1. Scan the room constantly. Make sure you are catching those kids who are not on task. Do not correct the behavior publicly. Be sure to have your biggest challenges up front by you. You can correct discreetly by giving them a wink or slipping their name into your instruction. Sometimes I snap my fingers twice really softly but I do not look at the child until about three seconds later so nobody knows who I am referring to. That way, by not publicly humiliating the child you are showing respect, and usually they will give you respect in return. I let all my kids know from day one that when I look at them, I expect them to correct the behavior without having to stop my instruction. If I do have to stop, I explain to them why I looked at them and gave them a wink and what I expect them to do next time.
2. Engage your learners with movement. This happens in my classroom often. I use it for new vocabulary words, processes that requires multiple steps, and signals. My students are always moving their bodies, and this allows me to keep them engaged for a longer period of time.
3. Engage the learners who have a hard time with questions that hold them accountable. I know who these kids are and I know they need to be held accountable during whole group instruction. When I want them to understand a concept, I will look directly at them and make them repeat what I said or answer a question. It is difficult at the beginning of the year, because they are not used to the accountability, but this quickly changes with time. If they get confused I give them time to think and the class will encourage them by giving them tips. If they still can not answer the question, I will call on someone else. After the 2nd student answers I will go back to the 1st student I called on and have he/she restate what the 2nd student said using eye contact and the phrase, “What you stated was…” or “I heard you say…” This creates a supportive environment where students are not afraid to make mistakes and everyone knows the expectation for active listening.
4. Partner share. And don’t just say “Share with your partner.” I have a very precise method when it comes to partner sharing. I always make sure each partner shares and listens. I will let my kids know who speaks first. This way, both partners are held accountable and not one partner dominates the conversation. They could be asked to list something and share back and fourth amongst each other. I use another strategy where one partner is speaking and one listens for a given amount of time, and then I have the partner switch between the listener and the speaker for the second part. I will allow the kids time to restate what the other said. When they are done I will call on students to tell me what their partner said because listening is an advanced skill that is equally important as speaking.
Here are my Accountable Talk Posters on display in the classroom. They are posted right in the front so my students and I can make reference to them throughout the day.
5. I ask my kids if they “get it.” This can be the hardest thing, because as teachers, we want to move on. But what if there is something you can help them to understand right in that moment? What if there is just one piece missing in the puzzle? Or what if there is something they are not getting from the delivery of your instruction? For me, the students that “get it” are to go work on their independent/partner practice. The students that stay up at the carpet will work with me until they have a better understanding of the subject matter. This way, you are not playing a guessing game and wasting time hopping around the room around to help one student at a time.
I use these Free Scales for Learning Posters in my classroom. I love them, because they are adaptable to any standard.
6. Scaffold the guided practice so the difficulty increases with each question. That way, you do not have to make a guided practice for each leveled group, determine who is in each group, and pass out a guided practice to several different groups. My higher students will fly through the first problems, but I am able to pinpoint exactly where he/she starts to struggle. The best part is that each student should be able to do the first problem. This way, all students are all doing the same thing, and there are no publicly differentiated groups.
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