It happens occasionally. You wake up late, eat something on the run, get stuck in traffic, and arrive at school feeling harried.
When the students begin filing into your classroom, you’re still not quite yourself.
Your brain is working overdrive. You talk faster, move faster, and fluster more easily.
Before you realize it, you have become… excitable.
Your students pick up on your nervous energy and they too become excitable. Heads swivel left and right, voices carry and bounce around the room, and the clatter and clang of an overactive classroom becomes a major annoyance.
Visitors feel it as soon as they walk into your room. There is tension in the air.
And you created it.
Some classrooms feel this way all the time. And sometimes the tension can come from an outside source. A typical Friday afternoon. Or maybe the day before a vacation, or a class party. Maybe your students just came in from PE.
There are teachers who will look you in the eye and tell you that certain weather conditions cause students to become excitable. Blame it on spring thunderstorms or the Santa Ana winds.
The pressure for teachers to do more and more can also cause excitability.
We get ahead of ourselves and rush frantically from one lesson to the next, getting so caught up in trying to do too much that we never stop to consider the effect it has on our students.
And then over lunch with colleagues, we wonder aloud why our students seem so talkative and unfocused.
Whatever the cause, excitable students and tension-filled classrooms encourage misbehavior and make classroom management a far greater challenge.
The One Minute Of Silence Strategy
The one minute of silence strategy is about as easy as it gets. Whenever your students appear excitable, overactive, or unfocused, you simply ask for a minute of silence.
Here’s how it works:
On your signal, your students must sit silently and listen to their breathing for one minute.
It’s important, however, that you don’t move around the classroom and try to get things done. Your students will emulate the energy you give off, and if you’re stressed and buzzing about, they will respond in kind.
If you’re the picture of calm, however, your peacefulness will spread contagiously throughout the room.
During the minute of silence, sit in a straight-backed chair in front of your class and breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply, letting your lungs completely fill with air on each breath.
As you inhale, your stomach should expand. Exhale and it contracts. Placing a hand on your midsection is a good reminder for proper breathing; shoulders shouldn’t rise and fall.
The reason slow breathing works is because it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, calming both the body and the mind. It is said that one cannot become stressed or nervous if the body remains perfectly relaxed.
If you like, you can discuss with your students the benefits of belly-breathing and spend some time practicing, but it’s not necessary. Sometimes it’s best to let them organically model your behavior.
When one minute is up, pick up where you left off. Except this time with a renewed calm and a more focused state of mind—for both you and your students.
If a student talks before the minute is up, or is restless in his or her seat, start the time over. But don’t make an issue out of it. If it’s your first time using this strategy, it may take a few tries for your students to get the hang of it.
If after one minute your students still seem excitable, do another. You can use this strategy as often as you like or whenever you feel your class needs it.
Here are a few more suggestions:
- Use it two or three times a day, or once every class period, as maintenance to prevent excitability from creeping back into your classroom.
- Try it before an important test or assignment. It will help your students focus.
- Use it proactively, before leaving the room or going to recess, in order to avoid having excitability turn into misbehavior.
- It’s a lovely way to end the school day. A calm and happy finish sets the tone for the following day.
Using the one minute of silence strategy is like opening a valve on a pressure cooker, releasing nervous energy, tension, and excitability from your classroom.
The effect calms and refocuses students and makes classroom management a whole lot easier.
Thanks for reading.
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