Really Random Comments

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Miss Starr, Jan 28, 2008.

  1. Miss Starr

    Miss Starr Companion

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    Jan 28, 2008

    So how do you respond to those really random comments that kids make during the middle of lessons? I am starting to catch myself getting snippy or sarcastic sometimes when I am teaching say a lesson on Egypt and some kid raises her hand and asks about the lunch menu, the class play in May, or something even more off topic. I used to just say, "That is not what we are discussing now", then go back to teaching, but it seems to be getting more frequent. Any ideas on a quick way to remind them that they need to stay with the lesson.
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Good luck. I knew people who were still doing that in college.
     
  4. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Hmm... you're already doing what I would do! Is there any way you can just ignore the comments? Or possibly create a silent symbol you can use to say "Hold that thought. I will answer that at a more appropriate time". A final suggestion, just sit down and talk to the class about the situation. Explain how you don't like to be interrupted with irrelevant questions during your teaching time. You could discuss what irrelevant questions are and then ask the class for possible solutions.
     
  5. Bernard

    Bernard Companion

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    As MissScrimmage said, discuss relevant vs. irrelevant questions. You might do a couple of fun examples or role play scenarios.
    At the end of the discussion, hang a small poster of a target on one corner of your chalk/white board. Discuss the importance of staying "on target" and the logical consequences on staying on target vs. getting off target. Afterwards, if a child asks an "off target" questions, just point at the target and then quickly call on the next child!
    You might consider having a few blocks of time when you take down or turn over the target, meaning that it is an appropriate time for kids to ask (almost) anything that is on their minds. Then you could make a point of putting the target back up as you say, "Let's get on target with math now..."
     
  6. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    I ask them if that question is sticking to the topic. They usually know it's not and I go on. With my frequent offenders, now sometimes I will ask before hand if it's on topic. Often it's not and I can avoid the question all together.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Most of the time I think hands just shoot up into the air as soon as a coherent thought forms itself in a student's brain, and the student doesn't take the time to think about the appropriateness of the question. A gentle, firm reminder tends to do the trick.

    Normally I just say something like, "Now is not the time for that question. Ask me at the end of class." And then I continue with whatever I was saying.

    When it's a student who is particularly prone to random questions or statements, I sometimes ask, "Does your question pertain to what we're talking about now?"

    I think this one's a problem we will all face for the duration of our teaching careers. :)
     
  8. 2ndTimeArnd

    2ndTimeArnd Companion

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    And I thought this was just a trait of the little guys ... I teach 2nd graders and it drives me nuts. Every single day ... "How much longer til recess?" "Do we have lunch today?" (no, we've decided to starve you today). Or, right in the middle of double-digit subtraction, "My grandma got a new dog!" Lovely. This weekend I saw an ad during a golf tournament where a guy was shushing his dog with one of those giant QUIET signs they carry at the tourneys while Tiger is teeing off ... and I decided I needed one. Last year I made one that said, "Please Be Quiet," and another that said, "Work it out on your own" that I flashed at them when they were bothering me while I was helping other students. They finally got the point ... but this year's crop of kids is
     
  9. 2ndTimeArnd

    2ndTimeArnd Companion

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    Jan 28, 2008

    a little slower to catch on (sorry for the break ... my keyboard locked up)...
     
  10. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Jan 29, 2008

    Sometimes what I do is once someone asks their silly question that has nothing to do with the topic, I'll just say "Is there anyone else that has a question or comment that pertains to the subject" if I was actually taking questions at the time. If it is a random question during instruction, I will just inform them that I am only answering questions that pertain to the topic at home (and other times I will just stare at them in bewilderment and not say a thing).
     
  11. bluelightstar

    bluelightstar Companion

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I think that's easier to deal with in an English class. I usually entertain these questions as long as they don't cut me off when I'm saying "These types of questions will be on the AP..."
     
  12. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    I see (on your avatar) that you teach 4th grade. They are old enough to understand without much explanation, they just need to learn that you're serious about it. Once or twice, perhaps at the beginning of a lesson, explain to them that irrelevant comments should not be brought up in class.

    Once they're all aware of this, if someone tries to get in an irrelevant comment during class, I say "We can discuss it during recess (/after class/circle time/____)" and go on with the lesson without missing a beat (a beat in which the kid could try to talk back). After the kids get used to it, you may even be able to phase out of that and just give them a look before going on. Under normal circumstances, kids will stop trying when they see that it doesn't get them any attention.

    (I say "under normal circumstances" because sometimes there may be something very concerning on their minds and it can be in your best interest to air it out. For instance, sometimes if the whole class is upset about something that happened earlier, or something you said reminded them of an issue that came up in a different class, the kids won't be able to concentrate on anything else until that gets smoothed over)
     
  13. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Jan 29, 2008

    They know the questions are off topic. That's why they do it. It's a form of back talk to test the teacher, watch the teacher get upset, and play to the crowd. Of course the more you acknowledge or discuss their comment signals the tactic is working so expect more of the same. I've observed kids play this game with one teacher then the same kids ask purposeful on-topic questions with another teacher. It has more to do with how kids perceive the teacher. Some teachers exhibit a "withitness" or presence that sends message "I'm not amused" while others seem easy targets to exploit and manipulate.

