Coaches' Corner: Building a Solid Signal for Silence
Dear Coach Lindsey,
I have modeled and practiced our signal for silence, Show Five, over and over, but still it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. What am I doing wrong?
Coach Lindsey says,
Maintaining an effective signal for attention is crucial. Read on for three common challenges teachers face when implementing a signal with students, and for ideas for initiating or refreshing your signal’s effectiveness.
My students give me their attention initially, but soon after I’ve started speaking, they’re all over the place!
Consider the possibility that students are unable to maintain attention because the message is too long or too complicated for their minds to absorb.
Try this: Plan your announcements before you signal for students’ attention. To ensure that your message is clear and concise, keep it brief: 10 words, 10 seconds, or less.
Some of my students respond immediately when I signal. Others I consistently wait for. Worse, sometimes students refuse altogether to respond!
It may be that your waiting has shown students that how they respond to the signal is up to them, even if you say otherwise. This is also true for an entire class that is slow to respond: in both cases, the signal authority has shifted from the teacher to the students.
Try this: When you find that the majority of learners in the community have given you their attention, say, “Stop. Let’s try again.” Then, as you re-signal, do so with conviction: if you don’t gain everyone’s attention quickly, give the signal again. It may take a number of attempts for students to re-learn that your expectations are for the whole community, and that you will hold the community accountable. Once everyone meets your signal expectations, reinforce their success with a positive comment: “One and all responded quickly to the signal!”
More often than not, it seems the majority of my students do not respond to my signal at all!
The signal may be ill-timed or overused.
Try this: Before setting students to work, tell them when you’ll signal for their attention, and why. For example, you might say, “In 10 minutes I’m going to signal for attention, and then pull sticks to hear specifics about the progress you’re making on your projects. Be ready when you hear the signal!” When you follow through on your plan, be certain you do exactly what you said you would—no more, no less. Following a structure consistently will show students you value their attention, and their voices during community announcements.
Lindsey Lynch is a Responsive Classroom consultant for Origins.