The coolest new way to quiet students comes straight from Beyoncé’s “Renaissance World Tour.”
The “mute challenge” has taken over social media, with attendees at Beyoncé’s concert competing for the unofficial title of being the quietest crowd during her performance of “Energy.”
After she sings the lyrics, “Look around, everybody on mute,” Beyoncé, her performers and the thousands in the crowd all freeze, with the goal of achieving silence in the stadium. After a pause of several seconds, Beyoncé resumes the song.
After participating in the mute challenge during Beyoncé’s first night in Atlanta, Georgia, teacher Amber Drummond saw the similarities between the mute challenge and the call and responses she uses in her first grade classroom.
A call and response is a technique teachers use to calm their students and get them to focus. The teacher says a predetermined word, which signals the class to give a certain response. By then, the room is quiet enough to resume instruction.
After explaining the meaning of the word “mute” to her classroom, which she nicknamed the “D-Hive,” Drummond tried it out with her students — and they went silent.
“I prepped the D-Hive on Monday, and on Tuesday, I just decided to practice with them to see if they remembered — and they did it,” she tells TODAY.com.
Later, she shared a video of her class successfully completing the mute challenge, and it went viral. Now, the mute challenge has morphed into a tool for teachers to get their classroom’s attention, all while having fun and sharing a bit of their authentic selves with their students.
“Students respond better to people who are real,” Jeremiah Kim, a fourth grade teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, says. “Human beings have a radar for when someone is being genuine or not. Kids — way more than we would expect.”
Why the mute challenge was practically built for the classroom
Aminah Muhammad, a first grade teacher in Lawrenceville, Georgia, got the idea for the mute challenge from actor Jackée Harry.
"I hope teachers start using ‘look around everybody on mute’ to quiet their classrooms," the "Sister Sister" alum, who used to be a teacher, posted on X Aug. 13.
"I said, 'I'm going to try this in my class,'" Muhammad tells TODAY.com. "It was really like a very innocent thing, I just wanted to do because I went to the concert and I love Beyoncé."
Muhammad describes attending the first night of Beyoncé's Atlanta stops of the "Renaissance World Tour" as "the best night of (her) life." She and Drummond, who also attended that concert, were part of the first crowd to "win" the mute challenge.
On Aug. 11, once Beyoncé got to the part of "Energy" that cues the audience to quiet down, a hush fell over the crowd. In videos shared on social media, the superstar smirked at the silence, and once she resumed the song, she shouted "Y'all won, y'all won, y'all won" into the mic.
Muhammad says she explained the concept to her class once — and they nailed it on the first try.
"Once I did it, they were silent — you could hear a pin drop," Muhammad says. "I didn't have to go over it a million times with them, I really built a rapport with them ... They are so eager to learn always, and so anytime I'm trying to do something fun of course they're going to be engaged and want to do it."
At first, many of her students didn't even know who Beyoncé was, Muhammad says. Then she played the Kidz Bop version of "Cuff It."
"They were like, 'Oh I know this song,'" she explains. "I guess I'm old now. It's crazy to think like, wow that's not your generation. Beyoncé is not your generation."
Following their viral moment, Drummond says she uses the mute challenge often in her classroom. Students take the moment seriously.
"They do a big gasp before they do it," she explains, mimicking her students taking in air so not even their breathing is heard.
Adria Smith, a middle school chorus teacher in Fairburn, Georgia, says her students are invested in the challenge because they are Beyoncé fans, too. Holding Gen Z's attention requires teachers to meet them at their level, she says.
"Not that I'm trying to be a cool teacher, but I do want to be a teacher (who is) relatable to my students," she says. "Just to show them that it's OK to have fun, even in the classroom."
Bringing Beyoncé into the classroom in other ways
Throughout her 15 years of teaching, Drummond's students have always known her as a major Beyoncé fan.
Her classroom has a Beyoncé blanket (a gift from one of her previous students), children’s books about Beyoncé and a sign that reads, “Here in the D-Hive is where the brilliant bees thrive.”
She also has several T-shirts showing that she “doesn’t play about this woman” — one that says “Teach-oncé” and another that proclaims, “I’m the Beyoncé of this school.”
Drummond says sharing her fandom leads to a degree of relatability she didn’t get from her own teachers.
“When I was growing up ... elementary and middle school, I didn’t have Black teachers like that,” she says. “It’s a hard field.”
Similarly, Kim lets his fourth graders partake in his love of music. In addition to using the mute challenge frequently, he also has another Beyoncé-themed call-and-response pegged to her rap in “Heated.”
If Kim's students are able to successfully quiet down and focus on him afterwards, he’ll let them know by finishing the lyrics with, “Your face card never declines, my God.”
“I will only say that to them if they were able to successfully get that callback,” he says. “So that is kind of the way that we make sure that it’s not just descending into chaos.”
Kim's use of music in the classroom is how part of how he's forged a sense of individuality as a teacher.
“When I first started teaching, I was like, ‘Oh you have to have this persona of like, you’re a teacher, it has to be formal, it has to be strict, it has to be kind of stuffy,” he says. “But I got so tired of that so quickly.”