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However, the trick is to getting them all quiet at once so you can begin
the lesson and get started. If you have a lot of class time, you can wait
them out, or as someone suggested, take time at the end of class--"bell time"
(?) I think it was. That idea may work for the older students in middle and
high school, but sadly enough, some of us are stuck with a "cafeteria
approach" to art schedules. I have 35 minutes with students K-5 . If I try
to wait them out for ten minutes, well, a good part of our class time has
been lost. I use the "hands up" approach. When I am ready to begin class, I
ask them, "If you hear me and you're listening, raise your hand." Then we
begin the lesson. Might not work for everyone, but can work if the students
get used to it and you use it consistently.
For my third through fifth graders, I have the directions for the
activity written on the board. It is a standard classroom practice that if
they talk during directions and I have to stop three times (like strikes in
baseball) to get them to stop talking or they disturb class, they will have
to write the directions. Either way, they will know what the activity is and
how to do it. They are in control as to how they receive the information.
It is their ticket out of the room at the end of the class, too. Most
students choose to listen quietly, but the bottom line is, the directions are
on the board anyway, so if they forget what to do next, they don't have to
ask me again. I keep the directions VERY simply worded, and demonstrate the
procedure, too. I try to keep all this plus questions to a minimum of 5-7
minutes, with five minutes for cleanup at the end of class. I have also
tried to structure what we do so that when we do a large project, we
accomplish it in smaller chunks of time. I give them an objective to
accomplish by the end of class, so they know how much I expect them to do.
For K-2, I use the same approach, but with simpler sentences. If we
should have to stop with the lesson, I write a simple sentence about what we
would have done if we had been able to have art class. For example, "Mixing
red and yellow together makes orange." The children are still in control as
to how they receive the information. I do this in a firm, but friendly
manner, and explain to all my classes that I am there to teach them about
art. I do my "job", but it is their "job" to listen to directions. I can't
do both jobs for them.
When I was in college (and I'm older than dirt, as one of my Kinders
observed), I had a professor who gave me good advice about behavior
modification with this one quotation-- " It's not the severity, but the
certainty of the consequence, which gets the results." I don't remember who
it was from, but in my seventeen years of experience, I have found this
approach works for me. I don't have to use this consequence often, but the
students know I will--they heard about the few times I have had to from their
friends, and decided it wasn't much fun. The children learn to make wise
choices (listening to directions), I can talk quietly (my blood pressure is
great!), and we get on to the business of having fun and learning about art!