“What is going on here?” I looked up from my reading group and three kids are at the pencil sharpener, two are pretending to pick out a book at the classroom library and five are sleeping. How can I teach in this crazy environment?
If you have been teaching for more than a week, you know the feeling. When the children are bored, unmotivated, or it’s a full moon, they cannot focus on doing their work, and I cannot teach. It is time for an intervention! There are several things you can do, scream at them, run out the door, turn off the lights, but none of these things work. So what can you do?
1. Take A Deep Breath
The first thing to do is take a deep breath. I know when I see chaos, it makes me stress and have a panic attack and my first reaction is to scream at the children. But this does not help, and besides, it only makes them ask, “What did I do?” Since this will also send me over the edge, I try not to scream, but that requires effort, and a calm mind, so take a deep breath.
2. Assess The Situation
Next, assess the situation. Are the kids loud, or running around the room? Are they drawing quietly, or sleeping? Are any of them working? Once you have the problems identified, you will know what you are dealing with, and can move onto the next step.
3. Take Action
Now that you have the situation in mind, you have to take action. Usually you have to get all of the kids in their seats and get their attention. Although in the past, I have dropped a heavy book on the floor, this is not the most mature way of getting the class’s attention. A better way is to use a signal, flick the lights, or count down. Whatever method you choose, be consistent throughout the year and train the class to respond to the signal during the first few weeks of school.
4. Refocus the Class
The last thing to do is refocus the class. You can do this many ways, but one method I have used is to take a mini “field trip.” This can be an actual field trip or a brain break. Here are some ideas for your field trips:
• Walk around campus collecting things for your science corner
• Walk around campus practicing walking in a line, something my elementary students always need.
• Brain pop video on the current reading skill
• 5 minute science or social studies video about the current topic
• Impromptu spelling bee or multiplication game
• Color a mandala
• Switch to Centers
If all else fails, and the class cannot get refocused, there may be only one solution.
“Heads down for five minutes!”
I time them on my phone tell them they cannot pick their heads up for five minutes. I refocus and we do a fun activity right afterwards, if they can get it together.
The main thing is to not lose your cool. If the kids are out of control and you also lose control, they have won and no one is in charge of the class anymore. Then, running down the hall starts looking like a pretty good option.
So now that you know what I do, please send me ideas that have helped you maintain your sanity when the kids are bouncing off the walls.
Image courtesy of num_skyman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net