1. Give clear instructions
Often students chatter after instructions if they don’t understand what it is they need to do. Curb this by having 1-3 students repeat back with steps. And don’t forget to choose your command verbs carefully, so that there’s no confusion.
2. Break large tasks into several smaller ones
When students are working on their own, be mindful of how long you’ve allowed for the task. Twenty minutes can be quite long for a group of 11-12 year olds, so after five minutes, check in with the whole group.
Ask them how they’re doing.
Ask them which question they’re on and praise students who are working well.
You can manipulate time by saying ‘do we need another five mins?’ Shorter time intervals are much easier for students to gauge, rather than twenty or thirty minutes (unless it’s an assessment or if they’re older students).
3. Be prepared at the start of the lesson
This might seem obvious, but the way you greet the class and have things laid out sets the tone. A chaotic entry into your classroom, or if you are fumbling to get to another room, can delay learning and students may not take your first activity or two seriously. Have a quick task that they can do immediately – something written or posted on the board, or a small handout waiting on their desks. This will allow you to organise yourself, but also to show them that you’re in control and have a lesson prepared for them.
4. Plan opportunities for students to discuss ideas with each other
We call this Think Pair Share and it’s great to use as you transition from one activity to the next. Planned talk or chat sessions can help refocus students on a task or generate ideas before they start something new.
5. Actively plan for differentiation and extension tasks
Again, this may seem obvious, but we’ve all been caught unprepared by a student finishing early! Plan for students who finish early or have a tendency to dawdle – if students are not challenged they tend to get twitchy or disrupt others around them. Alternatively, if a task seems too difficult or challenging, they will disengage.