Dreaming of a class that will work in silence the whole time? A class where you can tell them what work needs to get done, and they will just get it done in beautiful peace? Chances are if you are reading this post, that seems impossible with the class you currently have. Sure, I’ve had my share of pretty amazing classes where they would do their work in silence without much intervention on my part. . . But the reality of most classes is that there will always be a few chatterboxes to get the ball rolling, and then that quick spiral out of more students talking, if not dealt with quick enough, the volume is quickly followed . . . And voila there it is, a noisy classroom where learning is probably not happening, those who are still quiet can’t focus, and you’re probably pulling your hair out because bringing them back to silence seems impossible at this point.
Boiling point reaches, it’s gone too far! You know you shouldn’t yell, but out of pure desperation you do. . . And it most likely works to silence the students if you are blessed with a loud enough voice. Otherwise, you’re left trying all the tricks you can think of to get their attention. Whichever way works for you, both will neither solve the solution in the long term. Whether the angry and scary yells shocks them into silence or your special rhythmic claps helps get them back in line, I guarantee you will be doing the same monkey dance again within minutes.
There are a few ways to fix this issue, but one strategy that has worked well in most classes is first using a traffic light poster as a visual to set noise expectations. Then pair a motive/consequence strategy to reinforce it.
I’ve provided a free download for the traffic light poster as in the image shown below. Simply print off in color, cut the arrow out separately to the traffic lights, paste the traffic lights onto some black cardboard, laminate both and find a place in the classroom to hang it (somewhere that can be easily seen by all students). Keep the arrow handy with some blue tack behind it. The arrow is to visually show which light you are expecting your students to follow.
Next, set up the reward/consequence part to go with the traffic light expectations. An easy strategy that I have found to work well is the promise of a game at the end of the lesson. To implement this, Write on the board in big block letters the word ‘GAME.' Every time the class breaks the traffic light expectation, erase a letter. Remind them of your expectations by visually pointing to the arrow on the traffic light. If all of the letters of GAME disappear, there will be no game at the end of the lesson. It is important to enable the class to earn the letters back. If all of the letters disappear before the end of the lesson and there is no chance to earn them back, the class most likely will get noisy again.
For individual student disruptions, implement your behavior management strategy system for the individual. As a suggestion, you can give strikes to miss out on the game if it is just a particular student ignoring the traffic light expectations. I don’t believe it to be fair to punish the rest of the class if it is only one or two individuals that I catch breaking the traffic light rules.
I hope this strategy helps with noise control in your classroom.
The Think/Pair/Share strategy is a great strategy to use for differentiation because it provides time and structure for thinking on a given topic. This strategy can be used for a wide variety of classroom activities, such as: brainstorming, topic development, discussions/debates, concept reviews, etc.
It's obvious in the classroom when there are the same students always raising their hands to chime in a discussion, while the rest don't bother or are disengaged. This disengagement is usually because most students need more time to think and so they either don't bother or haven't had the chance to process their thoughts by the time the quicker participators have stolen the spotlight . . . yet again! This is where the Think/Pair/Share strategy works really well, because it gives all students a chance to think about it, then discuss it with a partner (so they are heard by at least one other person), and then gives even the 'slower' students a chance to confidently participate in the sharing component with the rest of the class.
Timing with this strategy depends on the topic and your class. Give your students ample time to think and discuss with a partner, but not too much that they will be tempted to begin talking about other things. Listening in on the conversations helps determine whether its time to wrap it up or keep it going for longer than intended.
Below you will see an example of how I have implemented this strategy in the classroom for Decimals are Everywhere!
Lesson: Decimals are Everywhere!
In this lesson, my aim was to get students thinking about making real life connections with decimals. To implement the Think/Pair/Share strategy I carried out the following steps:
1. First, I explain to students that I want them to think about i.e. where do you see or use decimals in every day life?
2. Then I explain/or refresh students memories about what happens in Think/Pair/Share. They must first think independently about some examples of where they have seen decimals. I usually set a timer on for 'thinking time'. In this example I gave students 1 minute only to think before turning to their partner. (Depending on the topic, I adjust how much time I give students to do this. It's usually best to be flexible in this area to suit your own students and time available.)
3. After thinking time is up, students are instructed to turn to the person sitting next to them to discuss their ideas and examples with each other. In this example, they were given 2 minutes for 'pair' time (I try to not spend too long on pair time to prevent students beginning to chat off topic).
4. Then, students share the everyday examples they thought of with the rest of the class. I write the examples given by the students on the board.
5. At the end, I show any examples I had listed before the lesson and ask students to check if we need to add any of these to our class discussion list.
Below is an awesome photo I found on the Internet that would be great for some discussion about the importance of the decimal point that we may see in our day to day lives.
You could extend the lesson (or set a homework task) by instructing students to search for actual photo examples of 'decimals are everywhere' and get them to make a collage of their own (on the computer or paper depending on what resources are available).
You may like some of the Decimal Products available in my TPT Shop to add to your math program:
Click on the covers to be directed to the product for download.
The Decimals Math Mystery: Case of The Disappearing Donuts is also available in Grade 4 and 6 versions covering different decimal skills and level of difficulties.
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a popular trend to differentiating instruction in the classroom. It is meant to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways, and must be student-centered and student-driven.
Some strategies and tips for implementing PBL:
Mixed groups are important, however sometimes it may be beneficial for students to be grouped by ability level to enable them to work together at the same level of difficulty. In the math projects that I designed, you could encourage students teamed together to take on more challenging choices throughout the project to make it more difficult.
REFLECTION & GOAL SETTING
Students must reflect on their learning and continue to set goals. I structure my math projects to have tasks and levels that they must complete in order to progress to the next level. Completing a level reminds students to reflect on how they went during that level, whilst also giving them a sense of accomplishment. Students continue to set goals to achieve more levels to reach the end of the project. In my math projects, like My Theme Café and My Winter Wonderland, students could also set goals to make a sizable profit.
Students are able to tune with their learning when they are able to truly take ownership of it. This is why, when I designed my math projects, they all begin with “MY” . . . because that is exactly what they will be doing, creating their own café, pet hotel, Winter Wonderland, Spooky Store or Easter Factory!
Giving lots of opportunity for students to make their own choices is important with Project-Based Learning, this empowers students and increases motivation. While I have structured my math projects to have a variety of math, written work and artistic design . . . students are prompted frequently to make their own choices throughout all of my projects. Students will find in my math projects that choices they make earlier in the project will impact what happens later on in the project.
Assessment for PBL could be a mix of observation notes, written reflection statements, students presenting their project to the class with a discussion that answers a variety of key questions you may wish to address. For my math project: My Theme Café, I have designed a comprehensive rubric that I used recently to mark it (if you would like to use please contact me via email@example.com and I will send the rubric for FREE!)
MIX IT UP
PBL doesn’t always have to be in groups, it is just as important to balance it out solo. This is important because some students perform better in groups, while some perform better working individually. As with all of my own designed math projects, they can be used either in groups or completed individually.
I would love to hear any PBL strategies that you have used in your classroom. Please feel free to comment or email me with your experiences.
For more information on the math projects that I designed, please visit the links below to find out more. They each vary in length, difficulty and skills. You can purchase them individually through my TPT store, or there is a math projects bundle that offers a big discount to purchase them all! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like some help with these.
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.