My final classroom management mistake...one I still make here and there...and one that never fails to cause a little chaos. This is:
Mistake #7 - Not Giving Clear Directions
Okay, think about the last time you went to a professional development training or meeting of some sort, particularly one you weren't that crazy about attending (which applies to approximately 99% of them, right?) Was there a moment when the trainer(s) told you to do something, everyone started talking and working, and you had to look around at your colleagues at your table and say:
"What are we supposed to be doing again?"
And then your colleagues tried to explain it, and you still didn't really understand it, so you started messing around, laughing and talking, checking your phone, wondering if it would be a good time to go to the restroom, etc.? Is it only me???
Well, that's what happens to my students in my classroom when they don't fully understand exactly what I want them to do. Now, I could say, "You should have listened the first time!" and just get mad, but that doesn't help them get on task and stop messing around any faster. No, it's best to pre-empt this problem by following these steps:
1. Get very clear in my own head what I want them to do before I say it.
2. Get the entire room's attention and eye contact (using Teacher Voice) before I explain the task.
3. Explain the task clearly and simply, say why I want them to do it, and then explain it again.
4. Go around the room and explain it again to students who are still off-task, without sounding cranky about it, which will either put them on the defensive or just make them laugh.
I promise you, half the time that your students are acting squirrely when they are supposed to be working, is because at least part of the room doesn't really know for sure what you wanted them to do. Even though you said it, and you thought you made your wishes known. You can avoid a whole bunch of headache by giving crystal-clear directions, following my steps above. Without getting upset about it.
Now, if I can just follow my own advice this coming week! Ha.