Let's Talk Expectations

A quick post today on expectations. My Modern World History class is watching The Imitation Game this week. I wrote a little bit about activities to conduct during movies that make the movie a more intellectual activity. However, the activity is only half the challenge - and the less important half at that!

A lot of teachers that when they show videos, they have a large chunk of kids that don't pay a whole lot of attention. A common complaint is that this makes no sense; the teacher is giving an 'easy' activity so why would the students not pay attention on the 'easy' activity.

First, if you're showing a movie or a video because it is 'easy', then you're probably showing that movie or video for very wrong reasons. You might want to reconsider your goals a bit. Videos and movies are not breaks - they are simply different methods of learning.

Second, we often forget the details when we get moving along in the year. If you are
  1. Have a worthwhile and meaningful activity for the students to complete during, or after, they watch the video. Give them external motivation to pay attention if they are not yet to the point where their internal motivation gets the job done.
  2. Build in time to reinforce expectations before you start the video/movie each day. I always remind the students of the assignment that they are working on and I remind them how to get to wherever they need to get on their technology.
  3. Reinforce why they are watching whatever they are watching. I try to have a fun fact that will hook the students before I start each day.
  4. Be strict on the first time someone gets off task. No matter how strong your plans, someone will be off task*. Be kind and respectful, but reinforce that you expect their attention on the video/movie. If you allow small off-task behaviors to go on, they will quickly turn into bigger behaviors. More importantly, when you do redirect a student eventually, that student will wonder why you didn't redirect the other, smaller behaviors. And they'll be right to be a bit upset that they are getting redirected when the others did not. It's small for you as the teacher, but as a student it's a big deal. Remember that. 
  5. Participate with the students. With the Today's Meet, I prod the discussion on with questions. I make myself available to correct misunderstandings or answer questions.
*If you teach a class where your students never get off task, email me! I want to know your secrets!

Screen captures of a back and forth with a 4th Hour student during The Imitation Game

Whatever you set as your expectations, remember that the goal is not compliance - the goal is engagement. You can get anyone to comply for a short period of time, but in order to get the students truly on board they have to see the usefulness in their work while they are in your class.


Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

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