Question Detail

How do you get students to turn off their cell phones and sit facing you?

Dec 2, 2014 6:04pm

I have been a long-term substitute in 9th grade physical science at an inner city high school for the past 2-1/2 weeks, but my students have not had a science or a math teacher since September, 2014. I instituted classroom rules at the beginning of my long-term job and updated them yesterday to include consequences and rewards. These rules included the turning off of electronic devices and sitting at the lab tables facing forward, among others. The consequences included deducting points and detention if I have to say something to them two times in a row. These are slowly working, but the cell phones and sitting with their back to me is still a bone of contention. Any suggestions?

  • Science
  • 9
  • Behavior


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    • Dec 4, 2014 10:17am

      What about a cell phone collection box at the door? They get the phones returned to them at the end of the period.

      • Feb 2, 2015 2:58pm

        During state assessments, one teacher I observed had students put their cell phones in their backpacks as they entered the room, and then go sit in their seats. The backpacks were away from their desks and not accessible. She continued doing that after the state assessments were over because it was so effective. She found that students didn't want their cell phones taken away, and they didn't want them mixed into a bx with other cell phones because students might take the wrong one back. But putting it in their backpacks, where they perceived the phones to be safe and still in their possession across the room, was easier.

        Be careful about docking points from a student's grade for negative behavior, unless you have a documented rubric for behavior that is aligned to the standards. Your grades should reflect the students' ability to complete the work and meet the standards, and some admin and parents will challenge your grade if you knock off points for behavior when it's not connected to a clear scale/rubric.

        Finally, I have to agree with Michelle. If the students are not turning around and/or putting away their cell phones, work with it. Require structured group work, where what you would put on the board or overhead is now in front of the students in the form of handouts, posters, handheld white board, etc. That may also, in turn, have you circulating the room more often, which may discourage students from taking out their phones.

        Good luck!

        • Feb 12, 2015 7:18am

          I'd agree with Michelle. I've attended a few PD sessions at conference where speakers talked about using cell phones in class. Because i taught elementary school, we never had this problem, but I thought if I were in a middle /high school that I'd use the cell phones. One person I heard talk about using them in class told the kids to put them on a certain spot on their desks--like the upper left corner--until they were supposed to use them.

          I've used on cell phones with staff members during PD. That could be another site to use in addition to gosoapbox and everpoll.

          • Feb 4, 2015 10:36am

            My school has a no-phone policy, so we're told if we see it or hear it, they lose it. I'm in complete disagreement with the policy as their phones can be very powerful and give them access to some tools we can't provide them with given our technology limitations. In an effort to meet the school requirement I hung up one of those hanging calculator holder things where students place their phone upon entering the room. This way my kids don't even have it in their pocket to try and pop it out, but depending on the activity students may be able to check it out for activities where they can be useful. Similar to what Michelle used, I used both Poll Everywhere ( and Today'sMeet ( very frequently to get kids to participate. This works well almost every student participates given the privilege to be on their phone, and is also very effective with the feed live on the Smartboard; very good discussion has come from it. Another time I used the cell phone was to help a student with social anxiety participate. She had a stammer when she got nervous or spoke in front of other people, so I set up an iMessage account on my iPad, and allowed her to send messages of what she wanted to share. As a result her participation and contributions have significantly increased.