Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Getting Their Attention

Confession:  I'm no longer a substitute but still get many an email about what I did in different circumstances whilst substitute teaching (I try really hard to respond to each and every email I get - but please keep in mind that I do have full time employment that I often bring home with me so if I happen to forget or put something off for a week or two... a thousand apologies).


My most recent email question was about getting student attention.
My recommendation for substitute teaching would be to never go in and try to change up what the students regular teacher has been doing with them already.  If the teacher doesn't tell you in the plan what he/she does to get students to quiet down then (from my experience at least) a student is often willing to offer up that information.  If your head is pounding because of a too noisy class I'm willing to bet that another person in the room is suffering right along with you.  So don't be afraid to ask.

In my substitute teaching experience I've seen everything from turning out the lights, humming, chanting, bells, singing, whistling, chanting and wind chimes. 

While I was traveling and working with middle school girls I learned something called "silent llama".  I didn't think this silent llama existed in my province but then low and behold the other week I heard one of my students talking about it.  Where they learnt it I don't know (it wasn't from me).  Why am I telling you about the silent llama?  Because I think it is something that you could implement even if you are only there for a morning. 

It's that simple.

At the beginning of the day when you are introducing yourself you could tell the students what you are going to do to get their attention and when they see (or hear) you do the silent llama you expect them to respond with the same symbol. 

HOPEFULLY they will be happy to learn a cool new hand sign.
and without further ado here is the hand symbol
Please excuse the blurry photo and the nail polish that needs to come off.

You could say the words "silent llama" and then do the hand sign and wait for them  to all do it back to you.  Then continue on with your lovely little lesson.

In my grade 4 class I do "sh sh shshsh".. okay, it's really hard to type what I do but I basically shush them.  They are to repeat the same pattern that I shush them in back to me and I would say 85% of the time it works.  It is actually amazing how well it works. 

Of course sometimes the class is just too loud and no one would hear my shush them (or hear the one person repeat it back that did hear me) and so then I will turn off the lights until it gets quiet and then turn them back on.  Luckily, I don't have any windows in my grade 4 classroom that get natural light through them so the classroom gets quite dark.

Other things that I've used?

-  I've dropped a heavy textbook on the floor (on purpose) once to demonstrate gravity at the beginning of my lesson when the class was still chatty.  They all got quiet right away.
-  I've told them all to hold their breath.  No one has passed out yet.  I don't actually love this but it was recommended to me by another teacher so I've tried it a few times.
-  I've flicked the lights.  Another one I don't love but my faculty advisor wanted me to do this so I did.
-  With my grade 8's I call them out by their name - I'll be in the middle of saying something and just say their name... I obviously do not shush them.

Was there anything I missed?  
What else have you seen done or do you do to get student attention?
Are you going to try the "silent llama"?

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