I was reminded recently (I thought that I read it on Michele’s blog, but can’t seem to find it now…help? anyone?) of Ben Slavic’s management strategy of not allowing students to have anything on their desks during storytelling. When I first started TPRS, I pushed all of our desks to the edges of the room, and students were just in chairs. This was mostly annoying and the students hated it, so I brought the desks back before too long.
Well, as any middle school teacher knows, there are an infinite number of ways for a student to distract him or herself with simply a piece of paper and/or a pencil. I have been growing increasingly frustrated with my students’ ability to lose focus on the lesson because of whatever they happen to have directly in front of them. So, after reading whatever blog post it was that I read, I thought, “Aha!” and now ask my students to place ALL materials under their desks during PQA and storyasking. We do bellwork and introduce new vocabulary BEFORE they put materials away so that they can still keep a record of what we have learned. At the end of class, they take their notebooks out again and write down any new words that came up during class that they would like to remember.
So far, I have been very pleased with the results. From my perspective, everything looks much cleaner and clearer and it is easier for me to spot and manage behaviors and for my brain to register when students are slouching and drifting off into daydream-land because there are not mountains of textbooks and binders in front of each student.