Getting kids focused and paying attention in class goes a long way, and we all have our little tricks for pulling it off. Our readers sent in several hundred responses to last month's question; we had a great time reading them. Our favorites are below.
I give problem students extra responsibility -- they have a chance to get some positive attention, show leadership abilities, or otherwise succeed in the classroom. The trick is to set them up to succeed without rewarding poor behavior. It's amazing how many problem kids can turn into leaders if they're given the opportunity to taste success.
Assistant director of technology
St. Paul's Episcopal School
I like to catch them doing something right or good and then call home to talk with their parents about it. A phone call from the school should not always be a bad thing. It also opens a door for you when you need chaperones or classroom volunteers.
Career academy director/teacher
Wolfson High School
Secret weapon? One uses a secret weapon and perhaps a plan of attack against enemy combatants and criminal extremist organizations. The need for a secret weapon would seem to imply a war, or at least an insurgency. This attitude goes a long way toward explaining our current failure to win the peace in our schools. Perhaps we need a better metaphor.
The Nueva School
Calm, humor, and "Plan B." Plan B is because machines break, lamps explode, calls are dropped, printers run out of toner, and power outages occur. When the inevitable technical glitch happens, I have a backup plan: a game, a puzzle, a discussion topic, an alternate path to the same learning goal.
Clinical associate professor
University of Arizona
Students who fall asleep in my class get a shot of silly string. It wakes them up -- and it's a strong deterrent to future naps.
Walnut Creek Campus Alternative High School
West Des Moines, Iowa
I arrange my room so that I'm at the back. When I use PowerPoint and audio enhancement, I can monitor students' note taking and attentiveness, and if I have to refocus someone back to their work, I can do it discreetly and efficiently.
Eighth-grade social studies teacher
Carver Middle School
Hole punch all handouts!
New York, New York
Sign language. It's beautiful, kids love it, it beats yelling, it works across the playground, and it has many benefits for growing and developing brain.
Merritt Island, Florida
If a student is being disruptive, just move closer. The student can cease the behavior and save face.