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Charity Preston's picture
Charity Preston, M.A., is a national presenter, consultant and author. She has completed studies in gifted training, cooperative learning and differentiation, as well as a master's degree in...
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Don't Forget the Tunes!

Noise level is something we have to control every second in our classroom. It can't be too noisy, or others will be bothered, including the teacher next door. I was always conscious of my class's noise level so I didn't become a nuisance. It is never much fun to hear the "Wow, your class must have been really excited about something today" line from your partner across the hall.

A great teacher who I admire once told me that the ratio of noise in the classroom was in proportion to the amount of learning taking place. She believed that in order for education to be happening, there needed to be many things going on at once in the classroom, with lots of conversation and activity. Do not confuse this with playtime. At first I laughed off her remark because I was used to having a steel fist in my classroom as far as noise went. I felt as though others in the school, including administration, colleagues, and parents would doubt my level of authority if my students were too loud. Then, I realized that this teacher was not talking about walking in the hallway or sitting in the library for specials. She was referring to students creating their own knowledge through discovery-based learning. Now I whole-heartily agree.

As long as students are on task, it is perfectly acceptable to loosen the reigns a bit. Once students begin to get an octave too much, then it is time to have measures in place for action. In the past, I have used team points on the board. If a child from one team was too loud, I would simply (without a word) take points away. Or if teams were on task and working correctly, I would add points. Never having to raise my voice was good modeling. Some teachers use a stoplight mechanism that warns of being too loud. Others use colored cards that are flipped. Each teacher has his or her own method. As long as it's consistent, it will serve its purpose.

One other way I monitored the noise level was too "be cool" in every sense of the word to my young students. I had an iPod and a docking station. How many teachers are that cool? I actually added student-appropriate music to my iPod that I organized into play lists. (Not a good idea to have the students jamming out to "Baby Got Back.) The student play lists were separated into slow school songs, holiday songs, and fun school songs. If I needed a quick brain break, I could hit the fun school songs list and a Kidz Bop or Disney tune would play and we would do a fun dance move with it for a minute or so. But, most of the time, I played music from the slow school songs play list. It included classical-type music that would not distract the students from the task at hand. I instructed my class that if I could not still hear the music, they would return to their seats to do independent work and the music would be shut off. Being that music was such a novelty for them, they really kept the noise to a minimum.

I have gotten to the point now that I have a hard time concentrating when it is dead quiet with students working. Of course there were times that I did keep it completely quiet (practice tests for the state achievement tests was one of those times), but even during most curriculum related paper and pencil assessments, the music softly played in the background. It really made the room inviting and warm instead of sterile and cold. Plus, the students thought I was the coolest teacher ever!

Charity Preston - The Organized Classroom