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All very hush hush

Any lesson. Ages 11 to 16

Have you ever had a class that just will not stop talking and listen to you?

The "calmer" could be your salvation. You do the opposite of what the pupils expect and avoid talking at the very beginning of your lesson.

Instead, you have something ready for them to do when they walk through the door that is self-evident: A list of words with the definitions in the wrong order, with one word matched to the correct definition.

An exercise from the text they have just read or are about to read.

A silent reading exercise.

Sentences in the wrong order that they must sequence.

Words to put with pictures.

Columns or diagrams they need to complete or label.

A set of anagrams based on the words you will use in the lesson.

Hand this to the pupils as they walk through the door or have it on the desks and then you are free to hand out and count the pencils, take the register, deal with the latecomers and get ready to address the class.

To work effectively, the exercise should be short, avoid teacher-talk and a lot of writing and it should link to the previous lesson or help to introduce the new lesson.

As each pupil starts to work, they receive praise for getting down to work quickly.

You will be surprised at how the "calmer" can change the atmosphere at the beginning of your lessons.

It creates a sense of purpose and may even become something pupils expect and look forward to. But make sure you then have something interesting to say and have planned something that is fun for them to do This tip comes from Chapter 2, Teacher Talk: How to talk so they will listen in Constructive Talk in Challenging Classrooms (2007) written by Valerie Coultas, a teacher trainer at Kingston University

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