Ever feel that teaching a class of Young Learners is akin to coming face to face with the big bad wolf? Is he menacing and predatory, huffing and puffing? Does it feel like he knows exactly where and exactly how to blow your house down? Do you feel unprotected and exposed?
So, how do we cope when Mr Wolf comes-a-knockin’? How can we tame him back into a playful and curious wolf cub? Keeping things simple, that’s how; oh, and building a brick house!
The moral of the Three Little Pigs is that hard work pays off. A primary classroom certainly shouldn´t be all work and no play but building a safe environment in which to play does require work. To lay the solid foundations necessary we need to know exactly what they are made of, and where to place them. Only when the corner stones are correctly in place can we start creatively fashioning our house and then furnishing it with detail. In this session we concentrated on the micro – the individual lessons. We looked at three interwoven factors to consider in each lesson that will help form a solid house of stone.
Assigning a role or a responsibility to each learner will make them feel valuable and an integral part of their own learning and encourage independence. A role, however small will give learners a purpose.
Learners need to revisit language again and again. Including recycling activities to your routines will knit the language together and thread it through from one lesson to the next.
Make routines dynamic
Routines should evolve, expand and regenerate to allow learners to make the connections to a bigger, wider picture and feel a sense of progression.
Variety increases enjoyment and motivation and will allow each learner to better access the language. Here is where you can get creative too. Think multi-sensory and use visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and reading and writing activities. Vary your use of technology. Vary the student interactions – individual, pair, team and whole class.
Giving options will increase learner autonomy and give them a sense of ownership. Think how we can be flexible in providing a choice. It could be choice of the activity, the order of activities, how they do an activity and who they do it with.
With primary learners shorter activities usually work best to keep them engaged. Include stirrers and tasks against the clock but also settlers and quiet time for processing.
Rules, boundaries and limitations provide a safety harness for the class. A structure that is simple, clear, understood by everyone, agreed on and appropriate. Perhaps contradictorily, rules should also flexible enough that when followed correctly they enable progress rather than restrict it.
Make rewards challenging enough. Set clear targets and show how to achieve them. Whatever the reward – be it points, stickers, lives, having a choice or playing a game – they need to work for it to give it value. Make a record of the rewards given and show learners how they are progressing.
Calm and positive reinforcement is best. Sometimes not rewarding, or suggesting a positive alternative which can then be rewarded, is enough to reset the misbehaviour. Above all they should be fair, consistent and manageable – don’t threaten something that you cannot follow through.
One final thing to remember is that wolves are pack animals. They need a calm and assertive pack leader. That is you! Be positive and expect the best rather than fear the worst.