A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Teaching trick number 1: a random series

Where you actually are in the classroom can often determine the students' response.

1. When I want to impart a lot of information, I stand in front of the classroom.

2. When I want to encourage some discussion, but still retain control of the conversation, I lean against a desk as I talk.

3. When I want to encourage real discussion and student ownership of the learning process, I sit in a student desk at the same level as the students.

Caveat: Before you try any of this, you need to have classroom management under control.

As teachers, we often talk about really engaging the students in the lesson presnted in class. If I have some time, I often try number 3. It really amazes me how important body language can be in instructing students.

What have you found that has been a small change you make that influences student response?



At 2/25/07, 1:32 AM, Anonymous Teacher with a Toddler said...

I've become much more precise in my directions. Excess verbiosity? Chuck it. Here are a few choice phrases:

"Convince me you're ready."
"Suzie can't be heard," (raised eyebrow at student who is talking).
"Directions." (Used before announcing directions.)
"Put your finger on that part of the page."
"Underline it."

I've found that once I explain these terms and phrases, I can use them both in writing and during discussions. So much of what we say goes into the schoolyard ether, so brevity helps.

At 2/25/07, 6:59 AM, Anonymous mrschili said...

I teach junior college, and they hate it when I wander around the room talking. I use #1 quite a bit, and I walk back and forth in front of the board. When I want to get the kids engaged in conversation, I sit on the front table. It puts me in a more casual/accessible position and encourages the students to relax a little.

....at least, that's what I HOPE it does....

At 2/25/07, 11:19 AM, Blogger ms-teacher said...

I've found just by moving to the back of the classroom and asking questions, I will have more students participate. I also have a small stool (I'm 5' even and didn't want to have to climb onto a stool) that is at the front of the classroom that I will also sit on. For some reason, just sitting down also encourages more student participation.

If I want to ensure no talking, I move my stool next to my overhead projector. That way, as I'm writing stuff down, I can keep an eye on the class. Remember, I teach 6th graders and any chance to talk, they jump on!

At 2/25/07, 4:54 PM, Blogger EliRabett said...

Well, there is the ever popular "This will be on the test", and yes, I pretty much do put it on the test.

At 2/25/07, 8:28 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I stand in the back. That way, everyone has to move out of their comfortable position to look back at me. Strange, but I think it gets more people to talk.

At 2/25/07, 9:30 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

- Lowering my tone of voice so they have to stop and strain to hear me. We now call it "reverse yelling."

- I move all around the room. Not just back and forth in front. I teach eighth grade. They must always be on their guard.

At 2/25/07, 10:12 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Here's another way to look at your trick of leaning against your desk:


At 2/27/07, 1:12 PM, Blogger graycie said...

Carry on class while standing RIGHT NEXT TO the chattiest student. Sometimes I'll even lean against his/her desk, until they figure out what's going on.

Step out timelines across the front of my room. Freshmen can point to the spot where the Trojan War ends and where the Crisis at Home begins The Odyssey and where Odysseus battles Scylla and Charybdis.

Begin correction of behavior with, "I love you like my own child, but . . ."

At 2/27/07, 6:41 PM, Blogger Vandalhooch said...

Step 1: Very early in the year include a student journal entry reflecting on the following quote "You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room." - Theodore Geisel

Discussion ensues about independent learning and role of teacher as guide rather than enabler. Will there be times in their lives when they will not have mommy, daddy, friends, or me to do things for them? What will they do then if they never learned to think and learn on their own? The running joke is, "Johny, I loved my college experience very much. But, I did not love it enough to go back with you as your personal question answerer."

Step 2: Periodically announce that this particular assignment, lab, or project is a Dr. Seuss activity. Students instantly realize that questions like: "What do I do now?", "Where do I find x?", and "How do I do x?" will not be answered directly. All information they need to complete the activity is already available to them in some form. I will assist, if they have very specific questions that they can point to in the instructions or text.

If a student simply makes a request for me to do something that they themselves are capable of doing on their own, I simply respond with "Dr. Seuss" and then move on.

By the end of the year, I can trust students to bring appropriate questions. No more enabling of helplessness.

At 3/2/07, 12:08 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Whoa-- I just love this aspect about blogging, did I ever mention it? Yes? Well let me say it again.

This is what I love-- I love the talking about best practices and shared ideas and sometimes the commiserating and kvetching.

So mush to think about. So much to try!

At 3/2/07, 1:44 PM, Blogger Yucaipa-Calimesa Teacher said...

I don't remember where I heard this, but it applies to the discussion: "He strains to hear a whisper who will not hear a shout."

I like the sitting in the student chair idea. Gotta try it.

At 3/3/07, 10:06 PM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

For really really full attention, (but can't use it too often, it wears out) if I don't need the board, I hunt. For something. Keys, chalk, a tack, it doesn't matter. Because it doesn't exist.

But as I talk, I look. Under desks, in corners, in drawers. I don't miss a word, and I don't look up.

At 3/9/07, 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I taught "at-risk" young adults in a job training program and ran orientation sessions every two weeks. With one particularly difficult group I used "Are we ready?" every time we needed to move on. By day three of the session, the students took it upon themselves, and the guys in front would turn around when people were talking and say, "Hey, are we ready?" Peer pressure classroom management is the best!


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