Multitasking classrooms release teachers to teach and students to participate in a variety of high-quality activities. All teachers begin the school year by monotasking in the large group. They start with an instructional frame that contains a single activity session in which all the students perform together. When the teacher and the class are ready, the teacher plans an instructional frame that supports a simultaneous second activity. For example, Table 3.4 shows how the frame can be expanded by adding classroom library time and a journaling activity to sessions two and three. Although additional student activities are now available within the two sessions, the time to perform the frame remains the same. When the teacher makes this adjustment, the activity of the frame shifts from monotasking to multitasking.
The introduction of simultaneous activities within a session of the frame is an enormous advantage for teaching. When the teacher and students work on different activities at the same time, the teacher shares responsibility for the classroom community with the students. Students who work independently release the teacher to work with small groups in targeted lessons and to use IC. In multitasking, the teacher gains the means to diversify from teaching in a large-group format into teaching in other configurations that are more conducive to thoughtful discourse on academic topics.
Introducing Multitasking To introduce the students to an instructional frame with simultaneous sessions, one a teaching activity and the other an independent activity (the example in Table 3.4 shows a simultaneous teaching session and a follow-up session on journal writing), the teacher carefully briefs the students, explaining that the simultaneous teaching and follow-up activities will require the class to be divided into two groups. The topic of the teaching, community building, is introduced, and the follow-up activity extends the teaching focus to journaling. The students who are in the group that does the follow-up activity first, before the teaching activity, will write out of their prior knowledge as discussed in briefing. The frame can be rearranged to avoid the out-of-sequence follow-up to teaching, or it can be used, for example, to elicit students' prior knowledge and experience on the topic of community building.
Because the simultaneous activities require two groups, the simplest way to divide the class is to have half of the students (for example, those on the right side of the room) journal in their homeroom seats while the other half (on the left side) meet with the teacher on the topic of community building. The class can also be divided into halves by counting off by ones and twos, or alphabetically, or in other ways that produce two groups. The students engaged in journaling are to meet expectations for writing and problem solving on their own, which is made clear in the briefing. The shaded area in Table 3. indicates when the teacher is teaching.
Depending on the students' experience in independent activities and on the school schedule, the teacher may choose to pause the frame after the first simultaneous session (session two) to debrief. The teacher would resume the frame then or at the next meeting of the class, briefing the students again to reorient them to the frame before proceeding with session three. The teacher uses a kitchen timer or other reminder to time the sessions in order to stay on the frame's schedule.
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