Communication in the Middle School Classroom

Communication in the Middle School Classroom

Communicating with middle school students can be… challenging. They don’t want to answer questions in class because looking smart is not exactly considered “cool”. They do however, want to communicate with their classmates. They don’t want to ask questions in class because they don’t want to appear as though they aren’t smart (even though smart isn’t cool). They don’t want you to praise them in front of their peers because they most certainly are not the teacher’s pet.

Eliminating verbal communication from parts of your daily routine will help with classroom management, time management and student participation.

Providing students with dry erase boards to use when working as a whole group will allow students to participate in giving answers without having to speak. Eliminated is the fear of being wrong and the fear of being “too smart”. Students can simply hold up their boards with answers so you can clearly see who gets it and who doesn’t.

Sticky notes are a fabulous way to provide feedback to students without drawing attention to them. While students are working independently, you can walk around the room and place notes on students desks. A note such as “You did a great job on your homework last night!” or “I heard your soccer team won – Congrats!” can make a big difference to a student.

Watch your tone when speaking to your students. Your tone can lead students to believe that you are angry with them, frustrated with them or think they are stupid. Try to keep an even tone when speaking to your students as a whole and individually.
If students are off task but not disruptive, you can often get them back on task with just the tap of a finger or your presence. Walking over towards a student who is off task can be enough to stop the behavior because they’ll not want you to speak to them. If they see you coming, they’ll likely stop. If they don’t, you can just walk up and tap on their desk or their paper to redirect their attention.
Of course there are the standard finger raises to signal certain things. For example, one finger indicates the need to use the restroom. Two fingers = I have to go to my locker. Holding up their pencil is a way to ask if you can sharpen your pencil.
Middle school students are old enough to be able to do things like pick up their own papers on the way into class, drop off papers after class, turn in homework without being asked, and much, much more. To save class time and to keep yourself from answering the same questions over and over again, try these quick tips:
  • Reminders: On your warm up each day, have a note that reminds students to turn in their homework / copy homework for that night / get something out on their desk / etc. The more you can have them do on their own, the better!
  • Turning in work: Have trays by the door for students to put work in when they leave the class. When you pass out an assignment, let them know it’ll be due in the tray when they walk out of the door. That will keep them from raising their hands and asking “Are you collecting this?” or “What do I do with this?” It will also keep you from replying to those questions with statements like, “Oh no, I’m not going to collect it. I just gave it to you to keep you busy and quiet.” or “What do you do with it? I dunno… eat it for lunch?”
  • Papers: Consider having a tray or other organizer by the door that contains papers the students will need that day. Graphic organizers, handouts, notes home and other things can take up valuable class time when you pass them out. By having them available for students to pick up on their own, you save time and save questions. Hanging organizers work well for this too!

If you have other verbal or non verbal communication tools you use in your classroom, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Interested in more tips and ideas for middle school math teachers? Head back to my blog main page and scroll or search! 

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Hi, I'm Lindsay!

I create ready to go resources for middle school math teachers, so they can get back what matters most – their time!

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