I recently had my first observation with my content area professor. Before this we are asked to fill out an action plan about what we would like the observation to focus on. Before I filled this out my CT and I discussed what I wanted to work on as we approached the middle of the semester. As I thought about this I realized that I wanted to improve transitions during class. I felt like things were kept pretty calm throughout the individual parts of a lesson. Don’t get me wrong we do get a little off topic every now and then but during that it is pretty easy to reign them back in. However, when we would switch from warm-up to good news, from good news to checking homework, etc. we were having a really hard time switching without them starting to talk about unrelated things. Having to reign them back it then was a lot harder and seemed to take a lot longer. I was working with I raise my hand and then the students raise theirs with the expectation that they stop talking. I had been working with this system since we started the semester because that’s what the standard was before I got there and I really didn’t know any other way. But as I worked more with this I was beginning to realize that it really didn’t fit my style as a teacher and my CT encouraged me to find a way that fit me to try out the next day that I taught. With that I took to Twitter to ask others how they dealt with transitions. I got a lot of responses from telling students to “Pause” (often sounds likes “Paws” so you get some hand gestures) to jingling keys. However there was one suggestion than really struck me they said that had a bell that they “gonged” to get everyones attention. Something about the idea of a gong really stuck out to me as a fun and effective way to get attention focused again. With this I started looking for a gong to buy. This has proved rather unsuccessful. Has anyone every looked to buy a gong? Probably not but believe me it is not as easy to find a good one as you would think. I found a virtual gong to use instead, which can be found here. Sorry I got a little long winded there but anyway back to the action plan. I decided to try out the gong for the first time while I was being observed and have him try to look for how long and how many times it took with the gong to gather attention and also to look at how often I was helping each group during their activity.
So what happened during the observation and in the discussion afterwords? I used the gong throughout the lesson and was pleased at how well it seemed to work. The first time I used it I didn’t tell my students what I was doing and to my surprise they quieted down. I explained what we would be using it for and what my expectations were when I rang the gong. During the activity for the day the first couple of times I used the gong it took a couple of times for them to quite down and focus but they did. As we got further through the lesson the gong seemed to work better and better each time. There were still chatter after the gong but it was manageable when compared to our transitions in the past, so I took it. One of the coolest things with the gong came close to the end of our day. The activity that our students were working on that day was looking at properties of some quadrilateral and then they had to present to the class. As we were getting close to the end the other groups were starting to get a little chatty and one of this students in this particular group asked for the gong to be used in order to quiet the class. As for my other goal of seeing how I was doing with making sure I was getting to every group. My professor kept a map of the room with markings for different amounts of time I spent at each group. I was able to see where I was at and came to the conclusion that a majority of the time I spent was with groups who typically need the extra support when working like this. This doesn’t mean that I left the other groups alone. I made it to every other group multiple times and it also helps that there are always three or four teachers in the room at once.
What do I do now? Since the observation I have continued to use the gong. My CT suggested that we do a little more clarifying with our students to make sure that they understand what they need to be doing when the sound goes off. We decided on the following system: 1 gong-finish up your sentence, 2nd gong- should be turning around and focusing, 3rd gong- you should be in your seat quietly facing forward. This seems to have worked really well and the last couple of days I haven’t had to use it much. I don’t know if they are finally realizing when they need to quiet with the gong helping or if they are all just having good days. I really hope its the first one. I would say that I am pretty confident with my ability to get to all groups while they are working. The next thing I need to work on is finding a way to incorporate all students in answering questions rather that the same group everyday.