Blog
Vipul Kaul
Craft Teacher

15 Creative & Respectful Ways To Quiet A Class

Have you fallen into the trap of saying “No talking!” or “I need quiet!” all day long? It’s exhausting to keep repeating your requests for silence, and after the hundredth time, kids just tune you out, anyway. There have been some great discussions about how to get students to quiet down on my Facebook page, and I want to share what’s worked for those teachers as well as what I’ve tried in my own classroom. Contributors’ names are written in parentheses where applicable. 1. Sing a song. For the youngest students, use finger plays like the Itsy Bitsy Spider and Open, Shut Them. Students of any age will respond to simple tunes and call-backs, such as “Dadadadadada…Da da!” and “Bum, bada bum bum…Bum, bum!”  Since Scott R. loves sports, he starts singing the ESPN tune and has the kids finish it. Bianca G.  sings the Wada Wada Bing Bang song with her class, and says, “If they are singing they can’t be talking. The goal is not to sing it more than once.” 2. Play a song. If you’re not comfortable singing with your class, try playing music on your computer or CD player. You can use kids’ songs, popular music, classical or jazz songs you want to expose the kids to, songs related to your unit of study, etc. I like to use clips of shorter songs–just thirty to sixty seconds. Use the same song daily for several weeks, and teach kids that when the music stops, instruction begins. 3. Use a special sound. Bethany M. uses a zen chimewith a long sustain. She told her students to listen quietly to the chime and raise their hands when it stopped ringing. It became like a game: “The students would strain to hear it–no one wanted to be the first to raise their hand. Within two seconds, it was so silent you could have heard a pin drop.” Here are some other ideas for sound signals: (Note: all links go to Amazon so you can see a wide variety of instruments and choose the one you like best. These are affiliate links, which mean I get a percentage of each sale at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support.) bells wind chimes buddha bowls tingshas triangles rattles rainsticks harmonicas train whistles 4. Clap out a rhythm. Leigh E. says, “I will walk over near a few students and in a calm, normal-volume voice say, ‘Clap twice if you can hear me.’ The few students will clap. Then, I repeat it again. Now, more students are quiet and listening. I will calmly repeat (changing the number of claps) until I have the attention of the entire room. Typically, this will quiet a classroom within 20 seconds, and an auditorium or cafeteria of hundreds of students in less than a minute. I have been using this for years, and it still works!” 5. Get kids moving. Call-and-responses that include some kind of physical movement are especially effective. Marina T. uses this one: “Drop it [they have to actually drop what’s in their hands], Zip it [mouths are closed], Lock it [all eyes are locked on the teacher.] Then we all clap once together.” Stephanie W. uses this: “Take a seat, take a seat…Take a load off your feet, whoop whoop [raise arms on the whoop whoop].” Another idea is to play a Simon Says-like game: “If you can hear me, put your hands on your head” and so on with different directions to get kids moving. 6. Do a countdown. For example, you could say, “When I get to zero, I need you the room to be completely quiet. 10, 9, 8…” When time is up, move on to the next activity just like you said you’d do, and let stragglers catch up without acknowledging them except to help as needed. If you’re consistent with this, students will learn you mean what you say and they have to keep pace! Diana S. trained her third graders in what she calls the Five Finger Technique: “Any time I held my hand in the air, any child who saw it started counting to 5, and by the time we got there everyone should have stopped, faced me, closed their mouths and opened their ears.” Since she taught on a reservation, sometimes she did the countdown in her students’ native language, as well. 7. Try a hand signal.  