18 Effective Strategies to Quiet a Rowdy Classroom


18 Effective Strategies to Quiet a Rowdy Classroom

We’ve all had those moments where it seems like the whole class has collectively lost their minds. It’s hard to remember your own calming strategies when the class is in chaos. Here are some ideas to calm a wild and rowdy classroom. With a little creativity, most can be used to settle antsy remote learners, too.

Calming strategies that have quick results

1. Take a deep breath.

Good for you and good for them, taking a deep breath can help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, which helps your body feel more relaxed, according to Harvard Medical School. Plus, taking a deep breath before acting will help you maintain your composure.

2. Strike a pose.

Stand on one leg, do your best tree pose, or channel your inner Madonna and vogue. When your students see you striking a strange pose, they will stop what they are doing and wonder what is going on with you. This unexpected action is enough to grab their attention and move on with your day. 

3. Ring a bell.

A wireless doorbell, some chimes, music, or any other new sound should stop students in their tracks, at least long enough to redirect them.

4. Get super quiet yourself.

Dim the lights, turn on a quiet fan for some soothing white noise and whisper. When the atmosphere is calm, it’s hard to maintain chaotic energy.

5. Pause mid-sentence.

Teachers tend to talk a lot. Kids can get bored and tune out if we drone on too long. Pause every so often to capture attention and wait for students to fill in the missing word. This keeps kids actively listening and engaged.

6. Assign some heavy work.

Have a handful of rowdy kids that just can’t settle down? Heavy work to the rescue! Have the student move desks or stack chairs, or carry something with a little heft over to the teacher across the hall. Performing heavy work helps kids feel centered and grounded.

7. Open a good book.

Grab a high-interest book and start reading. Allow kids to draw as long as they are listening. Use your best theatrical voice, really get into the story. Students will settle down because who can resist a good book?

8. Give distracting tasks.

Sometimes kids just need to take their mind off of what is bothering them. Give them a task that keeps their hands-and brains- busy. If they’re able to get swept up in an assignment, great. If not, have them reorganize your art supplies or deliver something to the office. Most of the time, students will feel calmer when given a task to redirect their energy. Check out this list and this one for fun jobs to implement in the classroom!

9. Find brain breaks that work for your students.

Check out this extensive list of ways to give your students a much-needed brain break.

10. Have weighted lap pads or stuffed animals available.

A weighted lap pad or weighted stuffed animal can be very comforting to a child that is feeling anxious. According to Understood, “Pressure on the body can release serotonin in the brain.” The release of serotonin helps kids settle down when they feel escalated. Weighted lap pads or animals are great for all ages, so don’t rule them out for teens. You can make your own or ask for help from a crafty parent (or student!).

11. Use attention-getters.

Check out this list of catchy attention-getters teachers around the world are using on a daily basis.

12. Use screen time as a last resort.

Sometimes teachers need a little help before they lose their cool. A bit of screen time will give you a few minutes to compose yourself. Bust out a Bill Nye video, or allow kids a few minutes on an educational website like Prodigy, and your class will quiet right down. Use this tactic sparingly as there are much healthier calming strategies to model for children.

Calming strategies to implement into your classroom routine for a lasting impact

Learning emotional regulation skills takes time and practice, just like learning to read, write, and do math. As with academic skills, some children need more help mastering emotional regulation than others. Incorporating routines to enhance calm and reduce stress is beneficial to everyone – including the teacher. The following calming strategies are manageable additions to a classroom routine. 

1. Incorporate mindfulness. 

NY Times reported that mindfulness can be a useful tool for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness. There are some really great apps out there to help you integrate mindfulness practice into your classroom, potentially even making it an intentional part of your weekly routine. (Mindful Mondays, anyone?) You can also model mindfulness in your daily actions by sharing what you are observing, feeling, and thinking about at any given moment. This practice helps kids bring their attention to the present. It’s also really useful to teach kids to bring awareness to their lives without any judgment. Focusing on what is happening right now can help them stop stressing about something that happened at home or on the playground. Try these mindfulness apps.

2. Set up a calm down corner

Make sure your classroom has a place where kids can go when they need to deescalate. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy- just a quiet place where they can sit and be alone. Stock it with a few fidget toys and noise-canceling headphones. Post written and picture reminders of the calming strategies you’ve been working on in the area. It’s important not to treat it as a timeout or a punishment. Check out these fun options for your calm down corner.

3. Make journaling part of the daily routine.

Sometimes it helps to put pencil to paper and share all of those feelings that have welled up inside. If a student is struggling with big emotions- especially peer conflicts- ask them to write about it and bring it to you when they are done. Assigning this writing task tells them that you value their feelings enough to read all of the details. It also gives them a positive outlet, as opposed to letting Johnny know what they really think of him during your math lesson. Set aside a specific time each day, for everyone to journal.

4. Gather for class meetings.

When something happens that impacts several students in the class, a meeting is a good way to help kids collectively calm down. Make sure you structure the meeting in a way that allows all students to have a voice and requires them to listen when their peers are sharing. Hearing that other students share their perspectives can be empowering, and learning about different perspectives is equally as powerful when the conversation happens in an environment of respect. Students will be more likely to participate if you have class meetings on a regular basis, not just when there is tension.

5. Encourage artistic expression.

Psychology Today reported that “certain sensory characteristics of art-making seem to be effective in improving mood, sensory integration, and calming the body and mind, especially with children who have experienced traumatic events.” Creating art can be less daunting for some kids than writing or talking about their feelings. Encourage children to express themselves through art throughout the day.

6. Don’t just pull out the calming strategies in crisis.

It’s imperative you incorporate these strategies into the everyday atmosphere of your classroom. Have art supplies, journals, a listening area, calming corner, and weighted animals available for students to use regularly. Review expectations for their use as part of regular class meetings. Practice breathing and mindfulness during calm times. Calming strategies aren’t very effective if they are only attempted when emotions are high.

Keeping simple calming strategies in your back pocket will come in handy when students need help learning to regulate. Implementing these strategies regularly will also create a calmer classroom environment, which results in a calmer, happier teacher.

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18 Effective Strategies to Quiet a Rowdy Classroom

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Kristen Nance

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Kristen Nance is an elementary school teacher in Oregon. She is passionate about children's literature, has an affinity for black cats, and is obsessed with ravens. She reads every mystery novel she can get her hands on, and feels happiest when she is near the ocean.

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