(This was originally posted 9/10/2009)
Today was the third day of classes. This is the day that classroom management starts to kick into gear. This is the day we start with the signal. The first few weeks of class are designed with several purposes in mind:
- Interact with the students so that I can get to know them better as people and as students.
- Interact with the students in the target language so that they can acclimate to my voice and delivery of the language.
- Create a set of classroom routines that will make the entire year go more smoothly.
- Model a number of behaviors so that the students will understand my expectations and begin to use those behaviors in class
- Have students interact with each other in a variety of situations and activities so that they begin to be comfortable together as a group.
- Incorporate as much of the target language into all of the above as possible!!!!!
The signal helps me with so many things, I cannot remember teaching without it! The signal is basically an attention-getting device. I use the term “signal” which I learned as part of a Madelaine Hunter training over 25 years ago!! Elementary teachers, camp counselors, coaches, and scout troup leaders all use signals with their groups. The key to a really effective signal is to make it interactive.
I start by teaching my students that when I (fake) sneeze that they need to say “Salud” AND THEN stop what they are doing and turn to face me in silence because I have something important to say. We practice once and then I make sure that we use the signal several times that period.
It seems so simple. You would be surprised how many students don’t get it at first. High school students live in their own little bubbles of reality. Sometimes it is hard to penetrate that bubble! An entire class of 30 students can be sitting quietly, watching me, waiting for one student to realize that he/she is the only student talking (loudly!) in the room. Even the friends he/she is talking to are ignoring him/her and looking at me and STILL the student remains oblivious.
The reality is that this particular group of students is not yet “tuned in” to my voice. After a week, they are usually very responsive, but it takes the human brain some time to learn to connect with certain sounds, pitches and tones. Developmentally I believe that adolescents are programmed to TUNE OUT ADULT VOICES. I often think of the classic example of the voice of the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies. No matter what is being said, all that the kids hear is WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH.
Using a signal to get students’ attention allows me to provide my students with a) a way to control sound and activity in the classroom b) interesting and useful phrases in the target language and c) extra opportunities to get “tuned in” to my voice.
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