Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

Yelling – There Must Be A Better Way

By Barbara Pressman

Dear Barbara,

I hate to yell, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a class to listen to me. Occasionally, a few students will stop and listen. Then they tell the others to be quiet, but in a loud voice! Now that they are “shushing” the others, the noise level grows even more intolerable.

What’s the best way to get the class to quiet down so that I can give directions? I find it very frustrating when I have to waste five minutes before anyone listens.

I know there must be a better way.

Samantha in Mississippi

Dear Samantha,

The first thing I would do is ask a “special helper” to tell you the normal way of getting the class to quiet down. What does their teacher do?

Usually, it’s flicking the lights, ringing a bell, or a hand signal with counting.

Try using the normal method.

If you find that normal methods are ineffective, you might try telling the class that you have your own special way for asking the class to quiet down, just for use today. Make it a novelty. Praise and reward those who follow your technique.

You can develop your own system. I would recommend a special signal, five fingers in the air, and count backwards. Use a very soft voice, count slowly, and once you have quiet, pause for effect and begin giving your directions in a very small voice. Thank the students for following directions, and proceed with your lesson.


“I’m finished. What should I do now?”

Dear Barbara,

I seem to have a continuing problem with my middle school classes. The regular teacher leaves work that the students are supposed to complete within a given time period. Some students rush through the work haphazardly. Then they start talking. When I ask them to stop, they say they have completed the assignment and have nothing to do.

In almost every instance, the students have not done a good job on the assignment. They just don’t want to work. They’d rather socialize. I usually suggest that they read a book, but they never do.

I don’t want to give out more work, but I need them to be busy so they don’t bother the serious students.

I’m lost on this issue. Any ideas?

Jessica in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Dear Jessica,

All teachers, not just subs, are challenged by this problem. Our students have different learning styles and pace themselves differently. Some are neat, careful, and conscientious. Others rush through their work in an uncaring manner.

If a student says, “I’m finished”, first check the work to be sure that it’s correct and complete. If you are satisfied, go to your bag of tricks and choose from the extra material for the early finishers.

To stock up on the extra material, go on line and print out some worksheets. Make several copies. Have word finds and other puzzles on hand. Some can be challenging, some easy. Hand out the extra work as needed. You can gauge which work will be appropriate for which student.

You can have a few choices for them, so that it doesn’t feel like a punishment. Some may say they would prefer to continue working on the original assignment, which is fine!

Many experienced subs have an assignment written on the board for early finishers. You might post a question that you want them to respond to. It could be a list of vocabulary words to look up and use in a sentence. You might have some brain teasers to work on quietly.

The trick is to have students on task at all times. You and the students will have a better day when everyone is busy.



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 and is filed under Barbara Pressman, September 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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