Do your students talk too much? Is it stressing you out? If so, why don’t you let them talk more?
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While this might sound strange, hear me out. If you constantly hear a little buzz of chatter in your classroom, and you cannot tell from which direction it is coming, this is a sign that your students need more time to talk.
Think about it this way, when you need water, your body tells you when you are dehydrated. On the moderate end, your mouth gets dry or sticky, you may feel sleepy or tired, and you could develop a headache. On the extreme end of dehydration, you may feel an extreme feeling thirst, irritability or confusion.
Just as there are signs and symptoms for dehydration, there are signs and symptoms displayed by our students when they are bored, uninterested, antsy, already “get it,” or need more time to talk. On the moderate end, YOUR mouth gets dry and sticky, you and your students feel sleepy or tired, and you and your students could develop headaches because YOU are doing all of the talking. (Click here to read article on How Teachers Can Talk Less… by Angela Watson). On the extreme end, you and your students feel irritability because they know you see how bored they are, and you are doing nothing about it. They start acting out, talking, and being off task. You are confused about why they are bored, uninterested, and exhibiting these behaviors. You stayed up late the night before because you were so excited to prepare what you thought was an awesome lesson with great and interesting standards-based content. You couldn’t wait to share it with them!
So what is going on? Well, I will be the first to admit it! Sometimes (Okay, Most times) I talk too much, and I need to make a bubble and shut up! As teachers, I’m sure we all need to “shut up!” sometimes. Before I continue, I need to mention I am not a fan of this phrase unless it is used in a jokingly manner (For example, one of your students says something so funny, and your only response is a burst of laughter, and you saying “Shut up! That’s hilarious!” There is no disrespect intended here, and it’s loving and fun!). The phrase is rarely used in my classroom except in these rare and extremely funny occasions, and it is treated as a curse word when students use it otherwise due to its disrespectful tone. When/if they use it, my students often have to think of and write 5 alternative statements they could have said instead of those bad words. But nevertheless teachers, we need to shut up!
You might be wondering,” How am I supposed to do that? I am the teacher!”
Today, I am sharing a strategy with you that could perhaps help you to do so. I have begun using this strategy in my classroom that allows my students to talk more, learn more from each other, and gets them to listen to me more when I actually do need to be the only one talking.
Have you ever heard of Clock Buddies? I learned about it at a training I attended about 2 years ago with world-renowned educator and author, Marcia L. Tate author of “Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.” I am a huge fan of Clock Buddies as it gives my students several opportunities to interact with each other and with me academically. Students are out of their seats, moving around, engaged with each other and me, and learning from each other. The other day, a set of buddies approached me because they could not agree on the correct answer. One student was correct and the other wasn’t. I think I told the students to use a place value chart to settle the dispute. They were able to come to a mutual agreement with evidence to prove it!
“Clock Buddies is meant to be a quick and easy way to create pairs for partnered activities while avoiding the problem of kids always having the SAME partners. It begins with a clock face, with slots for names extending from each hour on the dial. The basic idea is that each student has his or her own copy of a Clock Buddies sheet, with the names of [4-12] classmates on each hour’s slot. Each of those other students, in turn, has this student’s name in the matching hour slot on each of their clock sheets.”
My Personal Clock Buddy Experience
In order to break the ice, Marcia had each of us in the room (about 25 people) walk around for about 5-10 minutes or so, while listening to an old Motown song. In this time frame she had us make appointments with different people in the room for 12 different time slots on the Clock Buddy Sheet she gave us. Once the song was over, she began her presentation. We didn’t use the clocks, but she did inform us that we would. She also cleverly mentioned that having students walk around the room and talk before starting her lesson was a strategy that helped students become engaged and ready to learn before the lesson actually began. I bought in. About 20 minutes into the lesson, she gave us a writing task, and said to meet with our 12 o’clock buddy to complete it. We used the clocks throughout the remainder of our 3 hour time frame with her, and it really helped to keep us focused and engaged on what she was teaching us, and to hear others’ perspectives, and many opportunities to engage in discourse.
