Tuesday, 19 May 2009

5 Key Items Every Classroom Needs #2: A Koosh Ball, Teddy Bear or Skull

In 3 Tips for Whole Class Discussion I mentioned the use of a conch - i.e. something students must hold in order to speak. Whoever has the conch has the right to be listened to by everyone else in the room (including teachers and TAs).

Interesting items that can be safely thrown around are vital to behaviour management. Conches are uesful for quick Q&As, picking volunteers or managing confused discussions about homework expectations. Whenever talking gets out of hand, I go back to the conch. It takes practice and clear judgement at the beginning of the year to drill its use. With younger groups we spend time practicing 'a communication' - i.e. saying the persons name, looking at them and then gently throwing the item. Some older groups have even needed to be taught this on occasion!

What makes a good conch? Crucially, it should be soft and students should want to hold it. Anything that students can play with while they talk is good (it helps with the nerves), and the more amusing the better. But it can't be too valuable.

In my room I have three options:

1. A koosh ball - mine is bright green and lights up! I bought it in a science museum sale for a £1

2. A teddy bear - I use my Liverpool FC Bear because it represents the place I grew up. My previous colleague used a soft toy Owl because it represented wisdom.

3. A squashy skull - Again, from a science museum. This is a bright red squashy skull. It's gross, so 12-year old boys LOVE it.