It seems appropriate that on opening day of baseball season, I needed to use my Catcher's Mitt strategy. I was presenting to a group of about 85 excited, engaged learners. They were seated with colleagues and team members, so that they could easily participate in problem solving discussions. My problem was that when I needed to pull them back together, side conversations continued.
I tried many of the traditional methods to quiet them down - the long pause, proximity control - but the chatter continued. Chatter can be a distraction (ask any baseball player that has flubbed at bat), so it is helpful to have a variety of responses at your fingertips. I always carry with me printed images of a catcher's mitt. I print 6 per page on colored paper (it's hard to find paper the color of a mitt ) and cut them up in advance. At the morning break I distributed a few to each table.
When we returned from our break I explained
"I have heard some great discussion going on at your tables. You will have more time to talk as we go throughout the day, however, if something comes to you while I am speaking, I don't want you to lose it. So I have provided some catcher's mitts at each table. Grab one and jot down your thought - catch it - so you won't forget it."
The side conversations diminished significantly. If needed, I could have reminded the group to use their catcher's mitts to hold their thoughts until the next discussion opportunity.
Save yourself some time and work by printing my Catcher's Mitt master here.
For additional ideas on dealing with difficult participants, check out my book Caffeinated Learning, available in paper and e-book versions.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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