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Tricks of the Trade

Dealing with low-level disruption can be tricky. Here are


thirteen (unlucky for some) ways of outsmarting the smart-
alecs.

1. Set deadlines for specific tasks - create a sense of urgency. Public, whole-class
deadlines can be written up on the board. Individual dealines can be jotted down in the
margin of the pupil’s exercise book or on the teacher’s clipboard.

2. Use traffic lights – have red, green and orange coloured cards. Stick the green card on
the board when it’s O.K. to chit-chat. Stick the orange one up to signal that silence will be
expected in one minute. Naturally, red indicates total silence. Red and orange together
mean only one more minute of silence before chit-chat will be allowed again.

3. Use tokens – everyone starts off with 3 tokens each (buttons, counters, small cards).
Each time a person speaks when they shouldn’t, they surrender a token. They can win
tokens back for paricularly impressive contributions.

4. Rearrange the room – make sure it promotes the kind of listening you require. For
example, having tables in groups with some students’ backs to the teacher is not a good
idea until self-disciplne has been firmly established.

5. Have a sit-out area – pupils who have been reminded once or twice are given a choice:
either settle down and pay attention or go to the sit-out area (a designated area at the
back of the room) where work is already laid out for them to get on with.

6. Never talk over chatter.

7. Play Eye Eye – require everyone to turn and look at the person who is speaking, whether
it’s the teacher or a pupil.

8. Have a Chatterbox – have a sealed box with a slit in it (like a ballot box) on the teacher’s
desk. Each time a person disrupts, jot their name down and pop it into the Chatterbox.
Open the box each month – names that appear more than 5 (?) times are in BIG
TROUBLE.
9. Ask other pupils to remind talkers - have rotating Talk Police. Choose a couple of
people each lesson to be on the look out for low-level disruption and to issue reminders.
People can be ‘booked’ for more serious offences.

10.Play the Waiting Game - stop and wait for silence - don’t say anything. Some teachers
have a signal, e.g. a raised hand or holding a pen, to show that they are waiting. It’s
important not to look bored, angry or frustrated – this only gives the unsettled pupils the
incentive to carry on being unsettled.

11.Record instructions or passages on tape - curiously pupils will often settle to a


recording of the teacher’s voice more than a live performance. The recording also frees
you to watch the class while they listen.

12.Don’t stand at the front - go and stand next to likely interuptors when you are
addressing the whole class. Move round making sure that you make eye contact with
potential disruptors.

13.Don’t raise your voice - lower it.