July 25, 2012

Stop Team Disruptions

Cooperative learning is awesome, but sometime the noise and confusion caused by learning together can be distracting to others. It's not that your kids are intentionally being loud - they're just excited about what they are doing and aren't making any effort to keep their voices down. Or maybe their conversations are getting sidetracked into topics that aren't related to the task at all. However, I never felt it was right to waste class time lecturing everyone for the behavior of one or two teams, and lecturing kids never works, anyway.

So I came up with the idea of using small stop signs as a way of getting kids to stop talking and refocus. The strategy is easy to use. Simply print a few of the stop signs shown above on card stock and laminate them to make them last. Keep a few of them handy when your students are working in cooperative learning teams. If a group becomes too noisy or seems off task, walk over and place one of the stop signs in the center of the team. This is a signal to them to be quiet for one minute and think about how they can refocus and work more effectively. Of course, you need to introduce the team stop signs before using them so that students will know what to expect when it happens. After one minute, the team captain places the stop sign back on your desk and the team returns to their task.

When I first thought of this idea, I had no idea how it would work. I wondered if my 5th graders would think it was kind of lame and not really respond to the stop sign quiet signal. However, I was surprised that it worked better than I could have imagined! They absolutely HATED to have to stop talking for one single minute! That minute seemed like an hour to them as they listened to everyone else having fun. After I used the stop signs a few times, all I had to do was pick them up and walk around with them, and I heard kids say, "Shhh! She's coming around with the stop signs!" LOL! Who would have thought that being quiet for one minute would be viewed as a dreaded consequence for off-task behavior?

If you would like to use this strategy in your own classroom, feel free to download the stop sign patterns and directions shown above. You'll find this item on my Teaching Resources site on the Cooperative Learning page along with other free resources. I hope it works as well for you as it did for me!

Teaching Resources


  1. I think this is a great idea--one question, how do the kids know when a minute is up? Do you tell them, or do you give them a timer? I just like to know everything before I try it.

    1. I taught 5th grade so I just asked them to watch the clock. If you have a little minute timer like a sand timer, you could have them flip it over and let the sand run out. It wasn't a problem in my class. I just let them monitor it.

  2. Love this idea for 5th grades. IN fact any grade for that matter.


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