Classroom Management Without Quieting Kids, Part 3: What It Looks Like
You should see a group of 24 8-year-olds trying to make themselves quiet. In my previous entry, I explained the emerging and accidental phenomenon of my classroom management activity, Happy Points. Here’s how a class earns a Happy Point.
- A few students notice excessive talking and put up the class’s quiet sign (either two fingers, like the peace sign, or the “quiet coyote” sign of middle two fingers touching the thumb, with index and pinky pointed up).
- The kids look around the room to get classmates’ attention. Sometimes they’ll “shhh” and sometimes they urge, “Read the room!” which means “Hey, everyone else is doing the quiet sign; you need to, too.” Fourth graders especially like intoning, “Read the room!”
- Other kids hold up their hands until everyone is looking at each other.
- Now for the tricky part. They need to determine – wordlessly and as a class – when the room is quiet. As a group, they put down their quiet signals.
- Without any noise, everyone gets back to work (or look at me, if I need their attention). Only after everyone is working in the newly quieted room do I give the happy point.
We practice it. I give half a point for the practice, or a full point if it seems like they could use some encouragement.
Students sometimes are taken aback because I don’t give points to individual kids. Many classrooms use have individual point systems. I ask students, “Have you ever noticed that someone else got a point and you didn’t, even though you were doing something good, too?” About 80% of the hands go up. “That’s why I don’t do it. Besides, I’m sub. I can’t keep track of each of you enough to be fair.” That usually settles it.
Sometimes when it’s time to put a point on the board, I have a student write it instead of me. This can be time-consuming, and not everyone will get a turn. But it is fun. They absolutely love it.
I can take points away. I rarely do, but it’s an easy threat to carry out. I also can make small changes to the requirements. I decreed that a squirrelly class sit “criss-crossed applesauce” (what we knew as “Indian style”) in addition to being quiet. They proceeded to do it – and break the district record.
I tell classes that acquiring points gets harder as the day progresses. They generally peak between 10:00 am and 12:30. After that, some kids get grumpy, others get distracted. I tell them that if they want the high number of points, they need to work extra hard in the afternoon.
Amazingly, those squirrelly kids who needed to sit criss-cross proceeded to quiet themselves when I turned my back them. I needed to answer the phone, which of course was on the other side of the room. There they were on the rug – a recipe for chaos. When I returned to them, an easel between them and me at that! – they were sitting doing the quiet sign and looking at me. I gave them two points.
My next entry will offer some reflection on the challenges and the benefits that I’ve seen from Happy Points.