Students frequently engage in energetic chatter within the classroom; however, that chatter is often idle. A wise teacher will channel student energy and dialogue in meaningful ways. Authors Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey suggest the following to create a classroom that is “driven by discussion, rather than distraction” (Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2014). Speaking Volumes. Educational Leadership, 72(3), 18-23):
- Offer meaningful and complex tasks. Students need clarity regarding the task itself and why it is important as it relates to overall learning goals. If students understand these matters, they are more likely to remain on task.
- Model behavioral clues. Nonverbal communication is a valuable part of the communication process. Gestures, body position, eye contact, and nodding invite and foster communication.
- Encourage argumentation, not arguing. Teach students to provide evidence to support and justify their claims. Teach students to question in ways that offer disagreement without being disagreeable. Hold all students accountable for what they bring into the discussion.
- Provide language support. Students often have ideas and struggle to express them. Providing sentence frames, word walls, audio devices, and/or peer support can help.
- Listen, question, prompt, and cue. Thoughtful monitoring provides students with feedback and opportunities for future growth.
Carefully consider these elements as you plan for student dialogue in your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!
Children who live in chronic states of stress and trauma often have difficulty coping. In many instances, they respond by creating chaos, because they are trying to control their environment. By creating a disruption, the students are moving their attention away from what is causing them stress and focusing their attention on something external.
In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall identify several measures that teachers can take in the classroom to help minimize the disruptions created by students acting out (p.63-64):
- Prepare students for the beginning of the class or activity. Develop and maintain a consistent, structured routine.
- Support learning for the students who create disruptions. If you have identified a student or two who create chaos, make their desks the first stop in your trip around the room and provide feedback. Circulate back to these students frequently.
- Provide training and support in peer tutoring and cooperative learning. Help students help themselves by creating a classroom network of support.
- Involve disruptive students in the operation of the classroom. Provide an assigned role every day to help these students feel involved.
Have a plan, avoid power struggles, and know your students. Build strong, positive relationships. In so doing, you can help reduce stress, and create a safe environment for yourself and your students.