I hope you have enjoyed reading the previous installments in this 'Transitions' series so far and have found them useful in your classrooms. This post will tackle the use of hands-on demos in your class structure.
What it looks like: students in assigned places, hands n feet to self, eyes on teacher
What it sounds like: voices off unless responding to teacher, body quiet
I've taught in both large and small Art classrooms. The last place I taught in was a band room with cafeteria bench-style tables on wheels. Fortunately, it was a long-term sub position, only one morning a week, for 3 class periods - a kinder, a first grade and second grade. Sad to admit, but I never found a satisfactory solution (for me) to easily demonstrate for the whole class at one time. I had to settle for a front-of-the-room demo, followed by mini-demos at each bench when necessary or small groups of struggling students brought up front to work with me. Once they caught on to the technique, they returned to their seated group.
When I taught in a large classroom, I gathered standing students around 2 joined tables for an up-close view of materials and process. However, there were too many behavior interruptions due to the close quarters so that procedure was used sparingly.
Finally, I came up with a workable solution at my last school before retirement. The small classroom was a long rectangle, sinks and exit door at one end and my desk at the opposite end. The whiteboard and ActivBoard were located off-center on one of the long walls. I was determined to figure out a workable solution. I tried a few arrangements before I was successful but it was worth the wait!
In my past experiences, I had these issues:
1. Too much time was spent getting students quietly in place, and back to their places afterwards
2. Kids in close proximity to one another were often distracted and didn't learn much while observing
3. There were frequent interruptions when I had to address behavior issues
Here were my solutions...
To get kids quickly in place, I created and taught these routines:
- Table A n Table B were pushed together to form a square grouping by students seated at Table B while kids at Table A moved into their demo table assigned places. I taught this routine & re-taught as needed but really after about 3 times they had it down! Stress 'safely & quietly' when moving tables. Takes about 15 seconds once they learn.
- Assign kids to sit or stand on 3 sides of the combined table grouping. I get the 4th side of the grouping all to my sweet self! Put some thought into who goes where - correction - put a LOT of thought into this. Those who have major behavior issues are seated directly facing me, with buffers of no-problem kids between them. Moderate behavior issues are placed on the right or left side of me with buffers. Also, anyone with processing issues, sight or hearing issues are on your immediate right or left if possible. Everyone else stands behind the others. Seated kids bring chairs or stools with them.
- Once tables are in place, call over seated students QUICKLY in order from left to right or what works for you. Once they are in place, call out the standing kids in order QUICKLY. We practiced this until I could get everybody in place in ONE MINUTE or less. Yes - it's possible even when talking about THAT 5th grade group of 36. Practice, practice, practice! Students are not to be talking on their way over OR while waiting for everyone to get to their place. They can do this if you expect them to do this. Practice until they do - even if it means they run out of time and don't get to work on their project. Life lesson! It goes without saying that this seating arrangement should be written down and is separate from the group seating chart used for attendance and independent work. Call ALL names (even those who may be absent) so kids get used to hearing the names leading up to their own. Explain that to students.
- At this moment, you should have everybody in place and quiet. You need to immediately begin a quick focus activity to keep them that way. I taught the kids to do 'tap tap'. My signal is to hold up my two pointer fingers, say 'tap tap' and 'tap tap' dots with my pointer fingers in a synchronized, circular motion on my head around my ears while students do the same. You do these dots until ALL students are engaged. Do not be surprised if some kids can't do this. If necessary, practice & sometimes allow certain kids to do it with just one hand. Usually these are kids that have other developmental delays.
NOW you are ready to begin the actual demo. Once the kids have practiced this routine from start to finish, you should need less than 3 minutes from moving tables to end of 'tap tap'. Practice, practice, practice.
Next up - how to setup your actual demo!