I teach 7th grade and they have a lot in common with k-3 students in
terms of attention span, noise and interrupting me. I am in a three
person core of social studies/art (me), science and English. We all
use a strategy called Model Cities, which is a lot like Tribes.
Each table group (or group of desks) operates as a city, with a mayor
who gets things for the group. We have two signals: a bell hop bell
and me saying "Stop and listen." I then pick up my clipboard and
score each table as to whether they are quiet, listening and looking
at me or not. At the end of the week, the table with the most points
wins a 10-minute snack party (food provided by students) The mayors
all win 10 extra credit points and the winning mayor gets 25 points.
The peer pressure and competition is great. If the class is too
noisy (like a lot of the time!!) I do 'stop and listens', score points
and ask for a specific voice level. We talked a lot about three
different voice levels at the beginning of the year: silence (for
tests and journal writing) whisper voice and table voice.
I think this system might work well for your little guys. It breaks
up a large class into more manageable groups of 5-6. You can make
praising comments about 'good' tables and their behavior. I know
this sounds pretty 'elementary' and some people are amazed that I
have to do this with twelve year olds; but it works!! Never
underestimate the power of food and a few extra credit points as
I use this method for verbal instruction time, noise control, passing
out information sheets and clean-up time. Because we are consistent
throughout our three core classes, these students are pretty well
trained. In fact, they often come back as eighth graders and complain
that eighth grade teachers don't do model cities.
> Dear Bunki, I'm a first year teacher, elementary level and have very noisy
> students. They also produce exceptionally great art! Maybe there is a
> connection. I'm just afraid that I'll have to wear a hearing aid soon, the
> noise is bad enough to break my ear drums. Fortunately my administrators
> are supportive. Bad words and fights would not be tolerated, fortunately
> again, I haven't had that type of problem. I'm at the point where I tell
> them I need at least 5 min to explain the project. We compromise, I get 4
> & 1/2 min. (I've learned to talk fast). I've tried the light switch trick,
> it doesn't work. I've tried the peace sign hand signal, it doesn't work.
> I carry a sign in my apron saying listen quietly please. When I'm
> desperate I hold it up 5 inches from the face of the loudest interruptor
> when I'm explaining the lesson. The novelty of this approach is I think
> the reason why the students stop talking for a few moments at least. On the
> otherhand maybe there is something here for the psychologists to theorize
> about. Anyway, we're making art, having fun and learning skills.
> sincerely, Diane