What Can You Use Clock Buddies For and When Do You Use It?
- Homework review
- Partner reading
- Think, pair, share
- Question, answer partners
- Test review
- Writing activities
- Partners for field trips
- Gym activities that require two people
- Can you think of anymore? If so, please share!
Why You Should Give Clock Buddies the Time of Day!
Earlier this year, I surveyed a group of teachers on how they continue to stay inspired and motivated to teach. One response was by one of my friends, fitness buddy, and co-workers, Lena Fitchwell. She said what motivated and inspired her to continue teaching each year is by “Changing things up.” As the school librarian, she does an amazing job at cross-curricular teaching. She is always taking a new class and keeping up with what’s new in education and using new strategies to keep her students engaged. I don’t know one child in our building that does not enjoy library (not even the kids that dislike reading!) As teaching can become boring and monotonous if you let it, Clock Buddies is a chance to change things up, everyone!
Where Can I get Access to Clock Buddies?
You can simply Google or use Pinterest to find a variety of different templates for Clock Buddies, but why would you, when you can click right here for a FREE COPY!
Tips If You Decide to use Clock Buddies in Your Classroom
- Students need to write their name on the paper. Either in the center of the clock or at the top of the page.
- Teach students how to ask: “Are you available to be my Clock Buddy at 12 o’clock?” I have heard students respond by saying, “Sorry, but maybe when we make appointments for 3 o’clock, you can be my buddy!” The language is helping students to speak politely to one another.
- Make sure students know that must have 4 different names on their sheet (they may not have their best friend as their clock buddy more than once).
- Start with 4 slots only. It can become quite daunting for your students to start with more.
- Only fill one slot at a time. Tell students to stand up and find a buddy for their 12 o’clock slot, write each other’s name on the line, and return to their seats. Then have students complete the next time slot. Continue this pattern until all 4 slots are filled.
- Some students will not want to participate or stand up, encourage them to participate, but do not force them. Explain to them they are still responsible for completing the work, but they will not receive a grade for participation. Once they see the rest of the class having fun with their buddy, they will most likely want to join. At this point however, it may be too late if everyone already has a buddy. You can use this as a teachable moment on how sometimes you can’t always get what you want when you want it, and have the student sit this one out, or you can choose two students you want this student to partner with since they have no scheduled buddies. Hopefully in the future this student will learn to partake in an activity when the opportunity presents itself or risk not being able to make his or her own choices.
- If you have an even number of students, the teacher may not need to be a Clock Buddy. If you have an odd number of students, the teacher may need to participate as a Buddy. (I typically choose students that may need more help with specific topics or have difficulty reading.)
- Watch out for students that may be intentionally or unintentionally left out. Do not sweep this under the rug. Be upfront about what you notice and make it clear to your students that you notice it, and that it’s not cool. You do not necessarily need to name the student(s) that were left out because most of them already know who you’re talking about including that student. Just tell them that everyone needs to be included. 2-3 students should walk up to the left out student the next time it’s time to choose a buddy. J
- Be willing to give up some control and quietness with this. You will observe your students talking about what you actually asked them to talk about and learning from each other.
- Make multiple copies of the clocks. Each day will be different if even one student is absent.
- The more you use Clock Buddies, the easier it gets in your classroom. You also learn different ways to use it, and it becomes less time consuming to set the buddies up over time. It should also alleviate the need for students to talk so much when they are not supposed to.
As we continue to learn, grow, and renew our passion for teaching, we must try new things. Will you try Clock Buddies in your classroom? How will you use this strategy? If you decide to use it, come back and tell us how it worked. Did it work well? What things would you change? Did the students like it? Did they stop talking less when they were not supposed to? Do you have any suggestions or tips that I may have overlooked? Please share. Thank you for reading, commenting, following this blog, sharing, posting to other social media outlets, and committing to renewing your passion for teaching.
Until Next Time, Happy Teaching!
Krystal L. Smith (The RenewED Teacher)