SAVE YOUR VOICE, YOU HAVE A CHOICE!!! by Ridhika Shah

by Ridhika Shah (Speech Therapist at The Gateway School Of Mumbai)
Stage 1- Before you enter class-
Anywhere in the world, every time you reach the doorstep of your classroom, more often than not, you will see complete chaos. You will hear the chatter and screeches of overjoyed and carefree students. You’ll see colorful blurs of moving mouths, hands and feet. You’ll feel an electric air of excitement (obviously, short lived for the students).
Stage 2- When you enter class-
And then, as soon as you make your grand entry- tatadadada- either the mayhem continues to reign or you’ll hear hushed whispers and children urging each other to look and listen to the unwelcome visitor (you!) who has joined the fray.
Stage 3- The minute you start your class-
Well, you begin your class expecting every child to focus, attend and listen to you, however their minds are still racing and attention is still wavering. You’ll see some heads turning, some glances being exchanged and unfinished work continuing.
At this point as a teacher you have a few choices-

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a) You will muster all your strength and use your strongest voice to get their attention or
b) You’ll just begin your class hoping that they all piggyback with you on this classroom adventure.
Stage 4- In the middle of your lesson -

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Unfortunately you drone on, show your presentation or do your worksheets and activities hoping against hope that all your students are attending to you and listening. Some universal observations that teachers will put down for this stage of the life cycle-
1. I see a child looking out of the window
2. I see notes/glances being exchanged
3. I see a child nodding at every word I say - Oh finally a good observation, or is it?!?
4. I ask a question and see two unsure hands drifting upwards
And this cycle continues :(

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So now you ask yourself, did I manage to get their attention when I started class, were they listening while I was speaking, did they take anything back from my class. You sigh in uncertainty and begin planning and praying for the next class.
But are you going rest in peace until you answer these 2 ‘Big Questions…’?
Big question 1: How do I get their attention, at the beginning of the class or in the middle of a presentation on volcanoes?
Big question 2: Are they even listening? What can I do to ensure that they are listening?
I’m going to try and answer Big question 1 and leave Big question 2 for the next blog, or I promise you, I might lose out on your attention too, and that my friend would defeat the purpose of this blog.
So in my quest to figure out sure shot ways to grab our children’s attention and have a rockstar class I came across an interesting philosophy- ‘Pattern interrupt’- and with experience I can tell you, it works every time!

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It’s the same principal used by journalists selling us hot news through juicy headlines and salesmen and marketers selling us products we don’t need.
So let’s unscramble this a little more, so that we can put this in context of our classes.
In our day to day life, imagine those sudden pop ups while we use the internet or those glaring billboards which scream headlines or random jingles from commercials which continue to haunt us. Even consider a simple handshake when we meet a new person. All these force us to channelize all our attention and focus only on them, foregoing our earlier behavior pattern.

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The term ‘Pattern interrupt’ was coined by hypnotherapist Milton Erikson. It’s when you present an unexpected stimulus and break a person's pattern or behavior by causing a momentary state of confusion. “This confusion state can make us open to suggestion… because we are subconsciously willing to trade our uncomfortable state for another’s clarity.” –NLP Mentor.
Now lets think about stage 2 or 3 when you enter class or start a lesson and suddenly start a clap routine or break into a wiggle or shake dance. Or maybe during stage 4 when your children are losing attention while showing them a presentation on volcanoes and suddenly out pops a picture of your cute little dog doing something funny. BAM!! You just got all their attention back to your presentation. It’s only about using the element of surprise to help your children refocus all their attention back to you. In that state of surprise and confusion, you as a teacher provide clarity and instruction to hook and pull them back into your lesson. It’s easier to use with a group instead of an individual as it works like a domino effect and once you get one child’s attention, the others follow.
Without the technical jargon, let’s just call it attention grabbers- and you can use different ones for different ages- and they are also very simple to create. Here are a few to get you started-
Teacher says: “All on board —>Students say: “Aye aye captain” (Kids salute)
Teacher says: “Ready to rock —> Students say: “Ready to roll!” (Kids fist pump)
Teacher says: Give me 5 (Countdown from 5 to 1) 5 being very loud to 1 being a whisper.
The good old clap routine- Clap in different patterns.
Whisper words- Works superbly and the kids in front will listen and others will follow.
Secret word- Choose a secret word for the day, the minute you say the word teach them to focus their eyes on you and listen. Reinforce the ones who follow it immediately.
Deliberate mistakes- Tell your kids that they are going to make obvious mistakes in the lesson and ask them to tune in and find them.
Plan something unexpected- Bring Gandhi into your classroom while teaching about the Non cooperation movement.
Talk in an accent and have them repeat.
Add random videos or pictures to your presentation.
And the list goes on…..
Save your voice, be cool and get everyone’s attention like a rock star!! Google “Attention Grabbers” to get more ideas and in turn help yourself survive that classroom life-cycle for a little bit longer!!

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