One of the most effective strategies that I have observed is what I refer to as the silent strategy. This can be applied at any point in a lesson. The idea of this strategy is to only speak when all student attention is given. If even one student is off task, staying silent can create an atmosphere of tension and peer pressure that will quell the inattentiveness quickly. Aside from general strategies, a good opening strategy for a lesson is a warmup exercise of some kind, preferably kinesthetic and teamwork oriented. This will not only expel energy, but also wake up the minds of the students. A good classroom closure strategy that I have observed is that of an exit pass extension of the lesson. Basically, students are required to complete a task given during the lesson in order to leave class that day. This can often encourage better attentiveness towards the end of class when students often begin to pack up their belongings early.
A great transition tool that I have observed is what is referred to as classroom olympics. Basically it involves changing the configuration of the classroom mid-lesson to accommodate for another task. For Language Arts, if I were to do a reading circle I would have my student clear the desks and put the chairs in a circle. After the reading session, I would have them put them back. I can even use a stop watch to time the students on how long it takes them to reconfigure the room and use that as an incentive to do it faster each time and gain a reward for breaking their record. This is a great way to expel energy and encourage teamwork. A more subtle transitionary method is to keep a stopwatch going with a countdown of how long students have until the next portion of class, and then plan a break at the end of that countdown. Another great transitionary tool is music. Playing song to indicate a new activity can help refresh students. In general, the most successful transitions are those that give students a breath before the next activity.
I have applied all of the strategies I have listed here. By far my favorite is the classroom olympics. Sometimes I will have the students configure and reconfigure the room multiple times in order to get them to work faster and as a team. If I provide an incentive for them as a reward, they don’t mind the exercise and teamwork. I have also used the silent strategy multiple times. I don’t like to talk over my students, and I really don’t like them talking over me. Patience can often result in the best results, rather than verbally correcting students. They know that they are talking over me, I don’t have to tell them that. While this does waste some class time, I can gain back this time by taking away from their lunch time. This provides a further incentive to respect class time.