Raise Your Teach Game-change: 4 essential tips for something, something, something

Peter Pan, standing like himself.
Peter Pan, standing like himself.
I try to write something useful, I really do. [takes a sip of tea.] But it just never seems to work out the way I plan it. (Tell me about it.) A critique of overdriven accountability turns into a homage to Mick Hucknall; a reflection on my personal wellbeing morphs into a guilt-ridden plea for forgiveness to my dead hamster; a portrait of my loved ones becomes a caricature of Morten Harket with tiny eyes the size of prawn’s eyes.

I’d love to be able to trot out a ‘7 ways to spice up your plenaries’ or an ‘8 steps to seamless transitions’, but they’d just descend into puerile farce. Characters keep invading my consciousness as I write; situations pop into each text like literary banana skins, and I can’t resist allowing those characters (typically versions of me) to slip on them, tumbling arse over tit into the next paragraph.

But it stops here, I tell you. I’m drawing lines in sand, pulling up socks, gritting teeth, ratcheting my resilience cummerbund to its tightest setting. Yes, from now on, I am going to meticulously plan my blogs, probably use footnotes and stuff, and – above all – I shall write things that enrich your teaching practice.  Yes, no more Mr Silly. Yes. No. (God, this cummerbund is tight.)

So, here goes: a new whatonomy for a new, er, month. [sets teacup down next to mouse.]

Have you ever noticed how, er, your lessons sometimes start a bit flat? [huffs]  Your students are not engaged [grits teeth] or perhaps they even talk over the top of your instructions. (I can do this.)  Well, in my class, I like to use what I call a ‘coming in piece of work’ for students to complete as soon as they come into the class. (Sheesh!) This ensures that they are on-task (Oh Lord!) from the moment that the class begins.

Starting a lesson is what I like to call ‘setting the tone’ in the same way that one might set a ring tone. Except that, rather than flicking through a list of ring tones, listening to the first couple of bars and smiling to yourself as you decide (perhaps whilst you’re on a train or at a wake), my ‘setting the tone’ involves using what I also like to call ‘wait time’. (I’m getting the hang of this now.)

‘Wait time’ is an essential component in what I call the weaponry of the teacher’s toolbox. (Brilliant!)  Put simply, it involves positioning yourself in the centre, at the front of the class, placing your hands on your hips with your legs confidently apart (a bit like Peter Pan or a speaker at a Conservative Party conference).  You then wait. For silence.

At this point, you’ll need to be really brave (and possibly resilient), grit your teeth, probably smile (but not before Christmas) and keep waiting.  At some point, your students will notice you standing there like an incongruous Theresa May and ask if you are feeling okay.

This is what I call the ‘crunch moment’. At this precise moment, bring your legs together in a pincer movement not unlike Herr Flick’s little salute in ‘Allo Allo’ and say, “I’m fine, thank you, Callum, and today’s learning objective is ‘We Are Learning to Write Recounts with a Voice using our Wow Conjectives and a semi-colon’ (with kung-fu action for the semi-colon).

(I think that went rather well.)

Next week, I shall be sharing with you my ‘hands with thumbs for a question/hands, no thumbs for a comment/little finger toilet’ technique. It’s a handy (careful!) shorthand (nice!) for students to clearly communicate their needs and intentions, whilst cutting down on STT (Student Talk Time).

Until then, good luck with your use of my ‘wait time’, ‘setting the tone’, ‘crunch moment’ and my ‘coming in piece of work’. Soon your weapon box will be fit to burst with game-changing tools that you can apply to the beginning of any lesson.

[Does fist pump and knocks tea onto laptop.]

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