Drama classes are naturally noisy, chaotic places. You’re taking a whole bunch of outgoing, creative, enthusiastic kids filled to the brim with great ideas… and asking them to be quiet and focus on the work. While you’re at it, try squeezing this toothpaste back into the tube. Amirite?
Yes, drama class is fun. But you still need to have your students’ focus and quiet to teach your amazing lessons without having to scream your guts out; and frankly, who wants to do that anyway? You’ll just end up with a strained voice, frayed nerves, and students who either hate you or eventually ignore you in spite of your bellowing.
Unless you possess the magical skills of Minerva McGonagall and can silence the room with a wave of your hands (or strike fear into your students’ hearts like Severus Snape), you may need some help. Here are 5 different ways I use to request (not command!) silence, without having to yell.
Just start the lesson.
Sick of waiting for your students to pipe down? Just go ahead and start the lesson. Those who are closest 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 catchup.
This one does have a few risks. Certain students will interrupt and say “I didn’t know you were starting” or demand that you re-explain what they missed. You can either refuse to answer (which may result in the student resenting you, or force their teammates/partners to have to catch them up) and make them figure out the lesson, or take time to go back and explain what they missed. But it does show your students that you mean business and that class time is your time, not social time.
Don’t want to have to re-explain everything? Try these next suggestions.
Try a sound cue, like clapping out a pattern (“clap clap clap-clap clap” is the most common pattern) and having your class repeat it back to you. This signals that it’s time to stop talking and start listening.
“And a hush fell over the crowd!”
This is one I hear frequently at camps. The cue is the leaders saying “And a hush fell over the crowd!” and the actors whisper back “Hushhhhhhhh…” and then quieting down. I’ve found that the risk with this particular technique is that sometimes actors choose to yell “HUSHHHHHH!!!!!” instead of whispering, which does create more noise. 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.
“If you can hear me, do this.”
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 actors 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 gestures together. This technique can take a little while to get everyone’s attention, but you can make it into a game or competition, challenging your students to be able to quiet down in less than five gestures; though the ultimate goal is to not have to use this technique at all!
When all else fails… stare at the ceiling.
For some reason, this works like magic for me. At the beginning of the year, 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.” And for some reason, whenever I do this, it works. (If someone can explain this to me, I’d love to know why… but until then, I’m not jinxing it!) Someone in the class will usually (loudly) whisper, “GUYS SHE’S LOOKING AT THE CEILING” and everyone pipes down. This may not work with particularly stubborn students, but until the magic stops, I’m keeping this technique as long as I can!!!
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