Tuesday, October 4, 2011

teaching myth: quiet and still = learning

One myth of teaching that continues to pervade some classrooms (though is thankfully lessening in strength) is that students must be silent and still, listening to the "most important person" in the room (the teacher) for learning to take place.

In my first year of teaching, I taught next to a teacher who so believed in this myth that when playing Bingo during reward time, her students had to raise their hands silently when they had Bingo. They couldn't even say Bingo out loud! To her, my classroom was chaos, a disaster, a place where no learning could possibly take place. I'll admit that of course as a first year teacher, there were moments where chaos took over and learning lost out. But mostly, my students were engaged in learning together.

Two keys to student motivation are working collaboratively and movement. I know I hate to sit for 6 straight hours, and so do students. Get them moving. Not a lot, just have set times when you schedule a change in groups working together. One thing you can do is establish clock partners. Pass out a picture of a clock, and have students find partners for set times on the clock. I tend to do 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 partners (rather than all 12 hours, just because it is easier for students to remember their clock buddies if there are fewer). But I have done it with all 12, and then made sure students taped the clock into their planner or kept somewhere safe that they could refer to them easily. This way, they have a variety of people they work with regularly, and it isn't a production every time you want students to pair up (or they always pair with the same person).

Then, as frequently as it makes sense, you can have students complete a quickwrite on the topic of the day to start class, work on an assignment, review their homework, pair-share during a lesson, jigsaw a reading, quiz each other on course material, review vocabulary, whatever works in your lessons. Like with anything, if the work is purposeful and moving to their partners is an established and frequently used routine, in the end, it should help rather than hinder classroom management.

Here's a website that has one version of clock partners available online. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "Appointment Clock Buddies" link to pull up a pdf. The clock here is decidedly more elementary-looking, but a plainer version is available here. I've used this with primary students through college, and think it works well with all age levels. It's a simple way to vary collaborative groupings and give students opportunities to move around to work with others.

What other ways do you get students moving in your classroom?


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