Students hear teachers telling them to behave properly all day, and they don’t really internalize it. Sure, you’re telling them to be quiet, but of course you are, you’re an adult. So I figured out how to leverage their succeptibility to peer pressure to my advantage:
Talk like a peer, but convey the messages of an adult.
For example, suppose I am trying to get the attention of the class but there are still a few kids talking. I can raise my hand, do quiet coyote with my fingers, use call and response phrases or claps… to varying degrees of success, depending on how much they are willing to please an adult in that moment. OR I could just turn to a student who is paying attention and say, “imagine talking while the teacher is trying to get the attention of the class?”. Suddenly — silence, and all eyes on me!
Or take the power struggle that ensues when a student does something wrong but decides to argue about it. Rather than going back and forth, I just look at them and say “that’s sus”. Instantly, they know you know and the power struggle is over.
It can even help in explaining instructions. This is normally a time when students JUST cannot sit still and focus. Yet the more slang you sprinkle in, the more they listen. I was explaining some intricacies of how for one assignment they needed to use google classroom, but for another they needed to use Canvas. Many found it hard to focus (understandably). Then I began to explain, “When you try to do this with Google Classroom it’s an L, but Canvas in this case is a W”. All eyes on me. Breathless, enraptured silence.
Or the instructions to hold up your hand and show a thumbs up for how much you are understanding or how much progress you have made. Normally, a thumbs up is something like “great”, a thumbs to the side is “okay”, and a thumbs down is “bad”. But as soon as you change it to “S tier”, “Mid”, and “Dog water”, they feel like they are playing a video game!
After I did this for a while, the students even suggested I grade them with slang. I had been using M for meeting Expectations, P for progressing toward expectations, and W for warning. But they kept getting confused because a W is a “win” in slang. So I jokingly suggested I could switch to W, Mid, and L, and they were overwhelmingly and unironically in support of this idea. I haven’t actually made that switch, but I think it would be funny, and potentially even effective, especially for self- or peer-grading.
I really thought they would find it hokey if I tried to be young and hip, but for some reason they LOVE it. I don’t know if this generation is just less ironically detached, or if that just happens a little later, or if this is how it’s always been and I just didn’t notice, but I am making full use of this hack.