No response to procedural sounds
I had introduced the hotel bell as a signal for passing out materials. Immediately following the explanation, I gave the bell a ring. No response from the group. No one coming up to see me. A lot of hesitancy.
I can imagine what the teachers in the group were thinking.
Looking around the room in wonder:
--Does he want us to respond to the bell? I'm not sure and don't want to look foolish by standing up and heading to the front of the room. Maybe I should wait and see if he provides us with more information.--
Well, I didn't. (Provide them with more information, that is.) I just waited and, sure enough, a teacher stood up and came forward to get materials for his table. Whereupon there was an immediate ripple effect as other teachers from other tables came forward. All without me having to say another word.
A couple of minutes later, I introduced and explained my new Page Pen. I then wrote "30" on the flip chart to indicate that I wanted everyone to turn to page 30 in their seminar guides. Once again, there was a bit of uncertainty about why I wrote a number on the chart.
--Was that just an example of how the pen works or am I supposed to turn to page 30?--
Looking at the other teachers at his table:
--Hmmmm. Those two are turning to a page.--
Looking at other teachers at other tables:
--Hmmmm. Some people are turning but some aren't. Well, I'm going to find page 30 and see what happens.--
What happened was I referred to something on page 30 which caused all of the hesitators to quickly turn to page 30.
Now, here's the point I want to make.
Be careful about providing directions more than once. By doing so you are teaching your students to be indifferent listeners and apathetic responders. The following hypothetical exchange is indicative of what sometimes occurs on the students' end of direction-giving when directions are given more than once.
Somewhat bugged about the lack of immediate response to the sound of the hotel bell:
Hey! The bell means send someone from your team to get materials. Let's go people!
Thinking about what he just heard:
--Oh, okay. I wasn't sure you were serious. I was actually waiting to see if you would tell us again what we were supposed to do.--
Instead of repeating what you had already said, just be patient and allow them to figure out what they are supposed to do. By doing that you'll be creating a climate in which the students are required to: 1) pay attention to what is going on in the room; and 2) show some initiative.
This very subtle transfer of ownership will really pay off as the year progresses and the students learn to pull their own weight. This attitude of active participation will ultimately help to create that happier, more productive classroom every teacher--and student--desires.
Hum that tune
during a seminar break):
To help keep my students from being too loud when we are walking by other classrooms on our way to lunch, I have them hum our school song. The whole time they're humming, they're not talking to each other.
I then shared her comment with the group when we resumed after the break. Although I said that I thought it was a fun idea, another teacher, who works with special education students immediately joined in by saying,
Yeah. They always seem to come by my room when we're in the middle of a short timed math test. We can hear the humming and it kind of distracts my students.
I'm pretty sure she meant this not as a criticism but mere observation. After all, every coin has two sides. One side sees the humming as a harmless way to pass other rooms somewhat quietly; the other one sees it as a bit of an intrusion.
Let's just hope that the humming is taken as the fun-loving, light-hearted thing it is meant to be and not some act of disregard or show of disrespect. I know that if the hummers came by my room, I'd want to step outside and enjoy the passing parade. But, then, I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.
Playing music in your classroom during independent activities can be very beneficial. The only hassle is having to find the right CD to play. Not any more.
A teacher told me about pandora.com. It's a web site that streams music--think radio station without the commercials or commentary--based upon the music you've asked for. That's right. You merely type in the style of music would you like to hear--Bach was the example that the teacher mentioned--and the web site will play it for you. Uninterrupted. Non-stop. For as long as you want.
I tried it myself and it works great. I started out by typing "U2" at the prompt for "what kind of music would like to hear?" After a brief pause, pandora played a U2 cut. It was followed by a song by the Police--harmonically similar--and then a song by Cold Play. A Nirvana track was next and then it was back to U2. Wow.
Give it a try and see what you think. (Right now I'm listening to Electric Blues as I work on this entry. Definitely my kind of music.)
Note: You will need to have a set of speakers connected to your computer--see the suggestion in Chapter 4 of Eight Great Ideas--in order for your students to actually hear the music being played.
Adhesive magnet on clicker
I was talking with a couple of teachers during a break about using the "Attention' clicker. It's actually a dog training device that works great in the classroom.
I then offered the following suggestion: "You know, a teacher told me that she stuck an adhesive magnet on the back side of her clicker so that she could keep it attached to her magnetic white board when she didn't need it."
One of the two teachers immediately responded with:
"That's a great idea! Last year I kept my clicker in my pant's pocket. The problem was that I sometimes ended up taking it home with me. The magnet idea will eliminate that nuisance once and for all."
The Price is Right theme song
I was demonstrating the use of TV theme songs for initiating procedures when I played the theme song for The Price is Right.
When I was still in the classroom, I had a set of large name cards made of tag board. They were each about 12 X 4 and had a student's first and last name printed on one side in large letters.
As the music began, I'd start to shuffle the cards. (Honestly, it's hard not to imagine Bob Barker about to call out some contestant's name followed by, "Come on down!") At some point in the song I would stop shuffling and hold up one card so that everyone could see the name. I then did my best Bob Barker impersonation by shouting out, "Lauren Seymour...come on down!" What followed, of course, was some wild cheering from the class and an exuberant Lauren heading to the front of the class to help out. Great fun.
Anyway, I played the music for the teachers and got a somewhat mild response from the teacher whose name I called. I'm guessing that the reserve she displayed was the result of not realizing it was okay to cut loose a bit. What was fun to witness, though, was a teacher in the back of the room who really got into it. She waved her arms in the air and acted just like the contestants do on the actual show. It was a kick to see and a reminder of how much enjoyment I got from bringing fun into the classroom.
So, thanks, Maria. Your reaction was just what I had hoped to see.
Name, number, date?
For years I've explained how I use a simple hotel bell as a signal to my students that I need to pass out materials.
Here's the procedure:
I ring the bell one time.
Each student team sends up a representative to request materials.
The representative returns and disseminates the materials.
Each student writes his name, number, and the date on his paper.
Everyone puts down his pencil and directs his attention to me.
However, when I was working with a sweet group of teachers in Hanford, I ran into a problem. I rang the bell and the procedure described above proceeded smoothly. I then began to demonstrate how to fill out the card when a teacher asked, "I thought we were supposed to write our names on the materials as soon as we received them. Now you're showing us something different. What's up?"
What's up is that I'm going to change a long-standing procedure. Now, instead of asking students to automatically write name, number, and date, I'm going to eliminate that step. One advantage is that I will more quickly be able to gain their attention after they've received their materials. They'll just put 'em down and look at me. Another advantage is the freedom to pass out materials without any fear that they're going to immediately write all over them. (Imagine you passed out a study guide you wanted to collect and reuse later. You sure don't want anything written on them, do you?)
And if I do want them to write name, number, and date, I'll just play the N-B-C song we use to indicate that. (See Chapter 4 of the book, Eight Great Ideas. It's called How to Use Music for Student Management and describes how effective TV theme songs can be for initiating procedures.)