Jenni S. shares this tip she uses with her eighth grade class: “I say, ‘Teaching in 5, teaching in 4, teaching in 3,’ all the way down to 1. We rehearse this in the beginning of the year. I hold up my hand and use my fingers as I talk. By the middle of the year, I don’t even say it anymore, I just put my hand up and the kids quiet down by 1.” 8. Use sign language. I like to teach students the signs for quiet, stand up, sit down, line up, and other basic directions. It’s much gentler (and less exhausting) to show a sign all day long than to keep repeating yourself! When you want quiet, simply show the sign for quiet and have students mimic it back. 9. Fill the room with quiet sprinkles. This is a great one for the PreK-2 set, especially if you have a dramatic flair. Decorate a small container with glitter and sparkles and label it “Quiet Sprinkles.” Tell the class, “When I sprinkle these imaginary sprinkles on your head, you will become quiet and freeze, just like magic! Watch how it works!” and pretend to sprinkle some on a child’s head. Make a big show of gliding around the room and sweeping the sprinkles over your students. If you use this technique more than once or twice a month, it will lose its effectiveness, but it’s a lot of fun! 10. Try marshmallows and bubbles. Beth O. tells her students to “pop a marshmallow in.” Right after she says the words, she puffs up her cheeks and taps them, and the kids do the same with their own cheeks (which stops them from talking.) She then makes eye contact with individual children as needed and taps one her puffed cheeks as a reminder. Elizabeth D. calls does something similar, but calls it “putting bubbles in your mouth” and says, “Remind students to have bubbles before you leave class and whenever needed! Works amazingly, and they are so cute when they do it!” 11. Get playful. There’s not much time in the average classroom for play, so attention-getters can be a quick and easy way to incorporate some FUN in your classroom!  Elissa S. says, “Sometimes I have a code word. At the moment it’s BANANA BREAD and when students hear it, they grab their ears with the opposite hand crossed in front of them.” Christopher O. uses a microphone and walks around like a talk show host. Lynda P. says, “Avengers, assemble for further instructions!”  Sharris H., who teaches English in a computer lab, says “Jazz hands!” to get students’ hands off keyboards  so she can have their attention. 12. Get sneaky. JulieAnn S. says, “Talk softly to one group of students…the rest will want to hear what you are saying.” Lori S. advises, “Speak in an accent they don’t normally hear. They will all look to see who came in the room.” Barry G.  tells his high schoolers, “Please don’t listen to what I’m about to say because I’ll probably be fired if they find out I said it. It gets concert-hall quiet!” 13. Use a concrete reminder. Tracy C. uses a visual. She tells us, “I have a wand and attached a big check mark at the top (printed from the computer). I trimmed the check mark in red sparkly garland. I teach the kids on the first day of school when I hold the sign up that they are to ‘check in’. Whenever someone is chatty or not paying attention, I hold the sign in the air. The good listeners will inform the student who is breaking the rule by pointing to the sign. I never have to say a thing. The ‘check in” sign has been one of my classroom management tools for years.” Toni L. uses a wind up music box: “I wind it on Monday. Every time the class is noisy, I open it. If there is still music left on Friday, the class earns a treat.” If you don’t like to give tangible rewards to students, make the reward a class dance-off: play a favorite song for 2 or 3 minutes on Friday afternoon right before dismissal and let the kids have some fun! 14. Make it educational. Robert B. teaches math, and tells his students, “Give me a factor of ___” and the kids hold up the correct number of fingers (i.e. “Give me a factor of 36″ and the kids hold up 6 fingers.) 15. Change techniques once a month or quarter to keep things fresh. Anne P. advises, “Practice one attention grabber for two weeks, and praise, praise, praise when students respond as requested. Introduce another grabber once they have mastered the last, making it a treat to learn something new.”   -Originally posted on thecornerstoneforteachers.com by Angela Watson

