I have said it before, and I will say it again and again and again: classroom management will either make or break your career as a teacher. It is one of the differences in being a miserable teacher and a truly joyful teacher who has the greatest impact on their students. Today, I’m bringing you three clever ways to use sound to up your classroom management game.
If you’d rather listen to the podcast, here’s this episode:
I dedicate one post a month to classroom management, because I want you to stay in your classroom and continue your journey as an educator. This topic is essential for that. Classroom management feeds my passion, and it’s one of the reasons I am a much more joyful teacher now.
Side note: I’m working on a big project to help teachers like you find joy in teaching so we can continue to impact our students. The Joyful Teacher Academy is coming soon, and if you want to stay updated, let me know HERE. Children deserve a joyful teacher, and that can be you!
Now, about today’s topic. Sounds can be so effective in helping you to run a smooth classroom and keeping your students engaged. I have used these strategies for years, and I couldn’t teach a day without them. So if you could use some classroom management advice and tips, I’m sending you a goody bag through the screen! Here’s how we can actually use sound as a classroom tool.
Classroom management is closely connected to student engagement. If you aren’t sure exactly what student engagement is, here’s a definition from the Glossary of Education Reform. “Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their classroom.”
So, how is that related to classroom management? Well, students who are engaged in the process of your day, and in your learning activities, are easier to manage. Back in a previous post, I talked about PACING, and how pacing can help us keep our students engaged and help manage student behaviors.
Just as easily, using sound in clever ways can engage your learners, and therefore make a more smoothly running classroom that’s easier to manage. So, those two things are connected, and I’ll be using those terms when talking about these clever tools.
Sounds engage our students. They pull in our little learners, and put that auditory side to work with their little ears. Not to mention that a certain percentage of our learners have the auditory learning style. They learn best by hearing, so sounds also support their needs for auditory opportunities to learn. And of course, sounds can be very fun and enjoyable depending on your choice of sound. Think of sounds as another tool in your toolbox!
Hack #1: Sound as an Auditory Cue
I love to cue students in different ways to show them that it is time for them to do something without actually having to tell them to do it. Don’t you get tired of giving the same direction over and over? Well, cues can help eliminate a lot of that in your daily routine. I use different cues, whether visual or auditory, for things like transitioning, cleaning up, or completing a certain task.
Auditory cues are things like songs, timers, bells, and chimes. They cue that auditory sense that right now is time to do something else. So if you’re not using this tool, you’ll be surprised how easily and well it works to activate your students and get them doing whatever it is you need them to do. They make things run more smoothly. We don’t have to repeat directions over and over.
Last year, I was in kindergarten, and one of the auditory cues I used was a timer set on my phone for 8:15 A.M. I set this daily timer one time, and it chimed every morning. This cue told my students that it was time to clean up their morning work, walk over to the carpet, and sit crisscross applesauce.
So I didn’t have to say every morning, “Okay boys and girls, it’s time to clean up. Let’s do our morning meeting. Come over to the carpet. Come on little Jimmy, put that away.” It was actually a little race that we had, and it really engaged students, because they wanted to get over to the carpet before the music stopped.
I chose the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and it not only cued my students to clean up and get to the carpet (and worked very effectively), but it also just lightened the mood for the day. It was a great way to accomplish a goal and still get some happy, fun feelings for the students, and for me, to get us through the day. So that’s one way I use sounds for transitions.
You could also do something as simple as ringing a bell. For example, there are times when students are doing independent work, and I need them to stop very quickly. My goal is to get them to put their eyes on me and stop whatever they’re doing.
So, when I ring my bell, that is a specific cue to students to put whatever is in their hands down, put on their ready signal, and find me with their eyes. I also make a little competition out of this. Who does it the most quickly? That bell is a perfect cue. It works every time, if you practice and reinforce it.
You can use this when there’s a time you need a transition in your classroom. Just make sure that you practice the procedure over and over and over until they master the routine. Having these cues will help your daily schedule flow beautifully. This ties in so closely with pacing, again.
Hack #2: Sound for Focus
If you’ve never tried this, it’s really magical. I love, love, love to use quiet music in the background to help my students focus on an independent task. I turn the volume down as low as I possibly can while still being able to hear it. It really encourages students to stay quiet, focus, and work on the task at hand. I tell my students that if they talk during this time, they won’t be able to hear the music. It works like a charm, because students naturally love to listen to music.
