How to deal with an out-of-control class?
When it feels like your whole class is out of control, there's probably a lot of different things going on, but a place to start is to think about whether the couple of key procedures you could be teaching and reinforcing that would take care of the biggest problem you're having inside of that out of control.
For example, you might need to re-teach, or re-introduce, or re-practice a getting quiet signal. How do you get students back focused on you? There's a lot of different ways to do that. You can use a sound signal like a chime that indicates, "Everybody quiet down and eyes on me." You can do a call-and-response thing, a common one at elementary school is where the teacher says, "One, two, three. Eyes on me." And the students say, "One, two. Eyes on you." And then their eyes are on you.
There's a school I'm working with where the whole school has used the same quiet signal so that the teacher says, "Eyes," and the students clap once. And the teacher says, "Ears," and the students clap twice. And then they're supposed to be quiet and eyes on.
Whether you're using a call-and-response, or you're using a sound signal, or you're using a physical activity, it doesn't matter. It's not that any one of those is more or less effective than the other one. It's all in the way you introduce it, you re-enforce it, and then you practice it with your students. If they're not getting quiet when you play the chime, or they're repeating, "One, two. Eyes on you," when you say, "One, two, three. Eyes on me," then you need to practice that procedure, and that procedure itself needs to become the lesson, needs to become the content.
Kids who are not getting quiet the way I need it to happen, so we're going to practice the way it's supposed to happen. You re-introduce it, they practice it. let's practice. Everybody turn to the person next to you. Take 49 seconds to talk about trees. Right? And then you do the signal and they quiet down and you debrief. It's a lesson in and of itself. Once you can get your students quiet and focused on you the way you want and when you want, a lot of that classroom chaos can be taken care of inside of that.
The other thing I would recommend is starting with your beginning routine. How does the students come into your room, sit down and get started on something at the very beginning of the day, if you're elementary, or of the period, if you're secondary? Once you have that particular procedure down smoothly, a lot of other things will tend to go more smoothly throughout the day.
So, again, you want to this procedure as if it is the content. "Students, what I want from you when you come into the room is I want you to come in, sit down in your chairs. I want you to take out your homework, I want you to take out your silent reading book, or I want you to take out your journal. I want you to start up the warm-up activity. I want you sitting on the carpet." Whatever it is that you want from them. Tell them what it is. Show them what it looks like. Yourself modeling it. Have a couple of kids go outside, come back in, and model it for the entire class, and then have the entire class practice it. "All right, class. Stand up. Go to the edge of the room. Pretend like class has just begun. Come in. Sit down. Open your journals and begin the warm-up prompt in silence. Let's try it. Go." Okay, and see what comes of that. Debrief with them. Try it again.
When you get that first thing, the first warm-up activity or the way you want your class to begin down the way you want it, with the kids doing it the way you want it, the rest of your day will go more smoothly and you will have the confidence from seeing how that works out to bring that kind of enthusiasm to the teaching of other procedures that can help you control that classroom chaos.