Classroom Management Help (Volume Control and Incentives)

I’m looking specifically for some suggestions with volume control in the classroom. Does anyone have any methods that work well? My kids can do amazing work but once they get riled up, it takes a lot to bring them back. I wish there were ways to do it quicker.

I’ve started using a reward system that works quite well for discipline. However, the area is quite a rich area, so there tend to be some kids who “don’t care” when such-and-such is taken away from them. Are there any other methods of keeping certain children in line?

Use a simple “call back” cue, like: “Hands and Eyes.”

Teacher says in a firm but normal voice “hands and eyes”.
Students verbally repeat “Hands and Eyes” and immediately fold their hands, make eye contact with you wherever you are in the classroom and freeze.
They MUST remain frozen wherever they are at the moment you call out “hands and eyes”.

The key to making this successful is train them…and train them…and train them. Practice practice practice.
Make it fun. Spend about 10 minutes over three classes practicing it.
Make it a fun game and give them “an impossible challenge” that no class has EVER been able to achieve: Tell them they need to do it in unison not as a chain reaction.
Kids love this kind of thing, to try to do what no other class has ever done before. To be challenged.

To prep them for this simple class procedure, I will play “20” with them. It is a simple and valuable game to teach listening and patience.
Class is silent with arms folded, frozen like statues.
Tap one student on the shoulder.
That student says “one”
The class now has to count to twenty, one by one, without anyone speaking at the same time or saying the same number. No student can say a number twice. Once one student says a number, they have to be silent and let someone else say a number. Adjust your number to the number of students in the class.
If they speak at the same time or repeat a number, it goes back to zero.
They can usually complete the game within 4 attempts.

To challenge them more, have them do it without moving their heads. They can only look forward. Then as an ultimate challenge, have them do it with heads down on their desks and eyes closed. (It can be done!)

A great way to teach teamwork is to allow the class to point to a person they want to say the next number. They will start pointing to different students, but quickly, you will see them nodding and communicating silently to get everyone to point to the same person. It is really cool.

Once they learn to listen and work together, the “hands and eyes” call back will really work well. It is a huge success for my classes.

also…DO NOT REWARD for good classroom behavior. You will just spoil them. They MUST learn that “good behavior” is the norm and not the exception.
If they don’t quiet down or pay heed to your “call back”, give them a consequence. An easy consequence can be time taken from their break time. You can use it as silent time or time added on to your teaching time.

Many Taiwanese teachers will use a “call back” called “eyes on me”. I don’t like this one because the students just become parrots without action and often don’t stop and listen. I feel there MUST be an “action” added to the verbal cue. It really makes them stop and listen to you.

Once you have their attention, give them a calm instruction or even a silent instruction. After they do the “hands and eyes” call back and they are completely silent, put your finger to your lips and use your other hand, palm down, raised high…wag your finger to say “no”. Then, with your palm down, lower your hand half way. Give a thumbs up and a smile, showing them where you want the volume to be. Then ask: “got it?” in a normal voice. Students should respond with “got it”. They will always say it at the same volume you used…this is good, you want to draw their attention to the volume you want. Now wag your finger “no” again and say “got it?” in a much quieter voice. Students will then respond with a much quieter “got it” and the class can then resume. [this only take 30 seconds to do]

The power of visual cues can be enormous! Often times visual cues are more effective than the teacher shouting out verbal commands. Teach them to use their eyes and ears to know what is going on.
Remember, practice, practice and practice. It is exactly like training a dog how to sit using positive reinforcement (minus the doggy treats) :slight_smile:

IMPORTANT FYI: DO NOT OVERUSE IT! If you over use your “call back” the class will become numb to it. If this happens, you need to spend time practicing again from square one.

Don’t get them all hyper in the first place.
Keep your lesson a bit boring and have them discover the joy of actually understanding something.
This way, you’ll achieve the most progress.

Kids hunting after rewards all day do not want to understand anything. They just want that star, point, chocolate or candy. Everything will become redundant very quickly and after a year or so, you’ll realize that they haven’t learned much.

I am in the same situation at my school. The Chinese teachers want me to play games and entertain the kids more than teaching them. There was only one co-teacher with the opposite approach. That was the only class were the kids really kept up with the material. When I taught that class the first time she said, “don’t play too many games they will get too hyper”. I was like great, at least one hour per week with just teaching.

