I had been warned about 5th period. I immediately started in by making sure they were all in their assigned seats. Then I explained that since I can't read and talk at the same time, I knew they could not, so therefore I expected silence.
(I didn't really expect silence. I never expect silence. I figure silence is something to strive towards, depending on the assignment. But I will push for it if the circumstances warrant.)
I got the usual refrain. "We can multitask."
But eventually they settled down. Not to silence, but to a quiet enough where I figured that most could get the assignment done.
It was a middle school advanced ELD class. ELD stands for English Language Development. These are the students who aren't native English speakers, and their assignment was to read a story (in English) out of their textbook.
They should need it quieter, right?
One boy was talking to two of his neighbors. They were clearly not doing the assignment. So, I asked how what they were talking about could have anything to do with the reading assignment. (This is how I usually approach students who are off task.)
"Well... We were talking about a Chinese girl, and this story is about a Chinese family..."
Tenuous connection at best. I was about to say that when I remembered where I was.
"Have you ever heard the word 'tenuous'?" I asked.
They hadn't. At which point I explained it. A couple students asked if it was kind of like fragile. And in a minute or two, most had now been introduced to the term.
I turned back to the boy.
"Yeah, so that excuse. Tenuous at best."
At least they learned something new.