Submitted by Gretchen Taylor, Illinois

Idea posted January 7, 2002

5 Second Rule

Something that has worked well for me is the "5 second rule" (I've got it down to three seconds now with some classes). I tell the kids that when we stop the song, music, movement, etc. I will raise my hand and begin finger counting from 1 to 5. During the count, no one, including me, is to make a sound. After I count to five and then lower my hand, I will make a comment (perhaps a brief assessment about how they just sang), ask a question, praise them, etc. I will often ask if anyone would like to comment on how they thought they did, etc.

We'll practice this several times. I tell them, too, that when I raise my hand, if their neighbor doesn't notice, to please get their attention so they will be silent.

Now, for my older classes (6th-8th), anyone making a sound during the count will lose a point from their conduct grade. For my elementary kids, I'll sometimes write their names down. If someone continually breaks the 5 second rule, I'll speak to them individually after class about the problem, letting them know that if it continues, I'll have to start taking away their recess time since their chatter is wasting the class's time and mine. Usually, the younger kids respond immediately.

The only problem I have with this tool is remembering to use it every time we stop doing something. Often I'll get caught up in what we're doing and forget the signal.

Practice Makes Perfect

Another thing I do that works well is when the kids get chatty (say when I tell them to take their song folders and find a certain song and the mouths begin to go into overdrive), I'll stand tall with arms crossed and say in a sing-song-like tone, "I'll wait!" Then, when they've all quieted down with folders open, I'll tell them to close their folders, put them under their chairs, and say "I wonder if you can find the song again, but this time without making a sound? Ready, go!" It works every time. Then, I'll praise them for being so bright and let them know that that is exactly the way I want them to follow directions every time, and we'll just have to keep practicing until we get it right. If a class has to repeat this kind of procedure over and over (and will do it ad nauseam until they do it with absolutely no talking), I'll say facetiously, "Now, boys and girls, you must be finding this activity enjoyable. I'll be glad to let you continue practicing until there is no more talking, but I was hoping we could learn a new song today. I suppose I could just save the new song for next time." This kind of thing baits them pretty well for controlling the chatter.


With young kids, I train them to keep their eyes on me right after we stop singing or moving, etc. I will touch my finger somewhere on my body, and they are to do the same just as soon as they see where I've put mine. So, after a song, I'll put my index finger on my nose (shoulder, knee, head, cheek, etc.) before I give the next direction. I'll wait until all have their finger placed in the same way, with lips closed and eyes on me. I may praise one row or side of the room or even individuals who were very quick to notice my finger and follow suit.

After a while, I'll tell them that my finger may take a rest from the game, but they should be ready at any time for the game to continue. This keeps them watching. At first, I'll do it every time we stop, but after a while, I'll do it just a few times during a session. Once everyone has their finger placed, I'll comment on their singing, participation, etc. and then move on with the next direction.