Harnessing a Running Horse: An Essential Classroom Management Tool

If you are talking about really interesting things in your class there will be times when the conversation bubbles over and students spontaneously start chatting with each other. Here is one technique that I caught on footage from a recent workshop that not only gets you to regain control of your class in 20 seconds, but it also maintains a pleasurable atmosphere in class without yelling or unpleasant reminders about rules. I call the technique “harnessing a running horse”:

If you want more, I still have a few workshops scheduled for Autumn 2018.


  1. yes, this is great, but what if it keeps happening every 5 – 10 minutes! (yes, I have a room full of juniors who can NOT sit still and ALWAYS need something to do! That is my struggle this semester.

    1. You are talking about a long term classroom management problem, whereas this is a short term tactic. You are also in a new school this year, and I don’t know why but teachers new to the school are always challenged right and left.

      Stop class, take out notebooks and dictate. Write and do not discuss. Have short readings printed out that you can shift to whenever needed. Don’t worry about not being a favorite teacher, this cannot be a negotiation. Never yell, just pivot to the boring reading, Pobre Ana anyone?, and accept that this year is going to suck. Try personalizing just to observe the second that they start talking so that you shut it down again. Yeah, keep shutting it down even if you begin to have a fun conversation. Read and translate, this sucks right kids? Ask a personalized question to one student and the second two students respond you shut it down again.

      This is your first year in that school. You’ll be an institution soon and kids will come and be quiet because that is what is done in your class. Until then, it is like planting a garden on rocky soil. If I were you, though, I would not try to woo a class that consistently cannot follow the rules. I would not plead, then try to come up with a fun activity, constantly pursue the perfect game. Nope, this is on them.

  2. I love how you remind us that our customers are human beings, too. Besides, shushing them is NO FUN, and we all just want to have fun! It’s these small moments that help us keep our sanity and continue to love what we do!

    Thanks, Mike

  3. I would just like to say thank you! This worked in Sunday School this morning with a room full of middle schoolers who hadn’t seen us or their friends all summer long and then had been pent up in their houses waiting for the hurricane that didn’t come. They were vomiting their silly questions and comments all over the room today and we were getting nowhere fast! it worked like a charm for at least 10 minutes. LOL!

  4. YES….. I’m too lazy to get super fun and creative with brain breaks and turn and tell is what I use 95% of the time. I need to add the shushing between counting, tho! Thanks for this!

  5. You’re a freakin’ Jedi Master, Peto! It just hit me, ‘telling’ everyone to be quiet is way too Atlassian anyways (if you’re read any of BVP’s work). Why not just harness the energy and have them do a pair-share? I think it was Justin Slocum-Bailey who wrote in one of his posts that simply turning to a neighbor is a brain break. They don’t have to stand up and dance for it to be “official.” Thanks so much for sharing this! Ride the wave, my friend.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.