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Charity Preston's picture
Charity Preston, M.A., is a national presenter, consultant and author. She has completed studies in gifted training, cooperative learning and differentiation, as well as a master's degree in...
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Stopping the Fidgeting!

Being an observer in a classroom can be extremely enlightening or extremely frustrating. Students can be engaged in learning or engaged in what they are currently playing with in their desks. Unfortunately when a teacher is trying to teach 20 or more students at one time, that task may seem almost impossible because he or she is attempting to maneuver content, control large behaviors, and keep all students learning at the same speed.

One thing I have found in my classroom is the wonderful joy of just taking away all temptations, as in the following scenario:

I had an interesting third grade class that year with 16 boys and 8 girls. No matter what I did to keep eight particular boys on task, they were constantly playing with something in their hands, making faces at one another, throwing cap erasers across the room, and on and on. I placed the boys in the seating chart, and there just wasn't anyplace far enough from one another. I couldn't turn my back for an instant, or else chaos broke out. I couldn't even write on the board. Everyday becomes exhausting by the end. I was truly at my wits end and I knew something had to give.

It was after a horrible review by my administrator that I knew I had to do something and do it quick! My principal was not hands-on, nor wanted to have to get my class under control for me. In her opinion, she hired me based on the assumption that I was a professional and could get this situation taken care of before parents started complaining.

So, I decided drastic measures were in order. I began by taking away items if I caught students using them in a way that was not correct. But, quickly I realized that the child would need that pencil to write their assignment. So, that didn't work.

Second, I tried to turn the desks around so that the back was facing them and they could not easily get to the opening. This worked like a charm... until a student needed a book or a pencil out of the desk and then he or she made more racket than if I just allowed the fiddling to continue.

Then, I decided that the only items that would be allowed in desks would be folders and books. The rest would have to go into containers that were placed in the center of a group of desks. It was like a light suddenly came on in my classroom! I no longer had the fiddlers, or the eraser throwers (I actually did not allow cap erasers after the throwing incidents), or students writing on their desks in their "spare time." All were free to be educated!

Of course, after allowing the old way for so long, I did receive some resistance by students in the beginning, which was mainly from the students usually in trouble. They did not like having to share supplies. I did have a couple of parent phone calls, to which I rebutted by explaining how much the students would be learning by not having the distraction of others around. After about a week, all calmed. I was able to teach and even write on my board again.

Hands off was a small change that contributed to my students' learning many times over!


Charity Preston - The Organized Classroom