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What do you do when you're using Class Cards to call upon students and some of them whisper the answer to the student you've just called upon?

Students who whisper answers is an issue just about every teacher eventually has to address. I think the whispered answer is the result of: 1) a student wanting to prove to those sitting around him that he knows the correct answer; 2) a genuine desire to help others; and 3) a general lack of self-discipline. Whatever the actual reason--and it's most likely different for each whisperer--the behavior cannot be condoned.

Step One:
Announce to your students that they are not to whisper answers. This would probably be best done when whispering has just occurred.

Speaking calmly but confidently:
Whispering an answer to someone else is not okay. Please allow the student who has been called upon time to develop his own response. As much as I appreciate your desire to help by supplying an answer, it actually doesn't help. So, please...
Changing to a stage whisper:
no more whispering answers.

Step Two:
Realize that there exists the very real possibility that your words alone will not prevent future whispering. So, plan on some type of action to use for such an occurrence. Maybe you could try something along the lines of the Red Hands for blurting out answers. How about using the Ellison die-cutter to cut out some lips? That could do it.

By having an action plan in place, you won't be tempted to just talk to everyone again about whispering. You would just hand the whisperer(s) a cut-out lip. The student(s) would write name, number, and date on the lips and drop them into some kind of container. Consequences could then be assigned for accumulating a certain number of lips.

Secondary teachers: The lips thing obviously wouldn't work which means you need to create an alternative that will work. And probably the easiest way to go is to use a seating chart and a letter code--say, W--for students who whisper. By writing a W in a student's space on your seating chart, you would know who to see at the end of the period. It's that kind of effect (being held back at the end of the period) that translates into a reduction of cause (whispering an answer when you've been asked not to do so.)

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When you are using a set of index cards for calling upon students and you're marking scores on the cards based upon the quality of their responses, how long do you use the set before you make a new set?

Well, that kind of depends.

How often do you use the cards?
How many times during a class do you go through the entire deck?
How large is your writing? (Big marks = less room to record marks)
What is the rate of student turn-over in your room?

Generally speaking, I like to start a new deck every three or four weeks. (That's by no means a hard-and-fast rule. It's just a guideline.) The biggest advantage of starting a new deck is that any students who got off to a slow start and have cards with a majority of low marks are able to walk away from those marks and make a new start. This kind of "fresh start" thinking is really conducive to growth and development.

When I'm ready to start a new deck, I give the old one to a student along with a grade sheet. The student, with another student helping out if desired, goes through each card and counts all of the pluses shown. This score is written on the card in pen and the number is entered in the plus column on the grade sheet. The same thing is done for checks, minuses, and zeroes.

Bonus: The now-recorded cards are given to the students to spend in our student store. They can purchase snacks or privileges with the points they earned. Pluses are worth 3 points, checks are worth 2 points, and each minus is worth a point.

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What do you do when you call upon a student and he refuses to answer?

I would just set the card aside, ask the student to keep thinking, call upon several more students, and then get back to Non-responder. If he still doesn't have a response I would repeat the initial procedure. If, after getting back to him again and he still does not have a response, I would set the card aside as a reminder to speak with him before the period is over. (I say "period" because this situation normally appears at the secondary level.) There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the fact that most classes are fifty minutes in length. This creates an attitude of resistance. The student is thinking, "If I just drag my feet or make it difficult for the teacher to call upon me, I'll be able to sneak through one more lesson." This, as you can imagine is not conducive to a successful classroom environment.

The only way to get through is: 1) keep calling upon him; and 2) speak with him privately about the need to get involved in what's going on. Honestly, though, you probably won't see much of a change until the student figures out you're actually on his side and are looking out for his best interests. That's going to take some serious relationship building on your part.

Something to Think About: Teaching is a crock pot affair but we live in a microwave society. Take your time, keep your eyes on the horizon, and anticipate a better future for Non-responder. The change won't happen overnight; however, with a patient touch and a firm hand, you'll begin to see some progress.



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