Over the last nine months-or-so I've been picking through Doug Lemov's Teach Like A Champion. One of my favourite little tricks so far is 100 Percent (p.167).
The goal is for teachers to have 100 percent compliance so that we can both teach and see that all students are demonstrating their focus on the task or discussion at hand. Doug explains how a culture of marginal compliance is a dangerous one because it has a corrosive effect - we set low expectations the moment we let our guard down.
What's also important, though, is that compliance is invisible - otherwise this becomes 'an empty exercise in teacher power.' This means we have to make compliance routine, not an excercise in itself.
To that end I've been practising the four techniques outlined on p.172.
Nonverbal intervention is a favourite that I actually picked in during my NQT year. This might include pointing at your own tie's knot to signal that theirs is too loose, pretending to take off an imaginary coat or opening two flattened palms for 'open your book'. These are so simple but require no time and, importantly, expect no response.
Positive group correction ('We're using a ruler to draw the table') can be used to normalise behaviour, as opposed to stating what students aren't doing, or who isn't following instructions.
Anonymous individual instruction is my current favourite. Instead of calling out Jasmine for not putting her pen down when she's clearly working hard, try, 'We're waiting for one pen.'
Finally, if Jasmine still doesn't pop her pen down try whispering the instruction to give the illusion of privacy. When I came across this idea I laughed, but that illusion can make all the difference - you're not picking on that student in front of the class, which might otherwise create resentment.
When I have compliance, which now takes seconds, I often give a quick thumbs-up. I try to ensure this is subtle but visible to those who've complied so we can move on as quickly as possible.
What I love about these ideas is that they're so simple. The trick is to build them into our practice so that they become routine and invisible.