Syeda Quadri
Teacher

Components Of A Well-written Lesson Plan

Whether you're working on your teaching credential or being reviewed by an administrator, you will often need to write out a lesson plan during your teaching career. Many teachers find lesson plans to be useful tools for organizing the classroom experience, from beginning teachers (who are often required to have detailed lesson plans approved by supervisors) all the way to the most advanced veterans who use them as a way to stay on track and ensure that the learning environment for each lesson is effective and thorough. No matter what your experience level or reason for needing a lesson plan, when the time comes for you to create one, make sure it includes the eight essential components and you'll be on your way to achieving every teacher's goal: measurable student learning. Writing a strong lesson plan will also allow you to easily update lessons for future classes, ensuring that your material remains relevant from year to year without having to completely reinvent the wheel each time.     Objectives and Goals The lesson's objectives must be clearly defined and in line with district and/or state educational standards. The reason for setting objectives and goals is to make sure you know what you're trying to accomplish within the lesson. This helps you determine what the students should take away from the lesson and how you will go about ensuring that they are successful in mastering the material at hand. For example, the goal of a lesson about digestion might be for students to be able to identify the body parts related to the digestion process as well as understand how the food that they eat is turned into energy.   Anticipatory Set Before you dig into the meat of your lesson's instruction, it's important to set the stage for your students by tapping into their prior knowledge and giving the objectives a context. In the anticipatory set section, you outline what you will say and/or present to your students before the direct instruction portion of the lesson begins. This is a great way for you to make sure you're prepared to introduce the material and can do so in a way that your students will relate to easily. For example, in a lesson about the rainforest, you could ask the students to raise their hands and name plants and animals that inhabit the rainforest and then write them on the board.   Direct Instruction When writing your lesson plan, this is the section where you explicitly delineate how you will present the lesson's concepts to your students. Your methods of direct instruction could include reading a book, displaying diagrams, showing real-life examples of the subject matter, or using props. It's important to consider the various learning styles within your class to determine what methods of teaching will best resonate. Sometimes creativity can work well in engaging students and helping them understand the material.    Guided Practice Quite literally, this is the time where you oversee and guide students in practicing what they have learned so far. Under your supervision, the students are given a chance to practice and apply the skills you taught them through direct instruction. For example, students might work together in small groups to solve word problems similar to a word problem you explained during the direct instruction portion of the lesson. Guided practice activities can be defined as either individual or cooperative learning.    Closure In the closure section, outline how you will wrap up the lesson by giving the lesson concepts further meaning for your students. Closure is the time when you finalize the lesson and help students organize the information into meaningful context in their minds. The closure process could include engaging the students in a group conversation about the lesson's key topics or asking individual students to summarize what they have learned.   Independent Practice Through homework assignments or other independent assignments, your students will demonstrate whether they absorbed the lesson's learning goals. Common independent practice tasks include take-home worksheets or at-home group projects. Through independent practice, students have a chance to reinforce skills and synthesize their new knowledge by completing a task on their own and away from the teacher's guidance.   Required Materials and Equipment Mark Romanelli/Getty Images Here, you determine what supplies are required to help your students achieve the stated lesson plan objectives. The required materials section is not presented to students directly, but rather is written for the teacher's own reference and as a checklist before starting the lesson. This is part of your own personal preparation.    Assessment and Follow-Up The lesson doesn't end after your students complete a worksheet. The assessment section is one of the most important parts of any lesson plan. This is where you assess the final outcome of the lesson and to what extent the learning objectives were achieved. In most cases, the assessment will come in the form of a test or quiz, but assessments can also include in-depth class discussions or presentations.

Syeda Quadri
Teacher

Dear Teachers: Don't Make Your Lesson Relevant

When I was getting my teacher training way back in the 1970s, we used to hear a great deal about making our teaching relevant. It took me several years of teaching to figure out why that was terrible advice. And it hasn't ever gone away. It seems to make sense. Connect your lesson on parts of speech to a current popular song. Assign persuasive essays about something the kids are into today. Could we do an essay about the rap? I hear that teens very much like the rap these days. Looks tall to me. But the problem is not teachers who are clueless about what a relevant connection might be. That's correctable (I still want back the hours of my life I spent watching The Hills so that I could follow student discussions). The problem is less obvious than the natural consequences of living on the other side of the generational divide. Nobody says, "Let's think of a way to make mountains tall." And if your spouse says, "I'm looking for ways to make you interesting and appealing," that is not a good sign. Once you look at a lesson and ask, "How am I going to make this material relevant," you have admitted that the material is not actually relevant. If that's true--if the lesson is inherently irrelevant--then you need to ask a bigger question. Why are you teaching it at all? Because it's on the test? Because your boss said you have to? These are lousy reasons to teach anything. More importantly, no amount of stapling on pictures of movie stars will convince your students that you aren't wasting their time, and wasting students' time is one of the unforgivable sins in the teaching biz. Know why you are teaching what you're teaching. Know why the material has value for your students. This is not always obvious, but this is where your expertise in the subject matter is supposed to come in. You're the teacher--you're supposed to know what the connection is between your content material and the business of being fully human in the world. If you don't see a connection, you need to go study and look to find it, or you need to reconsider whether you should be teaching it at all.Those connections don't need to be profound. For instance, I maintain that one of the benefits of being a well-educated person is that you get more jokes. Education makes the world funnier. Some disciplines are about building mental muscles. When I inevitably heard the "when are we ever going to use this" question, my reply was a sports analogy. Our football players always spent the offseason lifting weights, even though no football game in history ever stopped for a bench press competition. The players are never going to use their bench pressing skills, so why bother? Because they would use the muscles that weight lifting built. Literature connects us to the human attempt to make sense of how the world works (a daily activity for students). The questions of history (What happened, how did it happen, why did it happen, and what will happen because of it) are the same questions that students ask about last Saturday's dance. Math and science help us understand how to build and evaluate facts. We all bathe in the arts every single day. And there is plenty more to unpack about what teachers teach in school. And while students may seem caught up in small, petty things, they are deeply busy figuring out how the world works and how to be in it. There's your connection. It is easy to get caught up in the details, to miss the forest as we stare at the bugs on the leaves on the branches on the trees. It is easy to get caught up in figuring out how to get another question on a worksheet and forget to ask why you're assigning the worksheet in the first place. This is why part of the summer work of teaching should be not just stepping back and reconnecting with the material, but reconnecting with life out in the world where students live so that we can better see the connections between the two. "Why are we learning this?" is the question that no teacher should ever be afraid or unable to answer because the answer to that question is the foundation of everything else that happens in the classroom. That's why the answer should always be real and well-considered, not just something we make up. Originally posted at Forbes

