Teaching Tactics for Study Hall

The foundation for successful classroom management (in a subject class) is respect for the teacher and for the importance of learning. You gain that respect in your class by being serious about teaching your subject. Your class period is filled with obvious learning activities. There is an expectation for learning. There is simply no time for misbehavior.

In the study hall, though, you have none of that. You aren’t there to teach at all. The students think of it as free time. It’s a sort of break in the routine of the day. If you tell them to be quiet, they’ll think, “What for?” They have been primed by tradition for an hour of socializing, pranks and time wasting.

This is one situation where you will have to rule from a position of power, but with the understanding that it’s for the common good. Here is how you begin.

You must have a seating chart prepared before the students arrive. Boy-girl, boy-girl is slightly better than some other arrangement at this age. If you can separate them somehow, all the better. Once they are in their assigned seats, your introduction might go like this:

Teacher: “I know that many of you have trouble getting your homework done. Perhaps it’s because you have lots of after-school activities, or you find it difficult to study at home or you just don’t like to do it after school is over. I hope that this study hall can solve all those problems. It’s amazing how much work you can get done in one hour of absolutely uninterrupted time. Also, since I teach math, I will be happy to help you with your math homework. I’ll also do what I can to help with any other homework you’ll have, too.”

“Just so you’ll know what I mean by uninterrupted, I’m going to tell you the rules of this study hall. First, you must be in your seat and working when the class begins, or you’ll be counted as tardy. Also, you must show up with all the materials you’ll need, since I won’t let you borrow from other students or go back to your locker.”

Reasoning: The students should start the class on their own, automatically. If you have to plead with them to get busy, then you are starting from a position of weakness that will only get worse.

Teacher: “Throughout the entire period, you will be absolutely quiet. No talking will be allowed for any reason. If someone sneezes, you are not to say, “God bless you.” If you bump someone, you don’t say, “Excuse me.”

Student: “What if I need to ask you a question?”

Teacher: “Raise your hand until I see you. Then I’ll motion for you to come up to my desk. By the way, the only time you are to come up to my desk is to ask me for help with your homework or to tell me that you have a serious medical emergency.”

Reasoning: Until students get used to a quiet study hall, they will become so bored that they’ll look for any sort of break at all. Many will want to chat with you, get a drink or go to the bathroom just to break the monotony. Also, if they need help with their homework, they should come to your desk, so you can still watch the room. During the first week, at least, if you go to the student needing help, you’ll lose control of those behind you. Actually, it is probably not a good idea to have students come to you during the first week for any reason other than medical.

Also, you may want to consider sitting behind them in the back of the room. That way they cannot readily keep an eye on you, and when you help a student at your desk, it won’t be as likely to distract the others.

Teacher: “As I was saying, you may not talk for any reason. In fact, you may not communicate with anyone in any way. That means you can’t pass notes, exchange glances or giggles, attract attention to yourself or do anything else I might feel is inappropriate. You are to conduct yourself as though you are sitting in the room alone.”

“You must do written homework throughout the time you are in this study hall.”

Reasoning: Notice that the teacher added to what they couldn’t do, “anything else I might feel is inappropriate.” There are always a few students who will try to find a loophole in your rules. If you didn’t mention that you don’t like them popping bubble gum bubbles, they will drive you to distraction doing it. By including that last admonition, the teacher has covered all the bases, even those he might not have thought of.

Having them do written work gives you an easy way to check if they are busy. While it would be unreasonable to require this all year, it is necessary during the first week or two while you are establishing an academic atmosphere.

Student: “What if I don’t have any homework?”

Teacher: “I find that hard to believe. But, if you really don’t have any written homework, then you’ll just have to make up something. Bring your math book and do some problems. Perhaps you can work ahead in one of your texts. Ask your teachers if you can do some extra credit. In any case, you must have some written work to do.”

Student: “What if we have reading homework in science or English?”

Teacher: “Your work in here must be written. If you are supposed to read, then you have to take notes on the reading. I will check your notes. Anyone who violates any of the rules or in any way bothers me or other students will have to copy from the dictionary. I want to be absolutely certain that you folks have one hour of distraction-free time for your school work. You can either choose to do written work or copy from the dictionary.”

Reasoning: Notice that the last, closing statement reiterates the fact that you are going to run this study hall for their academic benefit and that you have every intention of imposing a consequence on those who would interfere. Copying from the dictionary is not a punishment in the sense described earlier in this website. It is a consequence, since the student knows it in advance and has an alternate choice.

Teacher: “Since you didn’t know what to bring today, if you need paper and pencil, I’ll lend it to you. This is the last and only day I’ll do that, so be sure to bring your materials tomorrow. If you don’t have any homework now, just make up math problems or repeatedly write a list of vocabulary words.”

Reasoning: You must begin having them follow the rules from the first minute on. After having described your rigid standards, it would be ludicrous to ignore them until tomorrow.

Throughout this discussion of the rules, there will be those who will grimace or otherwise show their displeasure with you. They will try to convey to you how unfair they think it all is. Hang tough. I know how dehumanizing this sounds to some. It does work, though. It will be in everyone’s best interest for you to be utterly uncompromising. At the end of the year, some students will actually thank you for giving them the time to work.

