Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Talk Less, Say More

""Whah, wha, whaaa, wha whaa."

That's teachers sound like when we talk too much to our students.  If you have ever watched a Charlie Brown cartoon, you know the voice all the adults have when they talk.  Yep, that's what kids hear.

Sometimes I catch myself blathering on about bad behavior or how to solve a math problem and I look out at a sea of blank faces.  Or worse the tops of heads as they bend over to chew on their shoe laces.  I don't know why shoe laces taste so good to 7 years olds, but they do.  They taste twice as good when the teacher is talking too much.

So over the years I have adapted a few simple, easy fixes to Mr. A's diarrhea of the mouth.  Here they are in no particular order.  If you have any great ideas, please share them in the comments!

1) Don't talk so damn much.

Think through what you are going to say, reduce it to a short simple sentence. Instead of "I wish you kids would sit down and pay attention!  If you don't ...blah, blah, blah!"  Try, "Sit down and look at this word."  Say what to do.  Wait for it to happen.  When we go on and on, kids get bored and stop listening.  Who wouldn't.

2) Use non-verbals.

Never speak when a non-verbal will do.  Don't tell a kid to sit down, point at the chair until they do sit down. Instead of saying raise your hand, actually raise your hand when you want the students to raise their hand.  Point where you want them to look.  Use sign language.  Anything you can do to reduce the number of words you are using a day will make your job easier, help kids to meet expectations, and students will listen more when you do talk.  Here is link to several more gems of non-verbal classroom management. These are a goldmine people.  One of the best teacher trainings I ever attended. ENVoY.

3) Say things once.

I learned during my Shakespeare class in college, that the bard would often say the same thing three times- once nice flowery, once more simply and then just come out and say it in plain words.  That way every audience member would get the point.  (Even if they were undereducated.)   In the classroom, if you say things more than once, they students learn they don't need to listen the first time, because you will say it over and over.  Give your directions once, and expect kids to listen.  Better yet write it on the board.  (See Visual Exit Directions in the link above.)  Once you have state what you want done, say "go".  If someone comes up and asks you what to do, say, "Ask a friend who was listening."  or better yet, point to your directions on the board.  

4) Use interesting words.

I teach mostly Spanish speaking kids.  About half of the English speakers have pretty low vocabularies too. Kids tune in to novelty.  "Today I want you all to read ridiculously well!"  "Mr. A, what does ridiculously mean?"  BOOM, I have them hooked.  And they learned a new word.  Double bonus!

Please feel free to leave you best tip or idea in the comments.  I am always on the look out for new tools for my classroom tool box!

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