Educators arguably have some of the most difficult jobs out there. The responsibility of educating young people carries great weight; and when you consider factors such as short attention spans, bursts of energy, and wandering minds, the level of difficulty increases exponentially. As a substitute, these challenges may be magnified even more by the fact that you are not the “normal” or “regular” teacher. However, this truth does not mean that your days of substitute teaching have to be fruitless. Take a look at a couple of simple classroom management tricks to help maximize your time for lessons.
If you can hear my voice. Oftentimes noise level gradually rises in a classroom. As the teacher, it may be tempting to raise your voice in order to be heard over the roar. However, this can often backfire by creating more noisy chaos and also raising your own blood pressure. Additionally, no principal or nearby parent wants to walk by and hear evidence of yelling or angry voices. One simple way to avoid raising your voice is to use the “if you hear my voice” method. When the noise level is rising, you say, in your regular inside voice, “If you can hear my voice, clap once.” The idea is that those who heard you will clap. If this does not get everyone’s attention, you increase the claps: “If you can hear my voice, clap twice.” As more children clap, the noise of the clapping will grab the attention of any remaining talkers. This method is flexible (you can use snaps instead of claps, or pat your head, rub your belly, etc) and provides quick results.
Call backs. The concept of call backs is both effective and engaging for students. For example, when giving instructions for an assignment, you might say, “...and when you’re finished, bring your assignment up to my desk. If you understand, say ‘Oh yeah!’” Asking for verbal responses from students as a group can add an element of fun to your classroom interaction. It also forces students to be continually listening for instructions. You can use this method in multiple ways, whether by asking for affirmation that students heard your directions, or just asking them to repeat certain phrases back to you. (For example, “Please write your spelling words twice - everybody say, ‘Twice.’”) Be careful, though, to not rely exclusively on call backs, as students’ individual needs may inadvertently be lost in the sea of voices (for example, if you never give the opportunity for students to voice questions but rather ask for a call back indicating they understand, a student might be embarrassed to call attention to him or herself with a question).
What about you? What other methods have you used in order to engage students and manage the classroom setting?