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moves offers a wealth of possibilities to classroom teachers. Teachers with well- developed repertoires in this area of teaching respond to different students in consistent but different ways. The following examples illustrate how Mrs. T skillfully matches her attention moves to individual students:

p Example 1: Mrs. T knows that Daryl looks for power conflicts; he invites tests of will with her or any other authority figure. When she uses almost any of the desisting moves with him, he gets worse. For instance, he takes a specific verbal desist as a challenge to tap his pencil even louder and see what he can goad Mrs. T into doing, so she has learned to use alerting and enlisting moves with him. If he really gets out of hand, she will move firmly and remove him, but she often avoids the necessity for doing that and does get Daryl to pay attention by challenging him with a question, pre-alerting him, or by using the move of making a student a helper. She uses this last move when she sees him tapping the pencil and says, “So there really were four pyramids for the kings. Daryl, will you advance the PowerPoint to the next frame so I can point to things from the front?”

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p Example 2: Monica is a different sort of child. Although she also engages in frequent off-task behavior, enlisting moves seem to overstimulate her. Mrs. T explains, “It’s as if she interprets enlisting and winning moves as ‘I want to be your friend’ or ‘I want to play’ messages from me. She gets carried away with the interaction and focuses too much on me.” While she looks for other ways and other opportunities to meet this need for close- ness that Monica seems to have during work times, Mrs. T uses midrange desisting and alerting moves (reminding, the look, pre-alerts) consistently, and successfully, with Monica when she’s off task.

Individual students, with different needs, require different moves, and skillful teach- ers deliberately match their moves to students. Some experienced teachers are intui- tive about the way they differentiate these moves across their students, and they are known as effective classroom managers. They may not be able to explain why they choose what they do. They just seem to know that they have it right. Perhaps, it is a subconscious acuteness they have at matching attention moves to various students.

Whether or not they have this intuitive flair, all teachers can benefit from re- flecting on the patterns of inattention among their students and examining them in relation to the patterns of moves they seem to be making in response. They may discover that they are overlooking part of their available repertoire because they get so irritated with Adam, or that the repertoire could be en- larged, or that they could do better matching if they looked for the reason be- hind the inattention. Talking about a student (or a group) with a colleague us- ing the Attention Continuum can be a highly engaging and productive activity.

Individual students with different needs require different moves, and skillful teachers deliberately match their moves to students.



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R58



Preconditions for Student Attention:

p Frame each learning experience for students.

p Use a range of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic explanatory devices when presenting information.

p Pay attention to the feeling tone of the learning experience and mood of the students, and adjust where necessary.

p Consider pre-assessment to determine where students are currently in relation to where you want them to be by the end of the lesson, and design for differences in student readiness.

p Pause regularly and periodically to have students process what they are taking in before adding more information.

p Plan for at least two minutes of physical movement of some kind within every 20 to 40 minutes of sitting time.

p Laugh with your students, and pay attention to the emotional climate in the room.

The Attention Repertoire:

1. Desisting

2. Alerting

3. Enlisting

4. Acknowledging

5. Winning

To check your knowledge about Attention, see the exercises on The Skillful Teacher website at www.RBTeach.com/TST7.



6. Momentum

T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R 59


Management Momentum



The concept of “Momentum” pertains to the smooth, ongoing flow of events in the classroom (Kounin, 1970). Teaching is full of interruptions to momentum. When these interruptions occur, students’ concentra- tion is broken, and they are distracted or prevented from becoming involved in learning activities. They experience downtime—time spent waiting for things to get ready, get started, or get organized. When Momentum is not maintained, students become bored or look for things to do, potentially filling their time by daydreaming or engaging in disruptive behavior. When Momentum is ef- fectively maintained, students experience smooth and rapid transitions from one event to another. Movement of students and equipment happens without bottlenecks, traffic jams, conflicts, arguments, or pushing and shoving. In this chapter, we examine the behaviors teachers perform to manage Momentum and keep things moving along in the classroom.


In a general sense, many areas of performance relate to the concept of Momen- tum. In Management: Attention does, insofar as students are kept interested or at least focused on learning experiences; Routines do, in that efficient design of routines for recurrent procedures expedites organizing and setting up, and speeds transitions; Space does, in that effective arrangement of space facilitates students’ finding things and getting involved and minimizes distractions; and Time does, in that appropriate schedules provide for the ebb and flow of pupils’ available energy and attention span, avoiding unreasonable demands.

In Motivation: Expectations for work do, in that teacher persistence and clarity about how things are to be done enable students to work more automatically and make students individually efficient at moving from one thing to another; Personal Relationship Building does, in that students’ regard for the teacher makes them less likely to resist or disrupt.

Several of the Curriculum Planning areas of performance (Objectives, Assess- ment, and Differentiated Instruction) can also have an impact on Momentum. Mismatched material that is too hard, too easy, or inappropriately presented

When momentum is effectively maintained, students experience smooth and rapid transitions from one event to another.





T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R60


can lead to bored or frustrated students who will certainly break the momentum of classroom flow. In a broad sense, any mismatch of curriculum or instruction to students tends to break momentum.

But to cast Momentum so broadly is to subsume all of teaching under its um- brella. Indeed, any area of teaching performance, whatever the primary purpose of the behaviors it considers, does have a secondary effect on momentum. How- ever, we believe that it is valuable to focus on aspects of teaching that relate pri- marily to maintaining momentum in the classroom. Therefore, we narrow our definition of Momentum to eight key subareas (or kinds of teacher behavior) whose primary purpose is to keep things moving along. Otherwise, if ignored or improperly done, they break the orderly flow of events.

The eight categories of Momentum behaviors are an eclectic group, compris- ing items that pertain to maintaining or at least enabling student involvement in learning experiences, as all other management areas of performance do. But unlike the behaviors in other management areas of performance, which can be associated with other missions, these eight do not fit any other area of perfor- mance and are primarily aimed at Momentum. They are (1) provisioning, (2) overlapping, (3) fillers, (4) intrusions, (5) lesson flexibility, (6) advance notice, (7) subdividing, and (8) anticipation.


Provisioning means having things ready to go—the space and the materials. With adequate provisioning, the teacher does not call a group of students to- gether and then leave them for a minute to fetch something needed for the les- son from the closet. Students do not run out of needed materials during learn- ing experiences so that they have to stop what they are doing and solicit new stocks from the teacher. This does not preclude pupils’ restocking themselves from known and easily accessible storehouses or supply points. It is when the supply point is out of paper, for example, that momentum suffers. Materials are out and organized before the start of lessons, and the space is arranged as neces- sary before instruction begins. The room is equipped with things the students will need or are likely to need for the activities that may predictably occur over the day. Provisioning, like much of the rest of good management, becomes con- spicuous by its absence. Nevertheless, there are many observable signs of good provisioning.

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