There are the classroom interruptions that you cannot control: fire drills, alternative bell schedules, and fill-in-the-blank with about a zillion other options.
However, there are so many interruptions that you can minimize to maximize the effectiveness of your classroom time. Every minute counts!
Let’s chat today about common classroom interruptions and some ways to combat these time wasters. Plus, I have included a freebie to help get your time back.
Locker and Bathroom Requests
Problem: You see a raised hand and anticipate a math question or observation only to be met with, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
Or perhaps, a student left their math folder in their locker. Whatever the reason, a student needs to leave the learning environment and we all know class time is precious.
Solution 1: Know what a student needs before you call on them. Our classroom poster pack has hand signs for RR, locker, answer, question, and more. You don’t need our classroom poster pack to implement this procedure, but having the visual will serve as a reminder for students.
Solution 2: Use our MATH FAST PASS to hold students accountable to the number of restroom breaks or locker requests you deem necessary based on the length of your class period. I am not a fan of limiting restroom breaks for students who genuinely need it (and passing periods do exist for this very reason), but this tool can serve as a way to manage that interruption.
Personally, 3 emergency passes per grading period usually did the trick!
This freebie also has some helpful math tables and concepts to keep in students’ folders or binders, so it is a win-win for math teachers everywhere. Before a student could ask to use the restroom, they have to have their MATH FAST PASS out for you to sign and date.
First Aid Needs
Maybe it is a math teacher thing, but if you aren’t actively vomiting, then I think you are healthy enough to learn math. 🙂
Keep band-aids, mints, and paper towels in your classroom for these small ailments. Your nurse or front office staff will thank you.
A wet paper towel across the forehead will satisfy the needs of a student with a headache and the student will feel cared for. Another win!
Keep in mind that in most cases, the nurse won’t be able to offer anything stronger and they will be sent back to class anyway.
Pencils Needing to be Sharpened
Pencils. Pencils. Pencils. These writing utensils are a necessary evil in your classroom.
Start by establishing a pencil routine that you feel confident you have the stamina to maintain by the end of the year. Here are 2 ideas that I have personally used:
- Pencil Library. This is a trading system. A student who needs to sharpen their pencil can get up, drop off their old pencil, and grab a sharpened pencil. No need to run the sharpener. A student in my homeroom would sharpen the allotted amount of pencils for the day (around 10-20). The old traded pencils would get sharpened to use the next day.
- Pencil Parking Lot. This idea comes from To The Square Inch. I love this system! I like it because I can SEE the pencils. 5 pencils are clipped to the whiteboard. Students sign out a pencil by writing their name on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker. At the end of class, I would remind students to bring my pencils back and I would erase their names as I clipped the pencils back up.
After my pencil sharpener broke, my pencil sharpener stopped being for public use. If your pencil sharpener is for students to use, I recommend sharing your expectations for use:
- How to ask to use it (use hand signs)
- When they can use it (never during instruction)
- Proper use (no colored pencils)
Cell phones are tricky! Personally, I only ever worked in a school that had a school wide policy that they were off and stowed away. This made my job easier, but I know that is not always the case.
Phones aren’t going away anytime soon, so how do you manage the distraction? As I was doing research about this topic, I found that the teachers most successful with cell phones had 3 things in common:
- A why
- A clear and consistent routine and procedure
- Allowed the occasional use with boundaries around usage, complete with consequences
Students need buy-in before they detach from their device. You can show them studies (like this one from The University of Chicago) regarding how the mere presence of phones reduces available cognitive capacity.
Ask students to reflect on their own relationship with their phone. Does it distract you? Do you find yourself stopping what you are doing to check your phone?
A Clear and Consistent Routine and Procedure
When developing a procedure for cell phones, it is important to be super clear about everything! Power struggles usually occur over ambiguity.
Let’s say that the procedure is for students to put their phones in an over-the-door shoe rack during class. Here are all of the details to go over with your students:
- Phones go into the pocket before you sit down for class. (I would stand at the door for the first few days and send students over to the phone storage upon entry)
- Phones are turned off or on silent. I would explain to students that I don’t want any phones making sounds during instruction.
- I would have assigned pockets. Students need to place their phones in their designated spot.
- Phones will be picked up when class is dismissed. Exceptions will be made only with permission from me. (Example: they need to call their parents)
- Lastly, I would remind, remind, remind students at the beginning of class. It would be posted with their start-of-class instructions, it would be posted permanently on a wall, and I would also verbally tell students that, “If your phone isn’t put in the pocket in the next 10 seconds, I will have zero grace if you are caught with it or if it goes off.”*
(This procedure is just a suggestion to model the level of detail required.)
I recently saw a teacher, Mrs. O, suggest giving students brown paper bags to place their phones in, stapling the bag, and leaving it on their desk if they are struggling with looking at their phone during class.
Boundaries + Consequences
If you have done everything from above, then I suspect you will have fewer problems (not saying zero!) with cell phones. When a student chooses to use their phone during class, they will know that a consequence is coming. Be sure to check with your administration, grade level team, or student handbook regarding appropriate consequences.
I wouldn’t recommend consequences that include first offense, second offense, or third offense since that is hard to track.
Classroom interruptions are inevitable. How do you manage these common classroom interruptions?