Conventional wisdom says that you move around the room to keep your students engaged and involved.
It’s an approach that buys into the notion that students are unable to focus without extraneous stimuli—movement, sound, proximity, novelty. It’s a belief that even in the midst of giving common directions you must make them track you with their eyes.
So you move among tables. You change up the areas in the room from where you speak. You pace and accentuate your arm and hand movements lest your students grow bored and turn their attention away from you.
But the surprising truth is that your students will become more attentive if you stand still and in one place while giving directions.
It’s an association.
When you give directions from the same place, day after day, your students will associate that place with listening, understanding, and applying what you tell them. It helps groove the habit of good listening and attentiveness. The moment you step into that spot they’ll know that you’re going to provide information they need.
It’s easier to focus.
Any movement or stimulation outside of your calm, clear voice is a distraction. As such, it pays to not only stay in one place, but to keep your arm and hand movements to a minimum. This underscores the importance of being prepared before you speak, to never hem and haw or appear unsure of what you want to say.
It removes obstacles.
Having to look up from their work to find you, to turn and crane their necks, and to concentrate on your voice, all while trying to track your movements, offers needless opportunities for their attention to shift elsewhere. The more work you ask of your students in order to focus on you, the more obstacles that conspire to interfere with your message.
It provides the feedback you need.
When you’re moving it’s hard to assess whether or not your students are comprehending your message. Standing in one place, on the other hand, allows you to know if your words are hitting their mark—because attentiveness is something you can see. In time and with practice, you can become very good at ascertaining in an instant how well they’re listening and understanding.
It keeps you in contact.
Standing stationary from the most visible spot in your classroom gives you access to all of your students at once. Although your body will remain still and serene, your eyes and facial expressions will be active—searching, reading, connecting, encouraging, and engaging.
It makes modeling stand out.
In contrast to standing in one place and giving directions, modeling calls for students to focus on what you do rather than on what you say. Keeping these two critically important areas separate and completely different in execution makes both more effective and impactful.
A Simple Change, A Noticeable Difference
From the moment you get off the conveyor belt winding around and through your classroom, you’ll notice the difference.
Whenever you have directions to give or information to share, if you stay rooted to the most visible and accessible place in your classroom, your students will listen, pay attention, and understand what you say better and more accurately than when you move.
So when should you move around the room?
When it’s part of your lesson and the passion you bring to your classroom. If you’re compelled to move, model, playact, dance, or show your enthusiasm while in the midst of a lesson or motivating your troops, then let the moment take you where it takes you. Let inspiration be your guide.
For the day-to-day operation of your classroom, however, for initiating routines, giving directions, or providing the many need-to-know announcements that are part of a working classroom . . .
Stand in one place.
And speak calmly and clearly.
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