in her direction while continuing to talk to the class. Stand near the student for a minute or two, perhaps making eye contact with her. Your presence might be enough to get her to stop.

Move the student to a study carrel. If you can't get her to stop making the noise, and if the noise is distracting to other students, you can lessen the distraction by having the student use a study carrel placed to one side of the classroom. Have the student sit in the carrel only for short periods of time, and don't use this technique at all if she seems to feel isolated from her classmates. You might make the seating more appealing by telling the student that it is her "office."

Try to determine when the student is most likely to make noise. You might find that she is noisy at certain times -- late in the day, when doing seatwork, while taking a test, or during a particular class for example. Knowing when the student makes noise could help you understand why she makes noise. A student might make noise because she finds the work tedious, too easy, or too difficult; because she is uncertain about what to do; because she has difficulty focusing for a long periods, and so on. Identifying the reason for the noise might help you recognize a need to adjust the level of the student's work, the length of the activity, or the way you present information.

Give the student positive attention. If your observations suggest that a student is making noise to get attention, look for occasions to pay attention to her while she's exhibiting positive behavior or enjoying an academic success. A student who's recognized for positive behavior will feel less driven to seek attention in inappropriate ways.

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.