I allow my kids to engage in quiet conversation as they work on their
projects. I tell them that it is natural for artists to talk about what they
are working on with each other, and that is great--as long as they can do it
softly. I ask them to keep art as the focus of their conversations. I also
demonstrate the importance of using very soft voices, because my tableas are
all very close together, and if a student at one table talks in a regular
voice, the students at the next table have to talk louder to be heard by
each other, and so on until pretty soon the art room sounds like the
cafeteria, and who can concentrate on their artwork with all THAT noise?!
(They get a laugh out of that.)
I also try to teach using a very soft voice, though my tendency is still to
project my voice. But if I can keep MY volume down, the students tend to
listen harder and more carefully, and it sets a calm, quiet tone for class.
Here is my formal strategy for controling the noise level in class and
I have a list of expectations that I review with my students each and every
week in the form of a quick evaluation.
The first thing I do in every class, after they have entered and sat down,
is ask them, "Did you come in and sit down quietly?"
They have to answer "yes," "no," or "so-so."
I mark the answer on an evaluation sheet that I composed.
At the end of class I ask them about a dozen other questions regarding my
Did the class...
Stop, look and listen when I spoke?
Work hard and work quietly?
Clean up quickly, quietly, and put everything in the right place?
Those are the questions that relate to the noise level; there are a few
other questions as well; I'll share them with you if you like. The whole
questionairre can be done very, very quickly.
The final question I ask is if the class has earned a color for the day.
Each class has a palette (made of laminated posterboard) on the wall (or
will by the time they get back from break--I just started this position
December 8!). If they meet my expectations each week, they can earn a color
for their palette. Once they fill their palette (I think I have 10
colors...I haven't dug my "colors" up yet from my storage boxes, but they
are just blobs cut out of construction paper), their class earns a reward--a
"golden palette" that their teacher can hang outside the classroom, as well
as a treat for the students, such as sticker or a novelty eraser. Sometimes
I use candy, but that is not my preference.
Once a palette is filled, it is cleared off, and the students start all over
again. At the end of the year, I might reward the classes that earned the
most colors/filled the most palettes with a special project or a pizza
In evaluating whether or not the class has earned a color, I ask them what
they think, and try to go along with their answer (as I do for all the
questions) unless I think they are not assessing themselves accurately and I
can tell them specific reasons why their response is not accurate. If a
class has gone well, overall, I make sure they get a color, even if there
was a "no" or a few "so-so" answers. Those answers show areas where they
need to improve, and in order to earn a color the next week, they need to
show imporvement in those areas.
Like I said, I am new to this job. I have introduced the system to the
students, and they seem very excited by it. I inherited the palette system
from the teacher I student taught with about 10 years ago, and used it in my
first job, which happened to be the position where I had student taught, as
my mentor was transferred to the high school the summer after my student
teaching. The questionairre part of the system--where I ask them if they met
my specific expectations--was my own invention. I developed it because I was
having lots of behavioral problems at that school--as were all the special
area teachers, and many of the classroom teachers as well. It was a
challenging situation. At that time I also travelled to another school,
which did not face the behavioral challenges to the same degree. I used them
palette system with them, too, with great success.
The questionairre is extremely helpful. It provides very specific feedback
and documentation of what went well and what needs improvement. It's a very
positive tool. I do not expect each class to be perfect--it is very
difficult to earn ALL "yesses", but I have been known to reward classes who
HAVE earned all "yesses" with not 1 but 2 colors on their palette. They go
crazy with excitement when that happens--they are so proud of themselves!
I hope that what I've shared is helpful to you in some way. Each teacher has
to find their own way with their specific student groups, and compatible
with their own personality and teaching style. I always love hearing how
other teachers manage their classrooms; it really helps me fine-tune my own