That teacher has left since and was replaced with a Bubble tea and candy bar lady. After a short dispute, I gave up and implemented a rewarding system with doughnuts and jelly Pearl milk tea. It’s bad I know and I have never been this low, but I am tired and don’t want to start looking for another job. So, let the kids get fat with bad teeth. I am not going to fight that battle this time.

I’ve had some troubles with my more rambunctious students, and the new teacher we just picked up taught me a quick lesson in taking care of business.

She’s a small girl, about 5’2, not much (if anything) over 100 pounds, and a cute smile. I was worried that she would get steamrolled by the new class. I didn’t see her first class, but I asked what the students thought of the new teacher, and they unanimously agreed that she was ‘SCARY.’

While it is my nature to be an amicable fellow, and I am very rarely so firm with adults, it takes focused guidance to nurture younger learners, and erring on the side of firmness seems… better. This is very hard to implement with an older class, as they are patterned already to take advantage of leniency. I learned this the hard way.

With that said, we are in a precarious position, being in the for-profit education business. Keeping students happy, behaved, enthusiastic, and learning is the holy grail of education.

Good luck!

“also…DO NOT REWARD for good classroom behavior. You will just spoil them.”

@ Quarters, does that mean you don’t want to get paid for work or any holiday bonuses?

Animals are incredibly sensitive to reward systems (depression can interfere with this). If you aren’t getting the responses you want, you aren’t doing it right. Instead of not rewarding, to avoid “spoiling them” you want to systematically increase the ability to delay gratification, increase frustration tolerance. Consistency, cueing systems, understanding interval and ratio systems, etc. help with this.

“IMPORTANT FYI: DO NOT OVERUSE IT! If you over use your “call back” the class will become numb to it.”

This is a good point, @Quarters.

@slee, have you tried modeling different voices in your morning meeting, labeling the voice types, referencing one type before starting an activity, correcting using the label/ modeling, and praising using the label/ modeling (“I like how Joe is using his inside voice when he talks with his partner. That allows all the people at his desk hear their partners too”)? You could also get kids to practice matching their volumes to different levels as a game.

[quote=“chris1234”]“also…DO NOT REWARD for good classroom behavior. You will just spoil them.”

@ Quarters, does that mean you don’t want to get paid for work or any holiday bonuses? [/quote]

I am paid a salary to teach. I do not get a holiday bonus. However, I do get a performance bonus for achieving goals set by my employer. I am awarded the bonus for my achievements.

Students are required to attend school. Their “payment” is what they learn and internalize from their lessons and day to day life at school. They should not be “rewarded” for learning. IMO. If you set a goal with the students and those students achieve that goal, then a reward, IMO, is justified. A reward for personal achievements is also ok, IMO, as long as it is not overly done.

I believe this to be true. That is why rewarding for clear achievement, using consistency and fairness, and not over doing it are all very important when using a reward system.
However, a valuable life lesson can be learned in not being rewarded. Lessons such as civic duty, student responsibility, selflessness, etc. Otherwise you cultivate an attitude of “whats in it for me that satisfies my immediate gratification needs?” AKA the gimme gimme attitude.

I am getting the response I want. That is why I shared my experience here. The technique I use works, everyday, with the over 300 students I teach. I believe, for my students and my classroom environment, I am “doing it right”.

I never said to never reward. Rewards can be quite motivating when used in the appropriate context and appropriate time.
Yes, I agree with systematically increasing the delay of gratification…when it is appropriate to do so. I am not going to walk into a new class, where “Teacher X” used to reward with candy left and right, and continue with that reward system just because little johnny is going to start having reward withdrawals. Rather, I will clearly set up my system and let the students know how they can “achieve”. It is my classroom. my teaching time, the students do not dictate how things are run and the teacher is just a shoe-in. Rather I evaluate my students needs and adjust my teaching objectives accordingly. My classroom procedures remain constant and consistent.

The bottom line is, for a system like this to work…where gratification is earned from learning and rewards are earned through achieving…you need to plan ahead. Have a solid game plan for classroom procedures. Set up goals for your students. Set the bar low if you think that is necessary, but gradually raise that bar. It takes time and consistency.

