What’s the most powerful use of your voice in the classroom?
That’s a question that Justin Slocum Bailey (BlackBox videocast creator extraordinaire!) asked and answered on the most recent episode of WeTeachLang, an excellent podcast for hearing diverse perspectives of language teachers. I highly recommend you listen to it, but I was inspired to blog this idea quickly to encourage you to try this out.
So what was Justin’s answer?
This isn’t a new idea, to Justin or to me, but once he says it you think
Ah, that’s so true!
Silence makes people wonder. It makes them curious. Sometimes, it makes them uncomfortable. Often, it helps them process. Carol Gaab (of Fluency Matters) has long advocated a “stop sign” approach where you pause and give several seconds of processing time after a question. My thought here was, what if this became a part of your classroom culture this year?
Try it! Start by holding up you palm in a “stop” signal and counting on your fingers – 1, 2, 3 – and then allowing someone to answer, every time you ask a question. Then evaluate: Is 3 seconds too short? Do they need 5?
Shortly, make this a classroom job. Assign someone to be the “question timer” for the day. Every time you ask a question, this learner’s job is to stand up, hold up a palm in a “stop” signal, and count 1, 2, 3. That learner will be doing some close listening for the whole class session, so it’s probably a good idea to change which person has this job each day.
It’s a quick idea that’s easy to try out but think of what it could change – how would it change the comprehensibility of your language use? How would it enhance your classroom management skills? Let me know!