Does anyone have any ideas for help with this issue? The noise has just become deafening. We have about 200 kids in the lunchroom at one time. It doesn't help that the cafeteria is a dome shaped building! I know we won't be able to really implement anything this late in the year, but maybe we can start off next year better. Thanks in advance.
Our lunchroom staff does an excellent job in creating a quiet atmosphere by providing guest speakers, activities, and a game day. Students compete for the quietest table to be able to host the speaker or participate in the activities.
The kids have sat quietly (for the most part) all morning long. Lunch is the time they can finally talk and let it all out. They're only in the cafeteria for 20 minutes anyway.
If the noise doesn't bother them, then it shouldn't bother us. Just think of how much better your life will be after lunch when they're back in your classroom and have had a chance to expend all of their pent-up energy.
A principal I once worked for put stars on each table. If a table got loud, she removed one of the stars. I don't remember if there was a consequence/reward for losing/keeping stars, but it seemed to help a little.
I agree with Fiddle4Fun, though. When I was in elementary school, our principal tried everything to get us to be quiet. Several times he made us eat in silence. He even installed one of those traffic light things, which we just yelled at to make it turn red. I never understood why they wanted us to be so quiet during our break. I know it's not enjoyable for the adults, but chances are, the kids are just talking, and it's loud with so many kids in there.
We have a red cup/green cup system at our school. If you behave and eat during red cup and talk quietly during green cup you earn a sticker for the day. The class from each grade with the most stickers at the end of the month earns a popcorn party and a BIG banner to display outside of the classroom. We also have our assistants in the cafeteria to help make the noise manageable. It's fine to talk. It's not ok to be screeching or yelling. Occasionally the principal has flicked the lights but that's only when there's so much noise she can hear it in the office. I eat lunch in my room so I won't hear the noise through the teacher's lounge door!
We eat the first 10 minutes of lunch with no talking. Then after 10 minutes the students are able to talk in a whisper for the remaining 10 minutes. It works great because the students are eating all of their lunch and not talking for most of it.
An elementary school where I mentored had a traffic light noise meter and used the cafeteria for assemblies. I agree that it won't necessarily keep the noise down, but it could help with an experiment. Invariably, there is a delay between the time all the students arrive and the beginning of the spelling bee, speech contest, spelling bee, etc. This is when it gets particularly loud. The experiment (or demonstration) I would suggest during that time is to have the students try to communicate with each other in progressively louder voices and ask how well they could hear at each level (show of hands). I don't know whether "I can't hear you. You're speaking too loudly." could be more effective than "Inside voices!", but it's worth a try.
A few years ago, we tried to train our kids to eat first and talk later. That didn't really work--plus, it was hard to enforce. So, we decided to use the crayon system. For every class that wasn't too noisy--and didn't have a classmate get moved because of inappropriate behavior--earned a paper crayon pin-up at the end of the lunch period. For every 10 crayons earned, that class received 10 minutes of extra recess. This works pretty well for grades K-3, with numbers under 100. However, I'm sure it can be improvised with a little tweaking here and there. Nonetheless, I would have to somewhat agree with another poster that lunchtime is a student's time to appropriately "let it out." Even so, I understand your frustrations with the noise level.
As someone who subs for lunch duty at several different schools I've seen it all. Yes, kids get noisy at lunch. They just will. Different schools try different things and the kids stay pretty much the same. The one variable I've seen that seems to make the biggest difference in the volumn is the actual architecture of the room itself. I've seen 200 kids in a large room make the same amount of noise as 100 in a smaller room. One school has very low ceilings that makes it seem louder. Another school has a giant fabric curtain on the stage in the lunchroom. Since it's always going to be hard to keep the kids quiet the best thing I can say is to help make the room quiet. Find ways to add sound dampers to the room. Add fabric to the room somewhere. I'm sure the fire inspector would have to okay some of the additions. If only we could carpet a lunchroom. The sound would drop A LOT. But we all know that would be disgusting inside a week.
I think the "cup" and "crayon" system might work. "Just let it out" is what has caused the noise level to be so bad that our custodian now wears ear plugs (I'm waiting for him to move up to the big ear protectors that guys who use jackhammers favor!); our normally sweet lunch ladies are tired of yelling at the kids to hold it down so they can think, and the noise is so bad that you can hear through the doors and down the hall to the principal's office! I have a headache every day after lunch- we're required to eat lunch with the children.
PS We do centers for literacy some mornings & have pullouts the other mornings, so our kids have not "sat quietly all morning."