I HIGHLY recommend this book:
The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Dr. Harry K. Wong

To get a class or individual inline and behaving…A nod, a smile , a stare, a frown, a raised eyebrow, or a gesture is often all that is needed, and it does not even disturb the class at work. Body language can speak volumes. User it to manage the classroom and minimize disruptions.

The three most important student behaviors that must be taught the first day of class are these:
• 1. Discipline
• 2. Procedures
• 3. Routines

An Ineffective Teacher
• May have no clearly defined rules.
• Communicates rules sporadically and as they are suddenly needed to stifle a situation.
• Conveys rules in a gruff, angry, and condescending manner.
• Winces, shrugs, or conveys via facial expression or body language disbelief in what is being said.
• Conveys that “I’m only doing this because the administration wants me to do it.”
• Tells students, “If you don’t want to learn, that’s not my problem.”
• Berates students with meaningless phrases to convey expectations “Don’t you know any better?” or “How many times do I have to tell you?”

The Effective Teacher
• Has a discipline plan that does not degrade students.
• Makes good eye contact
• Provides a copy of the plan for each student.
• Enforces the rules consistently.
• Has learned how to discipline with the body using the gestures I mentioned above, not with the mouth.
• Teaches students the concept of consequences and responsibility.
• Has self-confidence and faith in his or her capabilities.

The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline: it is the lack of procedures and routines. This is especially true in language classes here where it is expected the foreign teacher use only English. The students MUST understand how things work in your class, what they are expected to do, when they are expected to do it and how they are expected to do it. Then, consistency must be used 100%.

Procedures are a part of School Life
• Procedure for dismissal at the end of the period or day
• Procedure for quieting a class.
• Procedure for the start of the period or day.
• Procedure for students seeking help.
• Procedure for the movement of students and papers.

You have a procedure for everything you do every day, from getting dressed to getting to work to cooking your meals to wiping your rear end when you take a poop. A systematic way of doing things that you follow pretty much every time. Nobody is there to hand you a reward for tying your shoes correctly or for getting to work successfully or for wiping your butt. These are things that you just do. It is the same in the classroom. Procedures are things that are done because that is the way it works.

You can’t just tell your students what your procedures are. You MUST teach your procedure. Make it part of the learning curriculum. IT IS STILL LANGUAGE LEARNING TOO!

Three Step Approach for Teaching Procedures
• Explain: State, explain, model, and demonstrate the procedure.
• Rehearse: Rehearse and practice the procedure under your supervision.
• Reinforce. Reteach, rehearse, practice, and reinforce the classroom procedure until it becomes a student habit or routine.

One of the greatest gifts a caring teacher can contribute to children is to help them learn to sit when they feel like running, to raise their hand when they feel like talking, to be polite to their neighbor, to stand in line without pushing, and to do their homework when they feel like playing. By introducing procedures in the classroom, you are also introducing procedures as a way of living a happy and successful life.


Thank you! These sounds like great ideas…I can already imagine the “Hands and Eyes” activity in my head, I suppose this is what my teachers had done for me when I was younger. I have written down all the suggestions and will be sure to employ them with my new classes after CNY. I guess my biggest struggle is wanting the kids to like me/want to come to class but now see that I’m approaching it in the wrong way.

By the way, any idea how I might find that book:

The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Dr. Harry K. Wong

in Taipei?

[quote=“slee”]By the way, any idea how I might find that book:

The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Dr. Harry K. Wong

in Taipei?[/quote]

Go to … wel_search

Another great book is:
Tools for Teaching, by: Fred Jones … F011122233

The First Days of School will help you set up your classroom procedures and such. Tools for Teaching is great for knowing what to do when all else fails…stubborn students, insubordination, etc.

@Quarters, I didn’t mean the system doesn’t work for you specifically. I meant readers of the post in general. I thought about using “one” instead of “you,” but I didn’t think it would come across that way.

“The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline: it is the lack of procedures and routines.”

This is a good point.

“Their “payment” is what they learn and internalize from their lessons and day to day life at school. They should not be “rewarded” for learning. IMO.”

This leaves out kids who don’t get the long-term benefits of learning a concept or who have a less developed ability to delay gratification.

Thinking of yourself/ representing yourself as someone who learns for the intrinsict value is one way you reward yourself for learning.

A lot of people forget the reinforcements they got early on, even though they shaped their development.