By Hannah Trierweiler Hudson
As the weather gets warmer and kids get antsier, head off distraction with these stay-focused tips.
1. Designate an object for speakers to hold.
‘Tis the season for whispering about summer plans and what’s playing at the movie theater. To curb side conversations in class, give whoever’s talking a special object to hold, like a Magic Eight Ball or a hacky sack. If someone else interrupts the speaker, simply ask him or her, “Can you wait until you have the Magic Eight Ball?” Switch up the object every few days, or make it related to the subject you are studying in class.
Tech twist: Place a deck of students’ pictures on an interactive whiteboard. While a student is speaking, pull up the picture of him or her as a reminder that no one else should be talking.
2. Give kids one last schedule.
If you haven’t already shared your plans for the rest of the year, do so now so that students have a clear idea of what is expected of them during these busy couple of months. Include all homework assignments, due dates, and dates of quizzes and exams. Ask students to tell you now if they anticipate any conflict with end-of-the-year events, such as a soccer game or spring concert. Have fun with your calendar-include photographs and little notes like “Almost there” and “Pool party time!”
Tech twist: Make the schedule available online via your school website or Google Calendars. If possible, e-mail it to parents as well.
3. Stay in touch with your colleagues.
Every one of your students’ teachers probably has big plans for the rest of the year. Meet with them to discuss their timelines as well. You probably don’t want to schedule a big math test on the day the English classes are going to a play at a local theater, for example. If you know students have a big assignment due the following day in another class, be considerate with your own homework load, and ask your colleagues to do the same.
Tech twist: Follow up with your colleagues via e-mail. “Just wanted to remind you our Wild West projects are due on Friday. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
4. Be proactive when it comes to students’ shortened attention spans.
Recognize when kids are alert and on task, especially at the beginning of class. “Jamal, thanks for keeping your eyes on me, especially since vacation is only a few days away.” “I really like the active listening I’m seeing right now. Thanks for staying tuned in, everybody.” Don’t hold looming report cards as a threat, but do mention any good news you’ll be sharing. “I’m so glad that I’ll be able to tell your parents how much progress you’ve made in graphing.”
Tech twist: Keep everyone’s names in a word bank on your interactive whiteboard. If you catch students on task, drag their names under a heading that says “Thanks for Your Hard Work Today.”
5. Give listeners a special task.
Often the end of the year brings presentations from fellow students or special guests. But sitting through a lecture can be challenging for kids with summer barbecues on their minds. Try asking listeners to do something specific, such as make a list of three questions about the presentation, or write one thing they learned and one thing the talk made them want to know more about. Don’t forget to do the exercise yourself! Your post-presentation discussions will benefit greatly.
Tech twist: If permissible, invite students to text or instant-message their responses to you.
6. Ask kids for an “exit pass.”
At the beginning of class, give everyone blank index cards. Tell students that in order to leave for the day they must write one vocabulary word from your discussion or classwork and one question they have about the material you are studying. Collect the cards at the end of class. Begin your next session by reviewing some of the vocabulary words students listed, as well as discussing one or two of yesterday’s questions. In the last week of school, extend the exit pass activity by having kids reflect on the entire year.
*try posting exit tickets as blog Comments or an email address