As I work in K-2 math classrooms this week, it is the fourth week of school. We are still busy introducing stations and are starting to teach students to use the management board so they can work independent of the teacher. We have not yet started small groups. During the time children are going to these early-in-the-year stations, we are walking around, observing and talking with children about what they are working on and learning. This is a great time for informal assessment.
One pattern I noticed this week was the noise level when the whole class was working at stations… in every classroom I’ve worked in! It is still a bit noisy at times, as children are learning to monitor their voices. They still need our help in doing this. As soon as it gets too loud, we stop the children by using a chime or by clapping a pattern (which the kids repeat). Don’t yell to get their attention. Be careful what you are modeling. Then we ask the students why we stopped. EVERY time they say, “It was too loud in here.” They know it’s loud, but they don’t know how to get their voice levels down.
My favorite tool to use to help kids be on “noise alert” is a music wand from www.treeblocks.com. I have used these in every video we’ve made. Simply ding the wand and it’s an instant noise alert. With practice, children will learn to control their voices. But it does take practice… and support from us, their teachers. Another option is to use a tambourine, a bell, or a chime to get students’ attention.
Another thing you might try is a teacher-made “noise-o-meter.” This can be a visual reminder of our expectations for the class.
When using math stations, it’s really important to use a “math mat” or a soft mat to keep things quieter. Working with manipulatives can easily escalate the noise factor. I like to use soft, foam shelf liner cut in large rectangles as math mats. Or solid plastic placemats work really well too. Or even a rectangle of fun foam. You just need something to soften the sound of dice, blocks, etc.