Proximity during instruction is a term used to describe a teacher’s nearness to his or her students during a lesson. Appropriate proximity during instruction leads to better classroom management, student engagement, and progress monitoring. Teachers who use effective proximity during a lesson, circulate the classroom while students are working as well as when they are actively instructing.
Tips & Tricks
- Pathways: The way your classroom is configured is important. Make sure you can easily move about and become near every student in your class during instruction regardless of the lesson type. Having students in groups often helps make this easier. Once your room is configured, make sure there are clear pathways for you and your students to travel. Make sure students know that backpacks, materials, and jackets do not belong on the floor.
- Whiteboards: Individual whiteboards are excellent simple tools for progress monitoring. As you walk around the classroom, observe your students’ work to monitor if they are understanding the content. Assist those who need it, challenge those who should be challenged. When you need to move on, have all students hold up their whiteboards for review. This way you can quickly gauge how the class is doing as a whole, and decide where (and to which students) you are going to go towards next.
- Instruction: Think about where you are during your lessons. Do you really need to be at the (traditional) front of the room during all parts of your instruction? Should the students be focused on you or the content? Is there another place in the room you could instruct from. Some teachers who use effective proximity teach from the center and sides of the classroom- drawing attention to the board when necessary.
- When Seated: If you need to sit down during the lesson, try using a designated student desk amongst your students instead of a typical “teacher desk.” By sitting with your students you will be closer to them and better able to monitor progress and redirect misbehavior. You can keep necessary forms and supplies here to ease transitions and help your classroom run more smooth.
- Small Group: If you are working with a small group or individual and are not able to use your body’s proximity, try other ways of checking in with your students. Periodically and regularly do a visual pass of your entire class. Sustained eye contact can go a long way with some students. Ask students specific questions to monitor their progress and check for understanding. Verbally celebrate on-task students using specific praise and positive language to reinforce desired behavior.