Several years ago, seasonal allergies gave me acute laryngitis. I had a day full of games and activities planned that involved rotating stations and no voice with which to handle crowd control, so I had to get creative.
I greeted my students with a smile as they entered. I rang the bell I use daily to get their attention and then pointed to the whiteboard where I had posted this slide:
The next slide caused giggles, but the volume of the students immediately lowered. Here was something different in their day!
Subsequent slides directed them to read the instructions for each activity from their book. I also put their group assignments on the screen to avoid a maddening game of charades. I rang my bell and they dove in. I observed them carefully and made notes about the effort and interaction I saw.
What I discovered was that students who were so accustomed to not listening to instructions the first time because they could ask over and over again later were suddenly forced to read all of their instructions. They paid much closer attention to every slide. I realized I’d made my students slightly too dependent on my ability to repeat myself and made a mental note to train toward more independence in future lessons (even when I had my voice.)
Students were allowed to talk to other group members if they needed clarification, which meant that students got to help one another. Some students who rarely knew the subject matter answers in class really excelled at reading instructions and I watched in wonder as they jumped in to help their classmates.
What should have been a wild and woolly day of me yelling over excited voices became a much more controlled environment where the kids got to have their fun, but they had to keep it within a certain range in order to hear the tinkle of my bell to tell them to move to the next station. In addition, they were forced to pay close attention to instructions. (They were also motivated by the competitive aspect of the activities, so that may have had something to do with their focus.) Ultimately, it was so successful the first time I did it that, the following year when we reached those activities, I employed the exact same tactic, even though my voice was fine. I declared it a “Voice Holiday” and let another class get some extra instruction in reading and following directions!
With cold and flu season barreling down on us, and with all of the talking teachers do in a day, it’s entirely likely that you will be felled by a scratchy throat at least once during the school year. IF you are feeling fine and shouldn’t just be home in bed anyway (take the sick day, teacher), there is a solution that will help you keep up with instruction and build learning skills as you protect your trachea.
A Few More Tips:
This plan works best if you already have written instructions, either in a book or on some worksheets.
Modify our template or make your own version of slides in advance with specific instructions. I think I ultimately used close to 40 slides that day, each containing only a sentence or two of instruction. This moved us through the day and kept us connecting through the visual medium, even if I couldn’t speak.
Besides some helpful slides, you will need:
- A bell or a buzzer to be heard over student voices
- Written instructions for activities for students
- Relaxed expectations. Asking them to decipher instructions AND do the work may be exhausting to some students. Trim the plan if necessary. The extra time spent understanding instruction is hugely valuable.
- Optional: Rewards. This is a good activity to reward students after, with whatever best suits your classroom.
Ever had to get creative and inventive in the classroom? Wanna share your story with the ETED audience? We’re looking for teachers with good ideas and stories to tell!
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