    One technique to consider is putting words in their mouths before they ask -- "Mary, before you ask your question I want you to think about your question and include at least one fact from page 124. Do that and I'll come back to you." Not only does this cut off the "What's for lunch?" it gives Mary some think time to find the answer, formulate a response, and not get out of the lesson with "I dunno".
     
  14. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I just want to add that even my special ed kids, who are 5th grade age, understand this, which is why I'm confident that your students do, too. Some of my kids have impulsivity/distractibility issues that make it harder for them to hold in comments even though they understand it's off-topic, which is why I think the cool-response ("not now" with a straight face and then go on) is the most effective.
     
  15. Miss Starr

    Miss Starr Companion

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    Jan 29, 2008

    Thanks for all the help. I really do have an exceptionally good class and this is the extent of my behavior problems. I really don't think that they are trying to hijack the class or to manipulate me. I just think that they actually really do want to know if penguins have tongues in the middle of a social studies lesson about ancient Egypt. Some of my worst offenders are kids with attentional issues. I like the idea of talking to them about staying on target and then have a picture of a target in the room. That way it can be a little more of a non-verbal cue and something that I don't keep having to say it over and over. If anyone else has some suggestions I will try them out too.
     
  16. dumbdiety

    dumbdiety Comrade

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I do exactly what MissFroggy does....I ask my frequent flyers if it relates to what's being discussed before I even ASK what the questino is, otherwise I ask if it's relevant to the discussion and not answer it.
    Though it REALLY peeves me when the answer is on the board behind me!
    "What resource do we have today?"
    "What page do I open to?"
    "When is ... due?"
    ARGH!
     
  17. cMcD

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    Jan 29, 2008

    If I had a dollar for every time this happened to me I'd be rich! I started saying something like "We're not talking about that now. Ask later after the lesson." They know when they're doing it and what they're doing. One time I was so taken back I said, "What!?" with the stunned look on my face. Now I'm to the point where when they do it I ignore it and keep talking about what I was talking about. Not even acknowledging the comment has started to work.
     
  18. cMcD

    cMcD Groupie

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I HATE that! I still get "When do we go to recess?" We've been going to recess at the same time the entire year and it's written on the board at the front of the room everyday!

    At the start of the year I implemented "Ask 3 Before Me". If someone doesn't know the page number we're on after me saying it they have to ask three classmates before asking me.
     
  19. Steph-ernie

    Steph-ernie Groupie

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    Jan 29, 2008

    When I get this, I simply reply with, "right now we're doing ___" and I continue on with whatever else we were doing. Those who are especially chronic about this, I'll sometimes move on without any acknowledgment at all. I have more of a problem with students who want to share long and involved stories that relate in the tiniest little way to what we're actually talking about. For those students, when I suspect they're going to share some long story I'll call on them by saying, "Question Susie?" They'll usually pause and say, "well, no..." so I can remind them to hang onto it until later.
     
  20. Jungle

    Jungle Companion

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I have had this same problem. I discussed with my students that I don't come and ask them about math facts at lunch, so please don't interrupt our classtime with questions that could be asked at a later time. If it's important, (just not to the lesson), have them write it down so they can ask you later. Sometimes they just need to get the idea out and writing it down is much less disruptive. I have one gifted kiddo that is always leaving notes on my desk of things he wants to know.
     
  21. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Jan 29, 2008

    I've been so annoyed at my class for interrupting with comments that don't pertain to what we are doing (and in general) that I told them they had until the end of January before I assigned seats again during our class meetings (which is how I do most whole group instruction- them on the floor in a circle or in rows in front of me on the floor.) They used to sit boy-girl-boy-girl but it took so long to get seated (without moving and arguing) that after the break I said they could sit where they want.

    Now they are constantly interrupting or interjecting, asking off topic questions, etc. 2 more days and I can change their seats. I'm sure I will have to and they will GRIPE but I think it will help...
     
  22. MsMaggs

    MsMaggs Comrade

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    Jungle, I like this idea! I always try to encourage students to ask questions about things they are interested in, but at the same time I want them to find an appropriate time to ask those questions. Most of the time they ask the question and I tell them we're working on _______ now, but I'd be more than happy to discuss something else with you after the lesson, but then by the end of the lesson they've forgotten what they wanted to know! If they wrote it down they'd be more likely to remember and discuss it at a better time!
     
  23. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    When I started to realize how often I was getting those questions, I embarked on a mission to get my kids to think independently. These days, I will never give a kid an answer that I know they know or can figure out. The most I will do, when it's an appropriate time, is to prompt them to figure it out.
     
  24. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    I had teachers who did that and I planned to do it myself; I think it's a great idea.

    Then I got a class of kids who don't write.

