I am starting to substitute and have noticed that the kids get the most rowdy during hands on activities. What is the best way to keep the calm and on task?
Set your guidelines and expectations right at the start of the activity. If students sit in groups, each "seat" is assigned a different number. Those numbers could be linked to specific tasks for the hands-on activity, or responsibilities like gathering matherials or returning measurement tools.
For instance, I often call out that "ones" will be fetching today and "threes" will be returning materials. Or even for accountability, a number will be responsible for "reporting out" a summary of his or her table's conversations during the activity.
I could relate to your post because I tend to want the classroom to be on the quieter side but I recognize that students need to make some noise, particularly during a group activity. I think there is such a thing as good noise that comes from students being engaged and excited about an activity. If they are really being rowdy and off task, then obviously that has to be stopped. Regardless of the activity, it can get loud in a classroom as students take advantage of a substitute day. If it's good noise but they are just being too loud, then a warning system could be used. Maybe write STEM on the board and take away a letter for each warning with a consequence if you have to remind them to quiet down four times. I'd also try and watch the groupings. Even as a substitute you can quickly tell which students are most likely going to try and take advantage of a substitute. If you can separate some of the students that seem to be the most rowdy, it may keep them from feeding off each other. Good luck.
I would let it be known that you are no different than their teacher. Tell them to pretend that their teacher is here observing their behavior as they work. I would set clear guidelines with the students at the beginning of the class, so they know that you are in charge and they are to act as they would if their teacher was here.
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