Quiet signs are a mainstay of classroom behavior management plans. The ability to quiet students down quickly and effectively not only saves precious teaching time, it also is a safety issue. A teacher must be able to get students’ attention in an emergency to tell them what to do.
Teaching Students to be Quiet in Class
Students must be taught what the signal is that the teacher will be using. Choose a quiet sign that can be used many times during the day without becoming annoying. Plan for time to teach the signal. Teaching the quiet sign takes time and must be a specific lesson in itself. Once the signal has been taught and reinforced, students will respond in an instant.
How to Teach the Quiet Sign
Begin by introducing the quiet sign. If the signal is a clicker, show the students the clicker and what it sounds like. Tell them what behavior is expected when they hear the sound. Some teachers require pencils down. Others require hands on the desk. Some have students place their hands on their heads. After explaining, practice, practice, practice.
Have the students engage in a group or partner verbal activity. A getting-to-know-you activity is good for this. After a minute, use the quiet sign. Congratulate the students who heard the sign and stopped their activities to pay attention to the teacher.
Continue practicing throughout the day. Challenge the students to respond more quickly to the quiet sign each time it is used. For the first two weeks of school, purposefully use the quiet sign several times during the period or the day so the students become well accustomed to it.
Rules for Quiet Signals
- Never, ever, talk or give instructions while the students are talking.
- Quiet signs must be portable. They must be available to the teacher in the classroom, on the field, in the cafeteria, at assemblies, and on field trips.
- Quiet signals should be something that does not get annoying when used several times a day.
- Quiet signs should be unusual enough that students will hear it through their own noise.
- Never shout at the students.
Ideas for Quiet Signs in the Classroom
Clickers: These small devices can be carried in a pocket or on a keychain. Use one click as a warning, or to tell students they have one minute left on a task. Use two clicks as a signal that it is time to be quiet. This is the most versatile sign, and it’s one that students seem to enjoy using.
Five Fingers Up: In this signal, the teacher holds up a hand and counts to five. When the teacher reaches five, all the students should be quiet and paying attention.
Jingles: Many teachers use a jingle to get attention. Some teachers say, “One, two, three, eyes on me!” The students respond, “One, two, eyes on you!”
Clapping: Teachers may clap a rhythm and the students must clap the rhythm to show they are paying attention. This works because students will hear clapping no matter where they are in the room. It also requires students to put down pens and pencils to respond.
Peace Sign: Hand signals are popular. The peace sign of two fingers is the most widely used. The Vulcan greeting is popular with older students. The teacher holds up a hand signal, and all of the students hold up their hands with the signal as well. Since this sign is visual and not auditory, students are expected to get the attention of their neighbors when the teacher uses this sign.
Whistles, Bells, and Rainsticks: These signals are very limited in their use, so don’t rely upon them as a primary quiet sign. Whistles are appropriate for using on the field, but are not good for indoor activities, due to their loudness. Bells and rainsticks are fine inside the classroom, but another sign is needed for activities that take place in other areas such as assemblies.
Quiet Signs That Should Never be Used
- Shouting or yelling
- Banging on a desk or whiteboard
- Anything negative that adds stress to the classroom
- Ease of use
- Does not get annoying
- Is positive in nature
- Is age appropriate for the group
For more tips and information, see 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers and Positive Classroom Discipline.