Connie Fister teaches World Cultures and American Cultures in a suburban high school. As the year unfolded, Connie became increasingly concerned about the slow start that many of her students were making at the beginning of class. As she put it, "Valuable instructional time was being lost at the beginning of each class period, and some students were creating mischief during this unstructured time." Connie chose not to scold, reprimand or continually remind students to get or stay on task. Instead, she took a teaching stance and used the Direct Teaching method outlined in The Teacher Talk Advantage. She used her time and energy to teach her students how to get started at the beginning of a class period.
Connie identified five behaviors she wanted to see that would indicate a quick and productive start on the part of her students. She arranged them to fit the acronym START.
Getting Started Effectively
- Sit in your seat immediately.
- Take out your book, notebook, and writing assignment.
- Access today’s work.
- Review the previous day’s notes and work.
- Think World Cultures (or American Cultures) and make a positive “Be” choice for how you intend to be for the class period.
Connie presented the START chart to each of her classes on Monday, explaining why she was teaching this skill. In several of her classes, students complained that this was too "baby" for high school. It felt like elementary school to them. "We already know how to do this," they whined. "So show me," Connie challenged. "I have no desire to teach you anything you already know. That includes both Culture content or any of these important interpersonal life skills. If you show me you know how to do this and demonstrate it with your behavior, we won't work on this anymore. We are going to practice this START material for one week. If you can convince me by your behavior that you already have mastered this skill, we will move on to something you haven’t mastered. Convince me." With effective Teacher Talk, Connie put the responsibility right back where it belonged, on the shoulders of her students. And she did it with respect, while leaving her students at choice.
The first day, Connie had her students practice the skill of Getting Started Effectively twice. The second day she sat back and watched as students entered her class. Many followed the suggestions on the START chart. Some did not. Connie intervened after five minutes and used another Teacher Talk Advantage technique, Debriefing. She placed three debriefing questions/statements on the board and asked students to respond in writing.
- How well did you get STARTed today, on a scale of 1-10? Explain your answer in one sentence.
- What behavior involved in getting STARTed did you display?
- Next time, I could get STARTed better if I . . .
After students wrote their answers, Connie led a class discussion on how they felt they did on getting STARTed. The conversation lasted 15 minutes. Connie then devoted the remaining time to World [or American] Cultures. The same procedure was used the rest of the week. Each day 2-3 new debriefing questions/statements were used.
By the following Monday, Connie reported, "Students were prepared and ready to learn when the bell rang. Even though the process of Direct Teaching took time to teach and debrief, in the end it turned into a time-saving and problem-solving device." Later in the year, Connie shared: "Now each class period begins more positively. So naturally I feel more positive as well. START helped both the students and me to make more positive and effective beginnings."
Connie may choose to teach other valuable life skills to her students this year. Or maybe not, depending on their behavior. Regardless, she and her students are off to a great START.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com
Back to Articles.