I certainly have struggled with quiet at both middle and elementary--and my
solution is to mandate five minutes of silent work (sometimes called "quiet
camp"). When anyone gets talky we start over on the five minutes--amazing
how, in one class period, the group can exhibit silence for five minutes if
they get feedback. Then I make a big deal out of the product results--which
are always better than results during the chatty time. I don't really believe
that silence is essential all them time but I DO believe that there can be an
attitude of tossing off art class and having an "indoor recess"
atmosphere/attitude if there aren't any standards. Sometimes I have had a
classroom assignment called "timekeeper" and that person, who is very powerful
(!)--gets to time the five minutes and decide if it has been quiet
enough--whether or not we need to try again (takes the onus off the teacher at
middle school)! Interested to hear how others feel about/handle this issue.