My current mentor teacher begins lessons by getting her students’ attention and then waiting until they have all quieted down before speaking. This teaches them that she will not try to talk over them, so they need to be quiet. During the lesson, she takes short breaks in instruction to have the students discuss what they are learning with each other, then she brings them together and asks a student or two to explain what they discussed. This allows the students time to absorb information, as well as a short period to socialize (they definitely do), so they are less likely to chat during lesson time. Finally, when closing out a lesson, she reiterates what she has just taught and gives the students clear guidance on how they should be spending the remaining class time. By clearly stating her goals for the students, they know exactly what they should be doing, and the transition to work time is seamless.
During the class period there are several opportunities for transitions. At the beginning of class, my mentor teacher has a warm up activity that the students work on for the first 10 minutes. This gives the students time to mentally transition from the class they just left and into the math class. It also allows a couple of minutes for students to get some of their initial socializing out of their system, so they are less likely to disengage and socialize during the class period. Second, she transitions the students into their work time by being clear about her expectations for their use of time, while handing out the assignment. She does not hand out the assignment before it is work time, because she does not want the students to try and work on it while she is giving her lesson. Finally, she gives the students a five minute warning that class is almost over, and suggests that they finish up their current problem and ask her any questions they might have before they take their assignment home to finish. This allows one more opportunity to ask questions and wraps up the class in a smooth manner, rather than having students rushing to pack their stuff and get out the door right as the bell rings.
When students stay on task and complete their work quickly, my mentor teacher gives them a small “treat” to encourage the good behavior. I think this is a strategy I might use. Positive reinforcement of the preferred behavior works well to promote good student behavior.