Monday, November 11, 2013

Muting myself: A study in silent teaching

I've been frustrated with the lack of focus and attention in my Math 9 class recently.  About a third of the students have diagnosed ADHD, and it's wreaking havoc on our productivity.  I mostly try to not spend much time with a teacher directed class, but there are some things that I still need to get across.  For example, sometimes I need to give directions for an investigation or facilitate summarizing our findings as a class.

Silencing Myself
A lot of students have been talking while I'm talking or will talk over each other.  So, today I thought it might be interesting to try to lead a discussion about the warm up during which I would not speak.  I knew that they had discussed their solutions and come to consensus on most of the problems at tables.  So, I pulled out a name stick and called on (by pointing at them) a student to answer the first question.
Our warm up was a review of quadrilateral classification and labeling. 
Then I asked (written on the board) "what is the most specific shape name for each figure?"  Again, I pointed to students after I pulled their name sticks.  I'm realizing that I shouldn't use the random method for calling on students unless I give students a chance to think or discuss at their tables first as it puts some students uncomfortably on the spot. 

Facilitated Debate on the Board
We ended up having some good debate about the third problem.  Some said it was a rhombus b/c the sides looked congruent.  But others argued that we couldn't make that jump since they weren't labeled.  Others forgot what the arrows meant.  I facilitated this whole discussion without speaking.  I wrote what students shared on the board, and kept pointing to more students to join the conversation.  When I thought we had come to consensus, I asked for a thumbs up or down and waited for every student. 

I even had them work through their investigation without speaking.  I wrote directions on the board and pointed to a student to read them.

Overall, they were much less off-task.  I think that for students with attention issues, having fewer stimuli (not hearing my voice as well as seeing my writing) helped them to focus their attention. 

At the end of class I asked them to write me a sentence or two about how they thought it went.  Some of them didn't like that they were teaching each other (but I love that, honestly!).  Some appreciated the organization.  Some thought it helped them to "solve our own problems."  One said "everyone was quieter and more productive."  Another said "I wish we had spoken directions." 
 "At first I didn't like it, but I think should it again because I had to stay engaged to know what was going on.  We were also quieter, which was nice."

Overall, it was a good experiment, and a good technique to have in my back pocket!

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