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Dealing with Interruptions in your Elementary Classroom

Nadia Distel is the author of the New Teachers Kit - a complete set of printable, editable classroom resources and teaching strategies, designed with the newly qualified teacher in mind.  Don't reinvent the wheel - work smart, not hard, with the New Teachers Kit!  Visit http://www.newteacherskit.com/ today.

 

Dealing with Interruptions in your Elementary Classroom

If you’ve ever led small group work, you’ll know that one of the biggest problems as a teacher can be constant interruptions from students while you are trying to conduct a session with a small group.  It can be frustrating when you are just getting to a salient point of a lesson, and a student will interrupt you with “Miss Smith, I’ve lost my pencil!”…. how do you manage your classroom so that interruptions like these just don’t occur?  It’s not as hard as you may think.

Firstly, you need to teach students to rely on each other as much as they rely on you.  I have found that 90% of the time, students could have solved the problem at hand amongst themselves, without teacher intervention.  That’s why in my classroom, I created a system called ‘Ask three, then me’.  Basically, this means that the student needs to ask three of his or her rotation group partners to help solve their problem before they approach the teacher.  This is a great strategy, as it enables students to take responsibility for their problems, maximizes their developing self-help skills, and teaches them the value of their classmates. 

I create a poster that I put near the place where I teach small groups, so if a student forgets and interrupts me, I can simply point and the sign, and my lesson carries on as if no interruption occurred.  Simply put, the sign has a picture of three students on it, and the following words:

Ask THREE

then me


But what about those problems that really can’t be solved by another student (or three)?  Is it possible to still minimize interruptions to small group learning, while also getting students problems solved?

Yes, it is.  I learned a very clever technique from one of my supervising teachers during a student teaching block in Illinois, in the United States.  Enter a bucket of sand, and some popsicle sticks.

This teacher created a resource out of a small bucket of sand, and popsicle sticks to use for this purpose.  Each of the popsicle sticks had a student's name on it.  If a student had asked three peers, and was still unable to solve the problem they were facing during group time, they would go to the bucket, take the paddle pop stick with their name on it, and silently place it on the table where the teacher was teaching.  That way, when she had a moment, and it was not interrupting the lesson, she knew who needed to see her about a problem that was unsolvable without adult support.  A picture of this resource is contained in the New Teachers Kit.

Of course, there are times that a student should interrupt you.  I used to ask my students to only interrupt me if they saw something that was not safe.  We talked about potential dangers together, and used the brainstorming chart below to collectively decide upon when would be an appropriate time to interrupt.  Answers students gave included:

·        If someone is bleeding

·        If there is a fire

·        If an unfamiliar person enters the classroom

·        If someone is vomiting

·        Etc

You could also brainstorm times it is not ok to interrupt, but I found it more effective to provide a few exceptions to the ‘never interrupt’ rule.  My brainstorm board is contained in the New Teachers Kit.  If you print it out, try enlarging it to A3Free Web Content, and use it to initiate this discussion with your students.

We hope these ideas help you in your elementary classroom!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Nadia Distel is the author of the New Teachers Kit - a complete set of printable, editable classroom resources and teaching strategies, designed with the newly qualified teacher in mind.  Don't reinvent the wheel - work smart, not hard, with the New Teachers Kit!  Visit http://www.newteacherskit.com/ today.



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