How to Use Silence in Classroom Management

We’ve all been in situations where noise is getting a little out of hand with our students or children. Sometimes it can be difficult to resist the urge to scream oneself, but is there a better way to deal with this problem and restore silence? One way to do so is to use silence in classroom management.

A shocking discovery

This young girl is encouraging silence by placing a finger to her lips. In this post we discuss how to use silence in classroom management.
Shhh! Silence can be a powerful way to elicit silence.

I met a teacher recently who was just starting out in her career and struggling in her new job. One day she was failing miserably in her efforts to get the class under control and felt defeated. Eventually, she gave up trying to reason with the students and stood quietly while trying to figure out the best course of action. To her shock, after just a few seconds the group quieted and she had their full attention once more.

Later on, we were discussing this phenomenon and more than a few of our friends were shocked that she had managed to elicit silence simply by being silent. As an experienced teacher, this came as no real surprise

It was a delight to listen to this story and remember when I, like many new teachers, discovered the power of silence. It’s remarkable how quickly even the rowdiest group can quieten when the person they’re expecting to hear is quiet. But why is that?

Why do students respond to silence?

In my experience, there are two reasons. Firstly, particularly as a teacher, when you begin to scream and shout at your students you are telling them that you no longer have control of the situation. When you lose your temper and lose control they will very quickly stop trusting you. Children are sensitive to our own nerves and can become more difficult if they do not feel safe in our care. The best thing we can do when we lose control is to trust ourselves to regain it and keep a level head.

When you’re quiet, you must be confidently so. Be patient and show the class that you are disappointed and expected more. If you are sheepish when you are quiet, your students may read this as defeat. As stated above, when you don’t have control, the students may lose faith in you and this can be hard to regain.

‘Silence is a source of great strength.’ – Lao Tzu

Also, children are sometimes smarter than we give them credit for. I’m sure we’ve all met an indignant toddler at one time or other. This just goes to show that no matter how old we are, we want to be respected. When you are asking a group of children to stop shouting by shouting at them, the hypocrisy is not lost. By being quiet you are trusting them to listen to you and treating them with respect. More often than not this respect will be returned.

So next time your children get a little loud, it may be worth saying nothing at all.

If this isn’t effective, don’t worry, we have a new Teacher Tip every #teachertiptuesday!

Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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