A Genius Way to Keep the Art Room Quiet



Have you ever had a class where you looked up and realized no one in the room was talking? You’re so afraid to even say something because you don’t want to ruin this rare moment in time. The students haven’t noticed that the class is completely silent, but you noticed. Your head isn’t rattling with noise for the first time in hours and you’re holding your breath hoping it never ends.

What if I told you this moment could last the whole time students are in your room? Trust me art teachers:

It is indeed possible for your students to sit quietly and focus completely on their artwork for a whole hour.

Let me tell you how I figured out this silent art room secret. It all began while I was walking through the library during my planning period one day and noticed a strange phenomenon happening. A group of twenty-four children were sitting quietly on the floor listening to the librarian read to them. Hold on a second. Wasn’t this the same class that just filled my room with a perpetual state of noise? I immediately thought about how I could make this phenomenon play out in my own classroom. I thought, “I’m way too busy moving around the room to sit and read a book to my students, but wait… what about audiobooks!?”

If you’d like to try playing audiobooks while your students work, start with these 7 tips.

Seven Tips for Utilizing Audiobooks in your Classroom

1. Choose your books wisely. (Not all audiobooks you have at your disposal will be age-appropriate or parent-approved.)

2. Screen your books. It’s always good to listen to the entire book first to make sure it is indeed appropriate.

3. Utilize your librarian. He or she will know the perfect grade level books to keep your students engaged.

4. Search for audiobooks at your school library and at the public library.

5. Give your students a few audiobooks to choose from. Let them vote as a class on the one they want to hear.

6. Keep track of where a class is at in a book. I like to use a post-it note on my seating chart for this purpose.

7. Do a quick search on Pinterest or YouTube for free audiobooks online. (Trust me, I have found a ton!)

After several years of using audiobooks in my classroom I have never had a parent complain. In addition, I am constantly surprised by how intently students want to listen to someone reading them a book. Students get so engaged in the book and in their artwork that they will even ask their friends to turn their whisper voices down so they can completely focus on the story. As a teacher I am totally fine with my students talking during class. I offer one of the only hours of the day when they are able to freely chat with their friends. But occasionally, it is great to have the students focus intently on their artwork while enjoying a book. The use of audiobooks has made that a possibility in my classroom.

What are your experiences with audiobooks in your classroom?

Do you have any favorites you would recommend?

Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • spbivona

    Hi Jennifer, that is a fantastic idea that I NEVER thought of! I teach elementary too, can you give us some suggestions?

    • My students favorites are:

      1) The Chronicles of Narnia. (especially the ones that have been made into movies) There are seven books in this series, so that would take a long while to get through!
      2) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (I am from Kansas! Haha) Seriously though, the kids love this book.
      3) Little house on the Prairie series.

  • Mary Rutherford

    My students love listening to stories while they work. I use recordings by story tellers because we can hear the entire tale during the art time and don’t have to keep track of where we left off. It is also a great way to add cultural elements to your lessons. My students and I really love Native American author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

  • Anna Freeman

    Third grade and up LOVE “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” and all the other books on the series. Each chapter is a self-contained story, and they are quirky enough to keep everyone’s attention.

  • Vivian Gayol

    Great idea! Do you have any suggestions for High School?

    • Ask your school librarian and see what she recommends are good teen books to grab for audio books. Or look at some of the latest movies out, kids love that!

  • Ellen K

    When the class is too loud I start talking to the ceiling. I carry on a conversation with the ceiling until they are quiet. I have been known at times to sing to the ceiling. Sometimes if a class is especially unruly I play music that gets stuck in their head like”The Safety Dance” or “Macarena” or anything from YoGabbaGabba. High school kids respond to that kind of “discipline.” As for stories, I like to wander the internet to places like Bored Panda and find amazing and unusual artworks. Street art is a favorite, but we’ve also looked at the amazing koi fish painted on resin and cutting edge flip books.

  • Denise

    You were reading my mind! I was just thinking about adding Audio books to my bag of tricks for a noisy/busy class.
    At the moment, I read to them from children’s art books, anything of interest art wise that follows what we’re learning about-or folk tales.
    Thanks out there for any other audio books. I’ll be having the listen to “Okay for Now” my Gary Schmidt-our librarian has given away 150 copies throughout the school-it’s a wonderful YA book that features AUDOBON throughout the book-it’s a must-read for any artist/reader. (I teach middle school).

    • NiseInNC

      Hi Denise! I also teach middle school. Can you give me the titles of some of the books you have read to your classes? I love this idea and want to give it a try. Also, what is your strategy for dealing with students who insist on talking/acting up during the story? Many thanks!

      • Denise Tanaka

        I find short stories about artists…a GREAT book to read in Lives of the Artists-I have to skip a few lines once in awhile, but mostly great. Go to Amazon and search around for short stories/picture books on artists…

  • Heather

    Do you have any issues with students who suffer from ADD/ADHD, autism, or other overstimulation issues?

    • I work with students with Autism and I haven’t had any issues yet. Mostly because it is usually the loud noises coming from the other students in the classroom which tends to over-stimulate them. With the audio books keeping them quieter, I’ve actually found it helping my other students out. This may not be true for everyone, but I have found it true in my classroom.

  • Pingback: The Best Books to Read Aloud in Your High School Art Room | The Art of Ed()