Image by: Isolated
When I first started student teaching I was instructed by my colleagues that a quiet classroom is the best way to maintain control. As a student teacher, wanting to graduate, I smiled and agreed with my colleagues. Maintaining the authority position in my upper elementary classroom was one of my first priorities. I believed at the time that my leadership (according to my cooperating teacher) was the only thing that contributed to learning in the classroom. I focused on classroom management and thought that the learning would take care of itself. That sounds horrible now, as I reflect on my student teaching experience. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this method was completely wrong. During my true first year of teaching I became more confident in my teaching ability and allowed students more flexibility in the learning process. Allowing students an opportunity to be part of the learning process enabled them to vocalize their opinions and increased their learning. Respect is earned and modeled through example, not necessarily through words. This seems true no matter where you work, but it’s completely evident in a classroom full of students.
During my first few years of teaching I incorporated a flow chart and set the expectations in my classroom at the beginning of the school year. I even had the students help create the rules. As my years of teaching experience increased, the volume of my classroom did as well. At times, I would be asked to close my classroom door because there was so much talking (I thought collaboration) going on in the classroom. I didn’t mind because my students were learning at high levels through collaboration. I remember a teacher (one of the colleagues in the first paragraph) asking me why my room was so noisy. At the time I just simply responded by saying that all “that noise” was contributing to learning.
Unfortunately, I don’t think my answer 10 years ago was clear. I’d like to to clarify my answer below.
Question: Why is your classroom so loud?
- Collaboration: Students are often found in partners or small groups, discussing math problems or working in literature circles. Often, there are between 10 – 13 conversations occurring during these times.
- Manipulatives: Students are putting together 3-D models, cutting out geometric shapes, using Tangrams, utilizing base 10 blocks, creating space figures with nets, measuring objects, etc.
- Technology: Students are using iPads or computers in the learning process. The sound of technology can be turned completely off, but I feel that sound often reinforces learning.
- Drama/Skits: Students are working in groups to create skits that reinforce reading and math objectives. There are many opportunities to incorporate skits in the curriculum.
- Connections: Students are making connections to the text they are reading in a variety of formats. Making connections to the outside works is an important skill and this is something that seems to happen daily.
- Music: Students are listening to music while they work on different activities. Students seem to enjoy the music in the background and I think it improves the overall classroom climate.
- Games: Students are playing math games with each other. The noise of the dice and talking can be intense at times, but learning through games is definitely something to look into if you haven’t yet.
I think it’s also important to note that some students need their surroundings to be quiet to focus. Understanding how a student learns best should influence the learning environment. Unfortunately, the learning environment can’t always be changed, but we can do our best to modify the climate to best meet students’ needs.