I try to find music that fits whatever mood I need them to be in to complete the activity. So if I really need them to be focused, thinking, and using their best brain power, I will choose instrumental music with no words that is very calm and quiet. If they’re working on an activity that is lower level, and I want them to get done quickly, then I’ll use something a little more upbeat and fast paced.
Again, I really encourage them to stay quiet so that they can hear it. If they don’t, I just turn it off, and they learn over time it’s best for them to stay quiet so they can enjoy it. So really think about your day and some times you can use this tool to help your students stay focused.
I’ve noticed that after prolonged use of this strategy, my students’ stamina improves. Their ability to work quieter and focus longer increases with music. It just takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if you use this for the first time and you think, “Well that didn’t work for long.” Your students will get to the optimal level of staying focused during that time with more and more exposure.
#3: Sound as Student Reward
Sometimes when we think about rewards, we’re really caught up on things like treasure boxes, stickers, and prizes. But truly, we can utilize anything that is enjoyable for these students as a reward, and sounds are definitely one of those things that I love to hack and use as a reward to encourage positive behaviors and a well-managed classroom.
So how can you use sound as a reward? I’ll give you several examples, but you can also think of your own ways to use sound.
One thing I’ve used in the past and really love is a sound machine. Sound machines are these little gadgets you can carry around your classroom that make different, mostly silly, sounds. I’m going to link here as affiliate links, but only because I’ve used this specific sound machine and really enjoyed it. So if you’re looking for one, you can check these out. (SOUND MACHINE 1 and SOUND MACHINE 2)
The way I use the sound machine is I carry it around with me, and when I notice a positive behavior, I allow the student to push the button to make the sound. They really love being the person to make the sound that their friends get to hear. I have even carried this down the hallway with me before to encourage students to be quiet when going to the restroom or lunchroom, and it works like a charm.
My language may sound something like, “Boys and girls, look how quietly little Jimmy is walking. He has his hips and lips on, and he is just sneaky as a mouse. I am going to let him push the sound machine as soon as we make it down to the lunch room.”
As you can see, this really helps encourage those positive behaviors. Everyone is going to do what Jimmy is doing, because they want to push the sound machine button as well.
Built In During Lessons
Another example of using sound as a reward is actually built into some resources that I have to offer. If you have ever used Word Works Daily, my phonological awareness routine, then you know each skill is followed up by a short burst of sound and music that students absolutely love.
As an example for those of you who do not know about Word Works, the first grade version includes nine skills. When students complete one of those skills, for example middle sounds, where they have to identify the vowel and decide if it’s long or short, there’s a little button you can push that goes to the cheer page. The cheer page has about 10 to 15 seconds of music that students love. My students are allowed to dance in their seats, but most students just love to hear what it is.
The more you use Word Works, you’ll notice that your students are really engaged to complete each activity because they want to get to that sound page for that quick cheer or brain break. I really worked hard to choose sounds that were engaging to students, because I wanted my students to be engaged with the content and feel as if that was a reward. You can check out Kindergarten Word Works and First Grade Word Works on my TpT store.
I also have that same kind of sound reward in other products like Daily Write It, a daily sentence writing routine, and my newest creation, Phast Phonics. At the end of that routine, they get to choose a movement to do along with some music that is racecar themed, and they love it.
Silly Sound Library
The last reward I want to mention is a free one that you can find HERE. It is a silly sound library. It is actually a PowerPoint presentation that you can pull up on your screen share if you’re virtual or on your smart board or projector if you’re in person. When you click on one of the numbers, it takes you to a page that makes a silly sound. When I say silly, I mean crazy sounds like burping, farting (excuse my language), all of those sounds that our students just love to hear for some strange reason. You’ll find some other rewards in that bundle as well.
Let me tell you about this one teacher who sent me an adorable video of her students laughing at one of those silly sounds. The little boy who chose the sound was absolutely elated, and you can hear all of his friends laughing. It just made my day to see that being utilized in the classroom as a reward. It works so well and really just proved to me that sound is very effective as a reward.
Whether you use a sound machine, find that silly sound library, or use a resource of mine that has sound embedded within the routine, definitely find some ways to utilize sound as a reward. Remember to use your language and hype to really encourage students to give you those positive behaviors that will give them a sound they love to listen to.
You’ll love it.
Your students will love it.
Remember sound has so many benefits to engage your students. You can’t go wrong with using sound to up your classroom management game.
Come join the party!
Teacher, you’re one of those teachers who is constantly improving, and I know you’re here because you want to be the best teacher you can be. That’s the kind of community I’m building over at the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook group, so be sure to request to join.
Until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.