Drama classes are naturally noisy, chaotic places. Take a whole bunch of energetic, creative, enthusiastic students who have been sitting down in other classes for hours, fill them to the brim with great ideas…and then ask them to be quiet and focus on the work. It doesn’t exactly add up to an easy situation to control!
Yes, drama class is fun. But you still need to have your students’ focus and quiet so you can teach amazing lessons without having to constantly raise your voice. And frankly, who wants to raise their voice anyway? You’ll end up with a strained voice, frayed nerves, and students who either resent or fear you, or eventually ignore you in spite of your bellowing.
Ultimately, your goal is to not have to use these techniques at all. But in the meantime, here are five different ways I have used to request (not command!) quiet, without having to yell.
Are you tired of waiting for your students to quiet down? Go ahead and start the lesson. The students who are nearest to you or really keen on learning the lesson will pay attention, and the others will realize soon enough and quiet down…or miss the lesson completely and be forced to play catch-up.
This suggestion does have a few risks. Students may interrupt and say “I didn’t know you were starting” or demand that you re-explain what they missed. You have to decide if you will refuse to answer and make them figure out the lesson, or take time to go back and explain what they missed. Either way, it shows your students that you mean business – it’s class time, not social time.
Try a sound cue, like clapping out a pattern and having your class repeat it back to you (“clap clap clap-clap clap” is a common pattern). This signals that it’s time to stop talking and start listening.
This is one I hear frequently at summer camps. The cue is the teacher saying “And a hush fell over the crowd!” and the students whisper back “Hushhhhhhhh…” and then quieting down. If you use this technique, be sure to reiterate with your students that the goal is to reply at a level of pianissimo, not double forte.
I love this technique! Simply say, in a quiet voice, “If you can hear me, do this” accompanied by a gesture of some kind (touching your nose, patting your head, jazz hands, tapping your chin, etc). Those students who can hear you, do the gesture with you. Keep repeating “If you can hear me, do this” until the whole classroom is doing the gesture together. This technique can take a little while to get everyone’s attention, but you can make it into a game or competition by challenging your students to quiet down in less than three gestures.
This technique works like magic for me. During the first week of classes, I tell my students, “I don’t like to yell, so when I want quiet, I’ll stare at the ceiling until you’re ready to work.” Then when students are talking, sit quietly at the front of your class and wait. And whenever I have done this in class, it works.
Have patience! Students will realize quickly enough that they’re wasting their own time. Occasionally someone in the class will (loudly) whisper, “SHE’S LOOKING AT THE CEILING” and everyone quiets down after that, but I have found it works very well.