Go to “Promised Consequences Must Be Applied

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    • Modern Teacher on July 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm
    • Reply

    Is his a joke? Your study hall sounds worse than a prison sentence!!!
    Teacher: “Throughout the entire period, you will be absolutely quiet. No talking will be allowed for any reason. If someone sneezes, you are not to say, “God bless you.” If you bump someone, you don’t say, “Excuse me.”
    Most of this advice is over the top and in some instances inhumane. For example, each student is only allowed to leave to use the bathroom “once a week”! There has to be a better way to run study hall. No wonder your students hate it so much!

    • Mr. Hoff on March 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm
    • Reply

    in reply to Modern.

    Some, maybe many will hate it to start.
    However, if you are vigilant and constant, the majority of students will respect you for applying this structure.

    1. As a student, I 100% guarantee this will not work. Some kids just don’t care and wont do what the teacher wants regardless of what the rules and consequences of those rules are. The only reason I am on this is because I am in a classroom study hall and bored out of my mind. The students would hate this for the entirety of the year and will probably as a result not like the teacher.

    2. Hello Student,

      Well, virtually no teaching strategy will work with a student who absolutely refuses to cooperate. Ultimately there is no way to FORCE a student to do something he doesn’t want to do. In that event, all one can do is turn the recalcitrant student over to the administration/principal.

      The technique I described depends on beginning it on the first moment of the first day of class when the teacher typically has the undivided attention of all the students. If the teacher lets the class become noisy and disruptive for even a few minutes it will be very difficult to recapture “the moment.”

        • Study hall teacher who deserves respect not demand it on July 21, 2016 at 2:10 pm
        • Reply

        I agree with this student and other commenters that this is ridiculous! Also you are wrong in saying that there are not ways to deal with students who refuse to follow the rules. Most of the time a student dosnt follow the rules because they can’t. Whether it’s because ADHD or learning/ behavior disabilities some kids can not follow the rules you suggested putting in place. I have worked in my school system and found that the teachers who act how you di scribed have the most disciplinary problems. If you show a child you care and respect tthenthey will be willing to do just about anything you say. I came on here to see if there were any new tricks on making a study hall class run smoother and realized if this is the mess that is out there as ” how to run a smoother study hall advice” then no thank you, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

    • PEH on April 14, 2015 at 11:46 am
    • Reply

    The teacher provides the pen and paper so the unprepared student can spend the whole period copying from the dictionary.

    • Mr. Braff on November 13, 2015 at 12:59 pm
    • Reply

    Although I agree that clear expectations need to be set from the start, the philosophy stated in this blog seems unreasonable despite each “reasoning” given. I donʻt think that any students would respect a teacher who ran study hall this way. I think a better word is “fear” and I think that a study hall run in this way would be rather unproductive with students pretending to be busy.
    There are many things that can be taught in study hall. Study skills, time management, and work ethic to name a few.
    Iʻm sure whatʻs described above would work for setting up a quiet study hall, but like I said, somebody who runs it this way would only be fooling him/herself to think that it would be productive for all.

    • Ms Hubert on January 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm
    • Reply

    There is absolutely no research that would support any of the above claims as ‘effective practices’; in fact there are volumes that would counter every step outlined.
    Starting off by saying “you have to rule from a position of power” indicates that this is rubbish and not to be taken seriously.
    Look into the current research on effective study hall structures and practices.

      • Ms. Freedman on November 21, 2017 at 7:18 pm
      • Reply

      Ms Hubert says:”…in fact there are volumes that would counter every step outlined.” really? where? what volumes are you talking about? Specifically, which ones? And which steps would they counter?

      I was hesitant to reply, as this is only November, but I have put these ideas into practice during my study halls and (so far) I have pin-drop-quiet study halls.

      I don’t give them written work, but our students use iPads and I tell them “as long as they’re silent, I don’t care what they do.” I tell them they are not to communicate in any manner (it is quite easy to tell when kids are communicating with iPads). If they are tardy 3 times, each additional tardy earns them a detention. If a student complains about a detention or thinks they have discovered a “loophole” and doesn’t deserve a detention, I simply say, “It is unfortunate that you misunderstood the rules.” Again, with no anger or judgement in my voice. If they wish to discuss it further, I simply tell them to take it up with the dean (that’s why they are there).

      If a student refuses to obey a teacher, that student is in violation of the fundamental mission of the school, and can be expelled for multiple infractions of the same rule. (that gets the parent’s attention)

      Once a student is sent to the dean’s office that student is on their radar – any further behavior issues only compound the problem. Unfortunately, parents usually don’t seem to get involved until it is too late.

      And so what if it sounds like a punishment or prison sentence?! It is a study hall. They don’t have to like you. They follow the rules or they get hammered with the consequences.

    • Ms. Monitor on May 7, 2019 at 8:07 am
    • Reply

    Speaking as someone who has essentially become a full-time study hall monitor by default, I think that there are two options: either you create the kind of atmosphere the author describes and some students will get work done, or you will have an unruly social hour where few get anything done. The only kids who can get work done during social hour are the ones who can put in earbuds, turn on the music and tune out the party.

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