Why I love noisy classrooms
Research shows that children are most successful when teachers talk less, but the myth that a noisy classroom is an ineffective classroom prevails. Brendan Pavey, Head of North Bridge House Senior School Hampstead in the UK, dispels the myth.
Picture this: you are in your first week as Head Teacher at your new school and you are eager to create the right impression. You are on your first “learning walk” of the term and you hear an almighty din coming from along the corridor. As you explore further you find the classroom where the noise is coming from and you see a teacher, lounging back in his chair, feet on his desk and the classroom full of children almost shouting at one another. You can’t quite believe your eyes.
The door is shut but you can see through the windows that there is not one child who is looking at a book, no one is writing anything down, and it seems that nearly every child is trying to say something over the next person. You try to catch the teacher’s eye but he is just staring, with a crazy grin on his face, as the scene unfolds in front of him. What do you do?
Well, I would like you to consider the other side of the equation by thinking about a scenario that I have found myself in many times during my four years as a Head Teacher. As I have toured the school with prospective parents, I have silently exhaled a sigh of relief on finding a quiet, studious-looking classroom. “This parent will be impressed by the concentration and diligence of our children and by the classroom management of our teachers”, I quietly think to myself.
As adults, we all understand that it is possible to read a page of a book without taking in a single piece of information, either into the short- or long-term memory. But yet, as a profession, and as parents, there still seems to be a persistent belief that quiet classrooms are best for learning. However, if I think about the outstanding lessons that I have observed over the years, not one of them has been quiet. What has marked them out has been the energy and excitement in the classroom, and very often the noise level!
I believe we need a re-think and we need to promote noise and energy in the classroom. Whilst there is still a time and a place for silent individual study, we should also recognise that at the point you have children arguing about anything – this could be about whether or not meanders are deeper on the inside or the outside of the bend – then you have some fantastic learning taking place.
It is not easy and it takes great teacher skill to create the right classroom climate to enable this to happen, but it is this end goal that we should be giving our teachers the tools, and the permission, to reach. The only instruction I feel the teacher at the beginning of this article needs is “take your feet of the desk, please”.