Managing Classroom Noise Levels

Maria Montes Clemens, an elementary school Spanish teacher at Prospect Sierra, shares three classroom management strategies to help you create an orderly learning environment: the “Voice-O-Meter”, the “Give Me Five”, and the “Classroom Bell”.

Watch the Video


Maria Montes Clemens, kindergarten through fourth grade Spanish teacher.


My name is Maria Montes Clemens and I teach kindergarten through fourth grade Spanish at Prospect Sierra in El Cerrito, California. I will be sharing with you some class management strategies that you can use the moment that you walk into any classroom. These strategies will help you create an orderly classroom learning environment. The following strategies are for all classroom settings and I find that, for those of us who struggle with loud and rallied classes, these three strategies are very easy to implement and easy for students to follow. I will go over the “Voice-O-Meter”, “Give Me Five”, and the “Classroom Bell”. When teachers are explicit and consistent about behavior expectations in the classroom, students are more likely to stay on task, students’ attitudes are positively affected by being in your classroom. Students feel more valued and invested in your lessons.

The Voice-O-Meter is a visual aid that allows you to be consistent in the language that I use when I’m talking about classroom volume expectations. I use a black arrow to point to a place where I want the classroom volume level to be on a one to four point scale. One is for silent mode, meaning no talking or noises at your table. Two is for whisper mode, meaning only one person can hear you at your table. Three is for low flow, meaning talking only at your table. Four signifies a loud crowd, meaning we can hear you talking all across the room. I keep a purple arrow to show the kids where their volume actually is so they can compare it to the black arrow of where I’ve asked the classroom volume to be. That’s the Voice-O-Meter tool.

A great strategy for providing expectations about body language in the classroom is the Give Me Five tool. I bring my hand up to show the students my five fingers. First I point to my thumb and I say, “Crisscross applesauce, legs on the rug!” Or if students are in chairs, it’s “Six feet on the ground: the two feet on your body and the four in the chair!” Then I point to my index finger and I say: “are your hands on your lap?” Next my middle finger and I ask, “Are your ears listening to the teacher?” Then I point to my ring finger and I ask, “Are your eyes watching me?” Lastly, I point to my pinky and I say, “I hope your lips are zipped until you raise your hand and I call on you.” That’s the Give Me Five strategy.

Every teacher needs a Classroom Bell as a strategy. In this strategy, I use three strong bell rings and I say, “Stop, look, and listen.” And just like that, you can save your voice from trying to project over the students. That’s the Classroom Bell strategy.

I print and post the Voice-O-Meter and the Give Me five posters so I have them available the moment I start teaching in a group. I have multiple bells scattered throughout the classroom so that I can have access to a quick signal when I need it. I also make absolutely sure that I’m consistent with the language that I use when I’m using each of these strategies.

To support the students with the Voice-O-Meter, I adjust the volume expectations depending on the task. For example, there are times during reading and writing activities that I request level one, silent mode–which means no one is talking at their table spots. Or when students are working with their table groups, I request a level three which means low flow, meaning they can use their indoor voices at their tables.

I like to reinforce and practice classroom expectations with these tools by asking for modelers. For instance, I might say, “I need a modeler. What does it look like to whisper on the Voice-O-Meter?” When most of the classes miss the queue and it’s not meeting the classroom behavior, I like to tell the kids we can rewind and try again: “That was good, but I know we can do better.”

These strategies and templates I provided you will help you in your classroom setting explicit and clear classroom expectations. Remember that by creating an orderly learning environment, we help increase student success. The volume in a classroom is so important to the success of implementing any lesson, regardless of your goals. If the noise level in your classroom is not what you need, not only will you struggle but your students will struggle too. Using the Voice-O-Meter, the Give Me Five and the Classroom Bell are sure to help you be clear about what you expect from your students during classroom times. I hope you enjoy these classroom strategies as much as I do. Enjoy!

Accompanying Materials & Resources

Share with Others


At a Glance

Please give us a like if you enjoyed this resource! 

For You

Related Resources


Experts from the California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) share 3 meaning-making strategies you can use to engage students in your classroom.

The Turn and Talk

Daina Yousif Weber, English and AVID teacher in San Diego Unified School District, tells us how to apply the “Turn and Talk” strategy to empower students to make their own meaning by exploring open-ended questions, sharing their thoughts and perspectives, and building upon each other’s ideas.

WOW (Word of the Week)

Kate Bowen, retired elementary school teacher for the Davis Joint Unified School District, tells us how to use the “WOW (Word of the Week)” activity to channel students’ creativity in learning new vocabulary and developing their writing skills.

Scroll to Top

Help Us Improve!

Please help us improve the resources we offer you by answering two quick questions:​