Looks like, sounds like

Young kids listening to teacher

Classroom management is about students meeting expectations. However, often students are unaware of what the specific expectations are really are.

“Pay attention.”

A phrase I’ve heard directed to students, or used to describe students. “They can’t seem to pay attention.”

However, unless students are completely aware of what the expectations are, they will continue to fail to meet your expectations of them.

If your expectation is for students to walk in the hall, don’t tell them to “Stop running.” You are giving them the excuse to skip, crawl, gallop, or summersault their way to recess. Instead, make the expectation clear “Walk in the hallway.” You’re not only prompting a change in the behavior, but you are letting them know clearly what you expect.

One way to make expectations more concrete, is to discuss what an activity, environment, or behavior, should look like, and sound like.

Confused street sign

Teacher: “When we are on the carpet, and the teacher is reading a book to the class, what should it look like?”

If necessary, model this by having the conversation while you are sitting with your class in a circle, on the carpet with a book in hand. Talk about what it should, but also should not look like. Why should it look this way?

Teacher: “What happens if someone else, besides the teacher is talking when you are trying to listen to the story?”

This is also a great opportunity to talk about making mistakes, and how we help those who have made a mistake. Brainstorm ways to support each other even when they may be doing something that makes you mad or frustrated.

Teacher: “Maybe someone if talking and not following our classroom rules/expectations, what can you do to help them remember? Remember, we all make mistakes.”

The following pdf can be used to have students work on creating their own looks like, sounds like chart. However this can be done as a whole group (using an interactive board or chart paper), in small groups, partners, or even individually. This could also be used as a reflection activity for a student who is struggling to meet the expectations.

Looks like, Sounds Template

Looks like sounds like


Remember that once this is done as a class, a reminder of the looks like, sounds like expectations before starting an activity can take a minute, but save you ten in the end.



Sound Levels in the Classroom

Every administrator, teacher, parent, and student has different levels of tolerance when it comes to sound levels.  Some classrooms I work in can be eerily silent, or too loud for me to think, let alone the students.  The fact is, noise can have an affect on student productivity and learning.  To get more of the science behind this, there is a great article discussing a research study done inside classroom at blog.sparkypro.com.

There are some ways that we can help control this level for the entire class and for individual students.

For the entire class, it can be useful to explicitly teach the students what the expected sound level should be for different activities.

The full version with description is available here:

Classroom Noise Meter

This visual is used to set expectations before and activity and silently prompt a reminder to the students.  In my room I have this printed and on the white board with an arrow to the present noise level.

For individual students, this could be made smaller and placed on their desk.

This is just one of many ways to set expectations or make accommodations for noise levels within the classroom.