Prevent interruptions in your upper elementary classroom with a very simple classroom management fix

Preventing Interruptions in Your Guided Reading or Small Group

Prevent interruptions in your upper elementary classroom with a very simple classroom management fix

Written by Guest Blogger Laura Brown

This is my third-year teaching in a dual language program at my school. In the dual language program, I am responsible for English Language Arts and Social Studies for two classes. Each class has about 20 students, so I share my students with my partner teacher who teaches Math and Science in Spanish. We switch our kids about half way through the day. Therefore, the majority of my day consists of teaching literacy.

At my school we are required to do 90 minutes of guided reading a day. Since I have two classes, I had to do 180 minutes of guided reading a day. Throwing it back to when I started my first-year teaching, I thought I had read all there was to know about classroom management and what to do and what not to do. Soon after starting the school year I noticed an immediate problem!

The Problem

If you teach guided reading or any small group with classroom rotations, you can probably guess what my problem was…. interruptions! If you have never been interrupted during that time, then props to you!

Now I do not mean interruptions with other teachers or for fire drills, but with students in the class. They would come and interrupt my guided reading time to ask some questions that could have been answered by their peers. For example, they may ask me, “Ms. Brown what center are we on?” “Ms. Brown what do we do again for SeeSaw?” Those kinds of questions could have easily been answered by one of their classmates.

So, by November I decided I had to figure out a way to fix this issue because my time with my groups was more important than telling a student what center they are on when they came back from the library or pullouts. That is when I had to put my problem-solving cap on, and so the “X” was born!

I wanted to find a way for students to still be able to ask a question without coming up to my table while I or another student is talking. I implemented this new strategy and it has worked like a charm!

X Marks the Spot

It’s very simple - put an X in tape on the floor near your guided reading table. I would suggest putting it behind the students that are at the table about 4 feet. Then, explain to students that they have to stand on it to ask the teacher an important question. Tada! Student interruptions are gone!

This is how it all started: one morning I walked in my room and took out my Minion Duct Tape and taped an X on the floor behind my guided reading table. It was far enough away that if a student were standing on it, they would not be standing or hovering over the students at the table.

Now the idea is that when a student has a question they will stand on the X and wait until I call on them to see what they need. Of course, I had to teach my students how the X works. After plenty of practice and reminders to stand on the X while I had a group, the students were finally getting it.

In my class we use dojo points so if a student did forget to stand on the X and come and interrupt my table, they would lose a dojo point. That helped the students remember the procedure!


Ask 3 Before Me

I thought I had it all figured out…. but there was still one small issue! The issue was that students were still asking questions that could be answered by their peers. Nonetheless I had to implement another step to the X strategy. The student had to go ask three friends before they could come ask me their question. To help them remember that, I had a sign posted behind my guided reading table. The sign said “1. Ask 3 Before Me. 2. Stand on the X.”

Of course, they knew to not go ask a peer if they could go to the bathroom, but they could ask what center they are on or what they are were supposed to do for a certain center. The added bonus of the X is when you have to test at your table. I would put the sign at the very front of my table so then the students would remember to ask a friend.

I just finished up my third-year teaching and have used this strategy every year! It has worked with all my students!


Side note: if you want to confuse your kids, move your guided reading table and your X and watch them look on the floor where the old X was! Its very entertaining! 😀

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