Undoubtedly you have listened to a presentation that parallels this scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And, I am sure on occasion you have seen a student acting like Peppermint Patty in this clip. While both of these videos poke fun at boring teachers, we know that boredom in a classroom can be a reality. Not everyone is a Bill Nye, but below are some strategies you can use to get your students’ attention and keep it.
Create a spot in the room that you will teach from. Honor this location by designating this spot for teaching only. No, you may not contaminate this spot by doing other things there. Yes, you may teach in other locations throughout the room. If you are consistent, then like Pavlov’s dog, your students will realize that when you are standing in that spot, they need to be ready to learn.
I have designated my Teaching Spot with a carpet remnant. I stand on that spot only when I am ready to address the whole class.
Call backs are an effective way to grab student attention. In my class when I say, “Fourth Graders” the students call back in unison, “Just Do It!” The elements of an effective call back are:
- It must be short. Long responses are inefficient and lose their novelty fast. Just Do It! is an example of a great call back. It is short, and it ends on a hard consonant. Call backs that end on a soft letter sound (e.g., “The cool class”) result in a sloppy silence: unlike the sweet spot of silence that occurs immediately following a good call back.
- It must not be overused. Students will get annoyed if you use a call back several times an hour. I recommend having a variety of call backs to keep the novelty.
- The presenter should be ready to speak immediately following the students’ choral response. There is one second of silence that the presenter must be ready to seize. If the presenter isn’t ready in that one second, the students begin to think, Sometimes when we do this call back the teacher isn’t even ready, so I am going to keep talking next time.
Some call backs need to be taught; others are already programmed into the minds of students by the media. Take advantage of that! Here are some examples of call backs I have used in the past:
- Teacher: Studio 24 Students: Is On the Air
- Teacher: Pier 24 Students: Excelling Without Excuses
- Teacher: Ba Dop Bop Ba Baaa Students: I’m Lovin’ It
- Teacher: SpongeBob Students: SquarePants
Master storytellers keep their audience engaged by changing the speed, rhythm, and volume of their voices. Don’t be a Ben Stein. Be a storyteller using some of the tips and examples from the following:
Asking and answering questions are an integral part of learning. Even the most dynamic presenters can lose their audience’s attention when questions (or lack of answers from the audience) slow down the flow of the lesson.
- Think in advance how questions from the audience should be handled. Different presentations call for different ways to handle questions. Should you pause every ten minutes? Save questions for the end? Handle questions as they arise? Should students raise a hand or just blurt it out? Create a “parking lot” of Post-it notes where questions are delivered on a break and then addressed later.
- Specify how you want the audience to respond to your questions. Raise your hand if you agree with this statement. Put your pencils down when your group is ready to discuss the topic.
- Don’t ask questions that are too risky for the intended audience. Who would like to share a story about a time they were completely embarrassed? Does anyone not get this?
- Rephrase broad or ambiguous questions. Don’t ask, Is everybody ready? When you want to know, Does anyone need more time?
- Eliminate repetitive question fillers. Right? OK? Make sense? Get it? Understand?
Honor Work Time
Do not interrupt students while they are working unless it is absolutely necessary. Every interruption takes recovery time as discussed in this post about eliminating distractions.
What are some of your tips for successfully managing your students?
Just Do It!
2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek’s class.