I just finished reading a great article in Edutopia called How to Keep Kids Engaged by Tristan de Frondeville. He explains 10 strategies for turning dead time into active learning, such as: start class with a mind warm-up, use movement to get kids focused, and use quickwrites when you want quiet time and student reflection. This excellent articles explains these strategies and includes examples at different age levels.
I have seen several great teachers who “Use a Fairness Cup to Keep Students Thinking,” which involves drawing out a Popsicle stick with a student’s name to select who responds to a prompt. Personally I prefer a number spinner. I would organize my class into teams, and number the desks 1 through 4 at each team. The first spin of the overhead spinner would select the team, and the second spin the student on the team. Students didn’t raise their hands in my class, because we always used the spinner to determine who would respond. The students knew they had to always be ready to share their thoughts. Once a student answered a question, he or she wasn’t “off the hook” for the rest of lesson.
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Image Credit: Paying Attention by SFB579 Licensed CC by-nc-sa