I still remember my teacher explaining to my third-grade classroom what to do in case of a fire. “Stop, drop, and roll!” she said, and then demonstrated it before having us do the same. Watching my teacher roll around on the floor is a memory I’ll have forever. But Mrs. McDonnell knew that if we remembered that statement, it could save our lives in a dangerous situation.
“Stop, Drop, and Roll” also works when a “fire” breaks out in the classroom. I’m not talking about a literal fire — I hope that never happens to you! Instead, I’m talking about distractions or disruptions that can send your well-planned lesson up in smoke.
Whether you are trying to gain the attention of the entire classroom or working one-on-one with an individual child who is struggling to focus, “Stop, Drop, and Roll” is a strategy that will guide you to capturing the attention of those you are trying to teach.
How do you put out the flame quickly so you can return to your instruction?
STOP. The first key is to accept that you have lost your students’ attention. Whether a bird flew into the room, a car alarm went off outdoors, or a door is blown open by the wind and slams against the wall; by no fault of your own, everyone is now looking at the distraction and you have momentarily lost control. This is OK. Stop what you were doing or saying and immediately acknowledge the distraction.
DROP. The key to bringing the children back into focus is to first drop your agenda and join them in the distraction. Deal with the bird, comment on the alarm, or walk over and close the door while making a joke about the wind. Pretending a distraction isn’t there will only magnify it as your students pretend not to notice but are no longer listening to you. When you drop what you were doing and join them, you maintain your connection with your audience.