Syeda Quadri
Teacher

A Teacher's Final Lesson

If you live in western Pennsylvania, you may already know the story of Ashley Kuzma. If you don't, I'd like to share it with you. Kuzma was born in Beaver County, PA, and graduated from Freedom Area High School in 2005. She attended Pitt where she earned a Bachelor's in History and Poli Sci, and Edinboro University, where she earned a Master's in Education and a teaching certificate. She worked as a long term sub teaching social studies, then later became a gifted support teacher for Lancaster schools, then taught gifted at McDowell Intermediate High School. Teaching was a challenge as she suffered from throat problems that made her increasingly hoarse. A biopsy revealed those problems to be the result of laryngeal cancer. She went through radiation treatments, then a partial laryngectomy. She returned for the final day of school with a feeding tube. Then the cancer came back. In September of 2018, she went into the Cleveland Clinic for a total laryngectomy, plus 30 radiation and 5 chemotherapy treatments. She returned to the classroom, able to speak softly with the aid of a prosthesis held against a permanent opening in her neck. As a young teacher, she did not have nearly enough sick days accumulated to cover her absences, so much of her treatment occurred during unpaid leave. Her story became more widely known when a friend entered her in a Norwegian Cruise Lines contest that offered free cruises for 30 teachers who showed a passion for teaching. Kuzma was one of the winners. Before it was time to leave for the cruise, Kuzma learned that her cancer was back. She traveled to Mexico and Chichen Itza. Her treatment options were limited. On September 22, Ashley Kuzma died at the age of 32. Before she passed away, Kuzma completed one other exceptional act. She wrote her own obituary. Here are some excerpts: When you have recurrent laryngeal cancer that just won't take no for an answer, you have a lot of time to think about death. The good thing is I no longer have to worry about saving for retirement, paying off student loans, or trying not to get skin cancer??? One positive outcome from having recurrent cancer was that it taught me to let go of the insignificant things and to just enjoy the people and places. After three recurrences, my body finally had enough and I passed away on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at the Cleveland Clinic. I am extremely grateful for the life that I lived. I was fortunate to have a loving family, supportive friends, a stable and meaningful job, and a house to call my own. My wish for you is to stop letting insignificant situations stress you out. Do what is important to you. Relax and enjoy the company of those around you. What do you value in your life? In the end, that's what matters. This obituary was written by Ashley preceding her passing as part of the many preparations to make the transition easier on her family. There's not much to add. I am reminded of my old friend Susie who, during her rounds of chemo, would step outside between classes, lean against the building, throw up, and then go back to work. I am reminded of Jim, who kept showing up to teach his classes until the doctors made him stop. There is nothing good to say about people who die young. It's just a reminder that as long as we're alive, we have work to do-- but we won't be alive forever. Don't sweat the insignificant things. Know what matters; let the rest go.

