At the beginning of every year I make a promise to my students and parents that I will not yell at my students. I make this promise at back to school/meet the teacher night and I tend to get a range of reactions from the parents to this promise–some parents show relief while other parents show disbelief. Why would I do such a thing? Is it possible to maintain classroom control without ever yelling?
Here are 3 reasons why I don’t think yelling is effective:
1. Yelling a sign of loss of control.
Yelling usually occurs when you’ve lost your cool and often is done in anger. While I understand that some student’s behaviors are difficult and frustrating, yelling will not build positive relationships with your students or promote long-term changes in behavior. It’s only an external sign of your internal feeling of loss of control. It is easier to yell than it is to handle the behavior with gentleness and respect. I know that gentleness may sound like weakness, but gentleness is actually “strength under control”.
I strive to treat all of my students with gentleness and respect. One of my main rules in my classrooms is “Be Respectful–treat others the way that you want to be treated.” And let’s be honest the ones that are “tougher” to love tend to need our love the most! Plus our students are like little mirrors–they will act like we do. Am I perfect-no! Do I make mistakes-yes! But, by the grace of God, I hope and pray that I am setting a good model and example for my students on how to live and respond in all types of situations. I want my students to grow to become respectful and successful members of our classroom, community, and society!
2. Yelling provokes fear instead of trust.
Trust is a crucial factor in any relationship. Students need to be able to trust us and know that we are for them and believe in them no matter what behaviors they exhibit. We may be the only advocate that our student has! Teachers need to build trust with their students.
Yelling only promotes fear. I had a kindergarten teacher that yelled all of the time at every behavior that she didn’t like. Even accidents, such as spilling a pencil box, were received with a loud and angry lashing of the tongue. As a five year old, I grew to hate school and was so afraid of my teacher. It took me many years after kindergarten to grow to trust my teachers and not be afraid of making mistakes. Thankfully, I had many AMAZING teachers after this that treated their students with kindness, gentleness, and respect. They made their classrooms a fun and safe place to learn and grow. They created an environment where students wanted to BE and wanted to DO THEIR BEST without ever having to raise their voice or yell. I now strive to do the same!
3. Yelling may temporarily change a behavior, but has no lasting effects.
Yelling only temporarily changes the behavior instead of getting to the heart of the behavior. Students may change their behavior at the moment out of fear, but yelling doesn’t encourage long-term behavior changes.
There are lots of ways that we can maintain control of our classroom and encourage good choices and behaviors without yelling.
1. Establish set rules
It is so important to post, establish, and review classroom rules. I really like using the 3 Bees because they are simple, yet encompass a wide spectrum of expectations and behaviors.
But the most important thing is that you have a set of rules that you use and adhere too. Students cannot be successful if they do not know what is expected of them. I have my classroom rules posted at the very front of the room where they can be seen by all.
We go over the rules starting the first day of school and my students know these rules by heart by the first week! I have gestures and motions that I use with them and refer back to them every day!
2. Keep regular routines
I was talking to a new teacher recently that was struggling with classroom management and was giving her some tips. One of the best things you can do to maintain classroom control is have regular routines FOR EVERYTHING! Especially in the primary grades, routines are essential to success! We have a routine for unpacking, packing up, lining up, sitting down, coming to the carpet, leaving the carpet, walking in the halls, getting a new pencil, returning a dull pencil…truly the list could go on and on! These routines are modeled, explained, re-modeled, and practiced at the beginning of the year. Truly the first day of school, I feel like all we do is line up! lol Ok-not really, but we do do it a lot so that they know how I expect them to line up and walk in line. Trust me if you don’t it makes it difficult in the long term!
And it is important to remodel and reinforce your procedures and routines throughout the year and especially after long breaks. Every teacher knows that the first week of school after Christmas break is all about re-establishing expectations and routines. Why do I have a routine for EVERYTHING? Because students need to know what is expected! Routines help students be successful and help control the workings of the classroom so that you are not losing time in transitions or with behaviors that can be lessened with set expectations.
