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Calming Classroom Noise - Shhhhhh!

Calming Classroom Noise by Tracy King

My days are often drenched in sound.  I don't usually mind.  I often wish my life came with a soundtrack like in the movies.  As a music teacher I like organized noise.  I call it music.  However, in a class that focuses on sound I have to have some ways to calm down our "working noise" when we are working in small groups, workstations or having a classroom discussion.

If you'd like to read more about classroom discussions, check out THIS blog post.

Here are a few ways to calm the classroom noise that comes with learning conversations, small group work or workstations:

1.  The Magic Clap
Thanks to a brilliant cooperating teacher during my student teaching time, I started using an echo clap pattern to get the attention of the whole class.  I used ta ta titi ta.  When I clap this rhythm the student's job is to 1) Stop what they are doing. 2) Echo clap back.  3) Silently put their eyes on me and await my instructions.  I make it a point to always clap the same rhythm because we clap a great deal in music class and I wanted it to stand out.

2.  Give Me Five
An oldie, but a goody, this method has to be taught to students and it works best if classroom teachers reinforce it.  When the classroom gets too loud just raise your hand, fingers outspread as though you are showing the number 5.  Each finger stands for:
(1) Eyes -- look 

(2) Ears -- listen 
(3) Mouth -- closed 
(4) Hands -- still 
(5) Feet -- quiet
3.  Whole Brain Attention Getters
I've found that this is an engaging and fun way to get the attention of the class.  Although I've taught this in my classes only, it really works so much better if it is used in their other classes as well.
Essentially this works like this:  I say "Class!" and they answer "Yes!"  The fun part is that they have to imitate the way I say "class" when they answer "yes".  So if I use a silly, sliding voice, they do to.  If I say "Class, class, class-a-rama, class!"  They say "Yes, yes, yes-a-rama, yes!"  Fun!  Often this will lead into some echo clapping or vocalizations.
4.  Bouncy Balls
I know.  That's not what you thought number four would be, is it?  I love this website.  The kids LOVE this website.  My tired ears LOVE this website.  Bouncyballs.org is a free website that I use on my laptop.  It senses or listens to the noise in your room and reacts.   When the room is quiet it might look like the picture above.  As things get louder, the balls start bouncing.
There are also some great alternatives to the balls too.

I use this on my laptop which is often in the middle of the room or on my desk.  What's great about this website is that it can also work to HELP your class get louder!

I used this in a choir rehearsal to help them really develop a fortissimo section of a piece we were working on.  They LOVED watching the balls bounce around and go crazy when they hit that perfect balance.

5.  Learn this phrase:  Make music, not noise.
Make music, not noise.  -Tracy King

In my classroom we talk about this being important when we are working in small groups, practicing parts, rotating through workstations (especially recorder stations!) and that it can also be a life lesson.  Many times in life we should work to create harmony instead of chaos and this is a great reminder!
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