That year, I had one of those rare dream classes that just clicks right from the start. They were clever and kind, (most of the time,) and one day while I was taking attendance, with sly grins and giggles they started calling out their names ahead of me – in alphabetical order! They were delighted to surprise me with what they had memorized, and I was blown away by their teamwork!
From that year forward, I was inspired to encourage my students to memorize the roll call. They learned how to memorize which students came before and after them on the list, and soon they were able to call out their own names for attendance in the morning.
This simple classroom management trick creates an orderly and peaceful start to the day, with well-behaved children learning to be self-directed. This skill is especially useful on field trips before the bus begins to roll. When collecting papers it saves time entering scores in your record book if the papers are already alphabetically ordered. Children calling out the roll also serves to ensure that your pupils’ attention is focused as they must listen for their turn, and they develop an almost instinctive way of looking out for each other. If the child ahead is absent, the next child on the list calls out that information. You’ll thank yourself many times during the year for teaching your charges this effortless trick!
Once when the school lost power during a severe storm, this skill proved vital. Class was in session as usual, with students moving about as they worked cooperatively, when the lights went out. My classroom was on the interior of the building with no windows, and a tornado warning had been issued. The room was immediately plunged into inky blackness. After calling out for everyone to “freeze,” I instructed them to move slowly toward the customary “take cover” position. Hiding my own fear, in pitch darkness I moved among them, lightly touching each child’s back to be sure they were all in the traditional bent over position for safety. With no flashlight available, and grateful for their ability, I asked them to call out the roll to be sure there were no stragglers left in the restroom or hallway. This also helped to give me a general idea where each student was located.
I’m sure you can envision the stress and fear in that situation, for both students and teacher! No power also meant that the intercom was out, and this was before the days of tightened security measures. As I continued to move among and reassure my students in the darkness, you can imagine my surprise, (and embarrassment) when I bumped full on into a father who had braved the storm to come to pick up his child!
It turned out to be a long storm, the situation requiring that the school buses didn’t arrive until nearly two hours after the normal dismissal time. Fortunately when the all-clear was issued, we were able to move into the hallway for a little more light, though it was still too dark to read. Since some students had been released to parents, it was reassuring to all of us that those remaining could call off their names in order and we could account for everyone that had already left.
I’m happy to share this easy classroom management tip with you, along with my best wishes as school gets under way for another year. Try this simple skill with your new class. You’ll be so glad you did!