Syeda Quadri
Teacher

Can Rich Content Improve Education?

Modern high-stakes testing really kicked into gear with No Child Left Behind, and then got another huge boost with the advent of Common Core. All through that era, teachers pushed back against the fracturing of reading instruction, the idea that reading is a suite of discrete skills that can be taught independent of any particular content. The pendulum has begun its swing back. Content knowledge is coming back into vogue, and while there are plenty of cognitive science-heavy explanations out there, the basic idea is easy to grasp. If you know a lot about dinosaurs, you have an easier time reading and comprehending a book about dinosaurs. If you are trying to sound out an unfamiliar word on the page, it’s easier if you already know the word by sound. If you learn and store new information by connecting it to information you already have banked, that process is easier if you actually have plenty of information already stored away. Classroom teachers have known this. Some have argued that the Common Core acknowledged this (but did so in the appendix, none of which is tested material). And while much of the education reform crowd joined the “skills” push (one attempted catchphrase of the new SAT created under Common Core creator David Coleman was “skilled it”), some reformers never lost faith in the work of Ed Hirsch, Jr., who has himself stayed committed to the idea through his Core Knowledge Foundation. So if we restore rich content to education and provide students with a wealth of background knowledge, will that revitalize education and fix some of the issues that have plagued us? Or will this, like the great skills revolution at the beginning of the century, turn out to be a terribly misguided idea? Well, both. Hirsch’s 1983 book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know, underlines two of the potential pitfalls of rich content in education. First, consider the subtitle–what every American needs to know. If we had every single American compile a list, what are the odds that any two would match? English teachers especially are familiar with the problems of an ever changing canon. Kate Chopin was once a somewhat obscure U.S. writer; she’s now solidly in the canon. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was beloved, then reviled, then beloved. Someone is always looking to kick Shakespeare out of the canon, even as others will fight for him with their last breath. And somewhere, someone is at this very moment getting ready to correct me on one or all of those last three sentences. Agreeing in what should make the cut is, as all English teachers well know, an endless wrangling debate. Any discussion about loading up rich content knowledge for students will be accompanied by an endless argument about what content will be included–and I do mean endless. This is not to argue that the attempt should not be made–only to point out that if you insist that nothing will do other than your exact list, you will never get it done at all. Not only that, but the list that seemed sort of okay this year will need fixing next year. Second, there is a danger in having a list, particularly if the list is generated by a large committee. A teacher has 180 teaching days, minus days spent testing, minus days spent practice testing, minus days lost to a school assembly, minus days lost to being randomly pulled from class for a conference, minus time lost for procedural things like handing out lockers. A really, really generous estimate of actual teaching days would be 160. So at the rate of one item of critical rich content background knowledge per day, we can hit 160 items. But there is no such thing as “rich” content that will be learned by a student in one day. One of two things may happen. Your list of crucial background knowledge may be radically reduced to, say, thirty items. Or the teacher will spend the year racing through and checking off a list (”Students! Please look at the front screen. That’s a picture of Plato, an old dead smart Greek guy. He wrote some stuff about a cave. Boom! Moving on to our next unit now...”). There’s a further danger that the speedy check-off list approach finds bureaucratic expression in a big standardized test used to judge and compare schools. Such a standardized test would be a bad way to assess the richness of student achievement and education–different from our current bad tests, but still bad, and still incentivizing teaching the test, rather than to the richness of the content (Question 1: Plato is associated with A. a cave B. a boat C. a nation or D. the trombone). Nearly twenty years of test-driven top-down education reform has hollowed out too much of our education system. A rich content focus can reverse some of that damage, particularly by reversing the practice of pulling students out of history and science classes so that they can spend more of their day practicing reading skills (you may think that sounds nuts, but a principal in my old district regularly did it, and he was not an anomaly in the U.S.). Students could read full works of literature instead of excerpts of bad articles. Students could experience the fun and excitement of becoming knowledgeable experts on particular topics. But it would be a mistake not to recognize that a content knowledge movement could be botched in ways that do new, different kinds of damage to the education system of this country. As the pendulum swings back, we need to be careful that it doesn’t become a wrecking ball. Originally posted at Forbes.com