Create a quiet learning environment

How to create a quiet learning environment with your students

Do you remember the old days when you used to sit in silence in a classroom waiting for your teacher’s instructions? These times are long gone. When I first started teaching I still had in mind that kind of quiet learning environment seen by our teachers as an example of good behaviour and considered by us students as a cruel punishment. Nowadays we are aware that children need to move around, need kinesthetics activities and games to learn better. However this doesn’t mean that our students don’t need some quiet time to focus and integrate what they are learning. I used to be the chatty one in class – as you can imagine – but I did appreciated the quiet study we had in class and I truly believe that this is crucial to help our students boost their results.

My first teaching experience was chaotic as I believed that games were the best way for children to get enthusiastic and to get on task. I obviously had a bunch of unruly students that made it even harder and my lessons tended to be very loud. I learned from that a balance between fun activities and quiet activities is necessary to help our students learn better and improve their performance.

The first thing is to start every lesson you have with a softer voice. Not only will it be good for your students to focus but it will also be invaluable for your health. Also the best way to ensure that you get the right balance with your peaceful moments of reflection is to embed them in you routine and in your lesson plans. For example when you start a lesson always have something ready for your students to work on. Use these 5-7 minutes for a quiet starter like a word search, a crisscross puzzle or an unscrambling the sentences activity. It will help to review prior knowledge individually and in silence. It will also give time for the late comers to settle down. After that you may want to experiment what I call the Yoga stretch.  It’s a 2-3 minute activity that will help your students relax and breathe properly. Ask them to stand up and to stretch their legs and arms. They can even yawn if it helps them oxygenate their brains. Of course the first session will bring lots of giggles. Never mind, they will get used to it after the second or third session. This short activity is aimed at helping them focus and relax. It is especially valuable during exams when students are under a lot of pressure. If some of your students take this activity as an opportunity to be disruptive, stop the activity for the whole group. It is usually an activity they like so if they can’t do it because of the attitude of some I can assure you that the disruptive students will be blamed by their peers for it and the next lesson you will be able to do it properly.

After this you can start your lesson with more lively activities. However a lively activity doesn’t necessarily mean a loud activity. Students need to be reminded that a game can be and should be played calmly. Model what you are expecting of them. For example if it is a competition game in teams tell them that if they don’t raise their hands before talking or if they shout the answers they will lose points. You need to get them used to playing games in a sensible way.

Also when you ask your students to take notes or to do an activity on a worksheet you need to create that quiet moment. For that purpose prepare your worksheet carefully. I usually have the easiest exercises at the beginning and then progressively things get tougher. It’s a good way for me to help less able students and to give more challenging task to the most able. Everybody is working at his own pace and everyone can reflect on what have learned.

The end of the lesson also requires some peaceful moments, so make sure you keep the last 7 minutes for reviewing the objectives and setting homework quietly.

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