3. Hold and maintain high expectations
When you have set rules and routines, it is important that your students know that you expect those rules and routines to be followed. The worse thing you can do is to tell your students you expect them to be respectful and then not keep them accountable. Have consequences, both positive and negative, set in place for your rules and routines. For example, each of my students has a white board, marker, and eraser in their desk that we use every day in multiple ways. Since every minute of instructional time is precious, I cannot afford to lose time with getting these supplies out or putting them away. I give my students a 3-5 second countdown for when I expect these materials to be out or put away. If the whole class is able to follow my instructions and get them out and be ready when I get to 1 then I give them a point on the board–this is a positive consequence. Since I have modeled and have clear expectations on how to use the white boards, the students know that if I see them not making good choices with the boards (doodling, writing on the backs, not using them properly) that they will lose the boards for the rest of the day and have to use scrap paper instead–this is a negative consequence. My students hate using scrap paper! They LOVE using the white boards! Do I like taking their boards away? Is it easy to take their boards away? No–but they need to know that I am serious about my expectations and I want them to learn responsibility and respect of others and other people’s things. Trust me–it only takes taking the first board away for students to know you mean business! I don’t yell or raise my voice when I take it away. I just firmly say “You are not following my instructions or making good choices with your board. You have lost the privilege of using it for the day.” Then I have them give me the board and hand them the scrap paper to use. Now this is just one isolated example, but the point is that it is important for your students to know that you hold and maintain high expectations for them! This applies not only to behaviors, but to academics as well! When it comes to learning, my students know that “first graders can do hard things” and that I am here to help them learn and do their best!
4. Don’t talk over your students
I made the promise not to yell at my students and by the grace of God, I have both kept and plan on keeping that promise! I will NOT talk over my students! I refuse! And I refuse to yell to get their attention. I just won’t do it! I explain to my students that part of being respectful–treating others they way you want to be treated–is that when someone is talking we listen with our whole bodies. This applies both to me and to them. So when I am talking, I expect them to be listening with their eyes, ears, hands, and their whole body! And when it is their turn to talk, I expect the class and me to listen to them with their eyes, ears, hands and whole body. I not only expect this from my students, but model it as well. There are LOTS of ways that you can get students attention and keep control of a classroom! I have listed a few of my “go-tos” below in number 5!
5. Use a variety of classroom management techniques
a. Use Call & Responses get your students’ attention.
This is one of my all-time favorite classroom management techniques! You train the class to respond to teacher directed prompts. For example: The teacher says “Macaroni and Cheese!” and the students all say “Everybody Freeze!” This takes modeling and practice, but it works great! I like to switch it up by using different sayings and different voices too!
Click HERE to grab 10 of my favorite Call & Responses to use in the classroom! These are a fun and powerful way to get your student’s attention without yelling!
b. Use the 5 finger countdown
When I get to 1, all eyes and ears are on me. As with all classroom management techniques, this one needs to be modeled and practiced, but it works great and requires no yelling to get everyone’s attention!
c. Keep students actively involved in learning
Students need to be active participants in their learning! If you are doing all of the talking–you will lose them and we all know that when you lose students it only spells t.r.o.u.b.l.e. Keep them engaged by using a variety of instructional techniques. My students are constantly moving and grooving as we learn! Learning should be fun and active! There should be no time to get bored! Use instructional techniques such as partner talks, gestures, songs, movement, and brain breaks to keep your students engaged!
d. Wait until it’s quiet
Like I said, I won’t yell, and while I don’t use this technique everyday, as I do with the previous three, standing and waiting until it gets quiet is a POWERFUL way to gain and regain control. When the class isn’t listening and you feel like the teacher on Charlie Brown, it is tempting to yell at the class BUT there are better ways than yelling! Standing and waiting for it to get quiet works like a domino effect, one student realizes you are waiting for them and they help to get the rest of the classroom to quiet down.
e. Heads down to help reset
We all know that there are some classes and some days (hello full moon!) that the class can be more difficult to manage than others. When all of my “go-to” techniques don’t work and I can feel the control slipping, frustration rising and tempting me to lose my cool, I will sometimes use the Heads Down method where everyone in the class puts their heads down on the desk with absolutely no talking for a minute. While this isn’t used often, this technique allows them and me to get some composure. There is no talking allowed during this time and after I have taken a deep breath, I calmly yet firmly tell them that I am unhappy with their choices and that they need to think about what they need to do to follow directions, listen, and/or begin making good choices. This technique helps reset the tone, reset expectations, and reset control without resorting to yelling.