We’re thinking about ways to reduce our talking in the classroom. See previous articles in the series here.
During classroom discussions there are two tics that I have:
- Saying it louder.
Both are bad because they increase dependency on me, and they decrease student responsibility.
For some reason, it’s incredibly tempting to re-word student contributions. Even if the student’s idea was crystal clear, I automatically re-state it for the class.
This teaches the class to ignore their peers, since Mr. Byrd will just explain the good ideas. Plus, it seems like I’m co-opting everyones’ thoughts!
Instead, just say “thanks” or “great” or some other friendly acknowledgement after a student contributes.
Or, if you think their ideas is unclear, just ask them to clarify: “Oh, I think I see, but could you restate that in a different way.”
Another technique – ask other students to restate the idea. This keeps the whole class on their toes, and keeps the discussion a group activity.
Worried that your students will think your sudden lack of repeating means they did something wrong? Just tell them up front:
“I’ve noticed that I always re-state what you guys say. That’s kinda weird, right? From now on, I’m just going to say ‘thanks.’ It doesn’t mean you’re wrong (or right), it’s just something I’m working on.”
2. Saying It Louder
Related to #1, we often just repeat a student’s contribution at a louder volume. This is fine if you’re in a huge auditorium and you have the mic, but in a classroom? This creates an odd dependency, doesn’t it? Plus, it enables students to mumble or speak softly.
Just ask the student to repeat themselves, but louder! Be nice about it, of course:
Oh, sorry! I couldn’t hear. Can you repeat?
If a student is consistently quiet, ask them to stand up, or use a rolled up paper megaphone, or literally tell them to shout. Anything’s better than you being their mouthpiece.
My master teacher even had a microphone she would pass around for truly quiet kids. This is easier than ever with bluetooth speakers.
Another technique: ask a far away student if they agree/disagree with the quiet student. They’ll probably say “I couldn’t hear.” What a great opportunity for the student to ask a peer to repeat! Actual discussion!
Carl: “[mumble]” You: “Sandra, what do you think about what Carl said?” Sandra: “Huh? Um. I… uh, I didn’t hear him.” You: “Oh okay. Maybe ask him to repeat himself.” Sandra: “Uh. Could you repeat that Carl?”
I love it! This kills like ten birds with one stone. Imagine a classroom culture where students are actually listening to each other’s responses, ready to respond!
Be Aware Of Your Words
Too much teacher talk leads to passive and dependent kids. It increases your work load, and it certainly doesn’t prepare students for their futures.
If you’re brave, record yourself for a period and take a listen. I guarantee you’ll see (hear?) massive improvements if you take this route.