    And sometimes something is important, but needs to wait, and they just never get that opportunity to say it at the right time. Used to happen to me a lot as a kid. I feel so bad putting the kids off when they have a good question, but I just can't listen at the time. :(
     
  25. loves2teach

    loves2teach Enthusiast

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    Jan 30, 2008

    Oh these drive me crazy. My student teacher had a hard time at first, because she let them allllllll tell crazy stories/crazy questions.

    I am going to try the writing them down thing, and suggest it to her.
     
  26. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    You know, I think we forget that this is a skill that needs to be taught. Even if they're 4th. Somewhere along the way they missed that concept. I think going back to square one and teaching them and practicing asking questions that are on topic/off topic will help.

    I do this at the beginning of the year when I work on lit circles. We also practice asking fat questions vs. skinny questions. Skinny questions require answers of just a few words. "Who was the main character?" Fat questions require lots of words. "Why do you think Billy ran away?"

    After modeling it, and knowing that I expect it, it gets better. Along about now, I also go back and review it for my "slackers." :)
     
  27. TxHopeful

    TxHopeful Rookie

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    Question Box

    Maybe you could start a question box. If a student has a good question that just isn't appropriate for that moment you could instruct them to write it down in put it in the box AFTER the lesson. This could give you the opportunity to address the questions at a more appropriate time and still let students know that their thoughts are valuable.:)
     
  28. Commartsy

    Commartsy Companion

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    This doesn't end with childhood, either. I worked at the local zoo one summer, and we had a special exhibit for which you were required to buy separate tickets. There was a big sign in front explaining where to get the special tickets, but people would still ask me at the entrance.

    On a free entrance day, my voice was about to give out from telling these people where to get the tickets, so I made my own little sign and taped it on the window. People didn't look at it and continued to ask, so I moved it to a place on the window right in front of my face. People would look AROUND it to ask me where to get the tickets! :lol:
     
  29. MrsPatten

    MrsPatten Comrade

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    That's my usual reply. I have a little boy that while we're reading Little Polar Bear will start talking (ever so country-fied) about how "me and my daddy caught 12 possums in our live trap this morning" and a little girl that during math will raise her hand so sweetly and I think she's going to give me the best answer to my question and will say "Mrs. Patten I got me a little puppy and he sits in my hand and, and, and my sister can't pet him because he'll, he'll, he'll bite her and......"

    It's all I can do not to just feet first through them so I just glare.....and count to 10.
     
  30. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    :rofl::rofl: Now that's funny!!
     
  31. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    Ten?? Sometimes it takes me to 50!:D
     
  32. Jeky

    Jeky Comrade

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    I don't even acknowledge radnom/off-topic questions or comments. I use a lot of real and made-up sign language in my class, and one of the first "signs" I taught them was to differentiate the way in which they raise their hands. It requires them to think about what they are going to say before they say it. If they have a questions, they raise their hand making the ASL sign for the letter "i" (standing for "I have a questions"). Or if they are answering a question they use an "a", and if they have a comment they use a "c". Usually I don't call on the comment people until the very end of the lesson. This seems to keep everyone on task pretty well. If on the off chance the off-topic stuff does happen still, I have a sign for that as well. I simply put my hand straight up, palm facing the student, which is our sign that means "that was off-topic". Then I simply move on to the next student without even saying anything.:)
     
  33. atieK

    atieK Rookie

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    I teach PE so I only have a class 2 times a week. Its really difficult to keep routines and rules but we try..... Our administration really encourages not being sarcastic or mean to kids who have random questions or comments. I have up to 42 K-2 students as a time so you know I get a million q's and comments. After I get one, I simply say "Thank you for sharing" or "That's interesting" or "Awesome, I'll talk to you more about that later" and move right on to what I was teaching.
     
  34. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    I ignore them. Giving them validation will only encourage the bad habit.
     
  35. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    I have two kids in my class who I ask this same question quite regularly before I let them ask their question! I often get a "Um, well, it sort of does." to which I tell them "Then it can wait." and I move on immediately.
     
  36. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Ooooh, I like this idea! What a great way to make them think before just putting their hand up!
     
  37. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    I love it!! I wonder if I could start with that tomorrow! :up:
     
  38. Jeky

    Jeky Comrade

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    Jan 31, 2008

    Oh I almost forgot to mention an interesting yet unplanned side effect....
    It didn't take long at all for the kids to figure out that I usually give preference to the students who have questions. Since the majority of my kids LOVE to hear themselves talk, this has led to them trying to think up interesting, relevant questions during lessons.
    :whistle:

    (and as usual, I can't take credit for this idea, it came from an awesome teacher named Rick Morris)
     
  39. scottharward

    scottharward New Member

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    Feb 5, 2008

    Random Comments

    As a student still in high school, I suggest you just say that you aren't going to talk about it and that it is off the subject. If it is a subject that has something to do with the subject but you don't have time to go over it in class, tell them to talk to you about it after class. Students are always going to try to get you off topic, you just have to get used to it.

    When you need a break from correcting homework, let your mind have fun at this website. It is very entertaining and is a nice escape for a little bit. randominterests.com
     

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