There’s a buzz in the room. Kids are excited to see you – to see each other – to be out of the classroom for something special. The kindergarteners are twisting around to talk with each other – some are stretched out on the floor.
Your time is limited, the classes have come late and you have a lot to accomplish in your assembly or workshop. Is it really necessary to get them totally quiet and focused before you begin your program?
Yes. It’s really necessary.
Do not begin until the audience is quiet and focused — even if it takes you all day (and it won’t). Why? If you show kids at the start that you are in control, you’ll be able to rein them in more easily during your assembly if things get a little chatty. They’ll appreciate it (kids do love rules and order, believe it or not) – and the teachers will love you (they want to have fun in your assembly, too, and not be disciplinarians).
The worst thing you can do is attempt to talk over the chaos. No one will hear you. And once kids know that you don’t mean it when you call for quiet, they’ll continue to ignore your requests.
Here are some tips for getting – and maintaining – crowd control.
Greet the kids & teachers as they come into the room. I stand by the multipurpose room door, saying hello to kids as they walk by and shaking teachers’ hands. This is a subtle way of showing them that they are guests in “my” space and that I know that they exist. As classes are getting seated, I also circulate and ask the older kids, “What books are you reading now.” This extra eye contact forges a stronger bond with them before the program begins.
Have a “quiet down” signal. Most schools have a physical symbol that means “Quiet down right now.” Ask your host what it is and use it when you need to.
Don’t be afraid to wait. For particularly chatty groups, it may take a bit of time to have the quiet spread, but it will. Don’t give up too soon.
Say, “Criss-cross applesauce.” I do mostly elementary assemblies where kids are seated on the floor. During the interactive parts of my program, kids get excited and a bit wound-up. But to bring them back, I say, “Criss-cross applesauce” which gets them back to the “listening” position. If that alone doesn’t work, I’ll add, “Hands on laps,” and demonstrate it. And. Wait. Until. They’re. Ready. For. The. Next. Part. Of. The. Program.
A last resort. If you’ve tried everything and there are still too many distractions to begin, you can always say, “Teachers? Can you lend a hand?” and they’ll jump in.
Everyone in the school is excited to have you there. When they know that you’re “in charge,” they can relax and have a good time. They’ll know that, even if things get a bit wild, you can lead them back to civilization where great experiences await!