Indeed, it is so effective that at a recent teacher training seminar in Dubai I overheard some of the participants talking during the break and one of them remarked…
“He just got a room of 150 rowdy students quiet in 5 seconds!”
Some of your students will respond very well to being given responsibilities by a teacher. In fact, it’s probably your most challenging students, the ring leaders, who will respond best to responsibility because they crave attention so much. A great way to give them this attention (in a very positive way) is to give them a job, and for this classroom strategy, we are going to award three or four students with the job of getting the rest of the class quiet.
These students are going to be our ‘Shushers’ and it is their responsibility to ‘shush’ the rest of the class members (in a special way) when asked to do so.
To give them every chance of success we are going to train them. Each nominated ‘Shusher’ is asked to give their best and loudest ‘Shush’ – complete with an angry scowl and finger on lip gesture. After a few practices the ‘Shushers’ are then told that whenever the teacher shouts out “Shushers!” they are to give their best and loudest ‘Shush’ in unison. The rest of the class are told that when they hear the Shushers shush, they must stop talking and sit in silence. After two or three practices, they all get the idea and we now have the makings of a very effective routine in place.
To give the shushing routine the best chance of success there are three additions which I have found to be useful. Firstly, your Shushers need regular feedback. They need to be told by the teacher when they are doing a good job and given hints and pointers when they are slacking or messing around. Both positive and constructive feedback should be given in private, out of earshot of other students. Remember that the students you use as Shushers are likely to be natural livewires so they will need careful management to make sure they continue to do a good job.
Secondly, I like to give each of my Shushers a uniform to wear so that they can be easily identified. The ‘uniform’ is actually just a silly hat or joke school cap but they love wearing them, even though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it makes them feel special, maybe it just makes the whole affair less serious but whatever the reason, it works.
Finally, I have found that Shushers sometimes need a little extra help to get a particularly rowdy class to settle. I give them this by using another routine prior to calling on them – the Countdown:
“10… You should all be sat on your own seats now with your bags away and your hands on the table… excellent Carly and Sophie, you got it straight away.
9… Brilliant over here on this table let’s have the rest of you doing the same.
8… You need to finish chatting, get that mess away and be sat facing me.
7… All done over there at the back, well done, just waiting for a few others.
6… Come on, still some bags out at the back and people talking.
3… We’re just waiting for one group now. Ah, you’ve got it now and you’re sitting perfectly, thank you.
2… Well done everyone, nearly there…
The countdown is a proven classroom management strategy for getting students quiet at the end of an activity or session and it creates a settled environment so that the ‘Shushers’ only then need to deal with the minority who are still talking.
So there you have it. A great classroom management strategy to get rowdy groups of students settled in record time whilst injecting a little humour into your day at the same time. Enjoy!