September 17, 2003
Last year as a first-year teacher, I tried what I call a “noise thermometer” that my students keep their eyes on to monitor their own noise level. The tool worked so well that it will be a permanent fixture in my room. My noise thermometer looks like a three-foot thermometer with red Velcro that acts as the mercury. I number increments from zero (no noise) to 10 (extreme noise/out of control). The thermometer starts at zero each morning. When my class gets louder I raise the thermometer to a level that matches their noise level. I never have to say a word. They see me near it and the room immediately becomes quieter! If it hits five, the class loses two minutes off recess and as it is raised even higher, they lose more time.
This has proven to be an effective way for students to monitor themselves and work cooperatively to keep noise down. Last year, my class got to five only three times. I hate to use lost recess as a consequence, but losing six minutes all year isn't a bad trade-off for a relatively calm classroom.