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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 12th, 2009, 02:15 pm
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Default Very young learners

I teach in a Kindergarten, kids from 2 to 6. They get 1 class per week of half an hour - 40 min, I split them 3 groups, so that I usually teach 8 to 15 at a time.

My biggest problem is in controlling the kids.

They're fine with songs, I sing they mimick... but when I try to do games, it's mayhem. They won't listen to instructions, and they can be pretty stubborn. They're not really bad or rawdy, I do feel I'm the one who's doing wrong. They behave really well with their usual teachers, and that makes me feel kind of guilty.

For instance, just yesterday, we did body parts. Lesson plan was:
-circle song (that they know and like)
-a quick revision of colors,
-"if you're happy" song (also a revision)
-some new vocabulary about body parts
-head and shoulders, knees and toes
-a drawing on the blackboard game

First group (10 kids 5 to 6)
I had placed the blackboard in the class and as they got there, they started drawing and I had a hard time getting their attention to start lesson, and some of them ignored me and did other things the whole time, like getting some toys and books out and erasing the blackboard while I was drawing, because they wanted to draw themselves...
Second group (10 4-5 yr old kids) I hid the black board before starting, and all was fine (apart from 1-2 kids ignoring me) until the blackboard game, that just 3-4 children wanted to do, and they really just wanted to draw and not to follow instructions.
And at a certain point they got all the books in the classroom out and wanted to start reading on their own.
Last group (7 4-5 yr old kids) was good, because they all paid attention to me most of the time, but they did want to read books and not really the activity I had planned, so we did some of the things I had planned and then I kind of took their lead and we read the books learning some words in English.

I'm usually an authoritative person, so much that at first I thought I might scare kids or be too strict yet I feel as if they push me around. Probably this is due to my inexperience, and being a new teacher they're testing, but I don't know how to handle it.

I do have hope in the future because it looks as though each lesson I'm doing a little better, and when it's play time the children do come and ask me for words in English, want to play with me, and so on... (even some of the "bad" kids that don't pay attention or are disruptive during lesson time) - but I wish I had some tips from someone with more experience in language teaching.

Last edited by ApplePie : Mar 12th, 2009 at 02:20 pm. Reason: typos
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 14th, 2009, 11:15 am
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Evelyn Carolina is on a distinguished road
Default Re: Very young learners

I'm waiting someone's reply as well, so I can learn new tips.
I have a similar problem with first graders(in Chile) and I feel kind of unprofessional as I don't know how to handle it. Some of them just simply don't follow instructions and do what they want. To make it worse, there is a person who's always in the classroom helping the teacher and I don't want her to think I cannot control my students.
I think we need to learn some classroom management tips... I'm a new teacher as well.
hope someone replies.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 14th, 2009, 02:57 pm
English-coach's Avatar
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Default Re: Very young learners

Hi Apple Pie,

Wow...I feel for ya. Working with kids can be demanding stuff, especially when starting. How many classes have you had with these guys?

I don't have much experience with young kids but I did learn a thing or two from my last teaching job.

1) Kids feed off your energy...if you are happy, relaxed and confidant then your kids will mirror that. (Responsive, interactive and attentive). The opposite is also true. If you do not create a sense of authority...they will walk all over you.

You really need to set the rules out and make them clear. What I might do is in the next class...explain the "new rules" for food in class, always do your talking when I'm talking...whatever rules you want to impose...

Then you need to make them want to stick to the rules. What worked for me was dividing the class into two and blue. Each team would get points for doing certain things.

Points for homework done
points for being good in class
Points for participate etc.

ALSO you can remove points if someone is not doing something or paying attention. You see...if one student is not doing something and you bring that to their attention and they keep doing that, remove a point from their team. You will be amazed at how quickly the students will respond.

I even had some students telling other students to be quiet so their team wouldn't loose points. Its a great way to keep kids in line. (Modify to meet your needs obviously).

2) You could try activity rewards...if everyone does a good job and is participating etc the last 5 minutes is a game. If game. Just make sure to explain why they are not playing. They will get the idea pretty quick.

3) With younger kids maybe the ideas above might not work as well...maybe with 7 years and up...but making the rules clear is a very good idea...and stick to them. If you say that there wont be a game later on if they don't participate...don't play the game.

My best advice would be to be friendly and authoritative...also I find that being disappointed in someone is more effective than getting angry.

Also…PLANNING…if you are not prepared and ready for the class they will feel it. When you know exactly what you are going to do it will probably go smoother…also have 2 or three default activities just incase they are not responding well to the first you try. Always have a back up plan.

I hope that helps.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 14th, 2009, 07:06 pm
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Default Re: Very young learners

Do you have a teaching assistant at all? By the sounds of it, you don't have 1.
I would try address the problem with the school and/or your teaching assistant and tell them that you need a better controlled class in order for a better result.

And it seems like the enjoy reading book. Do you happen to have any English picture story books that you could read to the children? Maybe involve TPR in the reading.

I teach a kindergarten class twice a week and have roughly 10 students per class (some come and go alot, I dont really understand) and I often bring candy into the classes and tell them that if they behave well and learn the words well, that I will give them a piece at the end of the class. Of course I keep the bag of candy in my pocket so if they get a little rowdy, I just bring the bag out and they remember.

Anyway good luck. I would imagine that this would be difficult for a new teacher.
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Unread Mar 19th, 2009, 11:48 pm
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Default Re: Very young learners

I teach mainly young kids. I have to say it took me about a years experience to really understand how best to control the kids in my own style. I don't use a lot of discipline and rewards, but I try to plan the class to help keep the kids attention.

I wrote on my blog my top ten teaching tips for teaching young kids, check that out here:
10 Teaching Kids Tips « Dream English’s Weblog

Without going into a long answer, I would say be as organized, simple and consistent as possible with your classes. The students will become used to your routine and you as you get to know each other. Hope this helps a bit, there are many more ideas on my other site Dream English Kids Songs, free mp3 song downloads,flashcards and lesson ideas,let's sing!
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Unread Mar 29th, 2009, 10:13 pm
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Default Re: Very young learners

I feel ya.

I used to have troubles myself, but now things have gotten a lot better.

Here are some things I find with my Japanese students.

- Day 1. From the very first class it is important to be strict and let your students know what you expect from them. This is true with all ages. Of course, this is difficult for you, but it is something to think about for the future.

Students don't like it when the nice teacher who lets them do anything suddenly blows up at them. They are just acting like they have always been acting, and you are suddenly not ok with that. They don't expect it, and they feel threatened.

When you establish clear rules and lines at the begining, they know what they can and cannot do. They will of course test those lines, but your reactions (yelling at them etc.) will be expected and they will perceive the situaiton as THEM going to far, and not you going to far.

You said you think they are testing you. And they are. You need to make sure that the answers to the test are always the same. Once they know the answers, they'll stop testing you, but if you give them different answers every time, they not only keep testing you, but actually get as frustrated as you.

-As for me, I don't actually yell. I just am not a yeller, and it never sounds that threatening when I do. I try to be very cheerful and happy and excited, and the kids usually feed of my energy. If they feed too much, and start getting away, I'll first try to direct them using flashcards, or by calling their names, or maybe by changing the activity a bit for new variety.

If the students still don't come back, I employ the silent treatment. I stand, quietly, and wait. I don't get upset and just breath deeply, looked relaxed, and wait. The results, from ages 5-15 are always amazing. The other advantage, is that when you yell you often lose focus and energy yourself, and so teaching from that point on becomes more difficult for you.

Usually I only have to wait 15 seconds or so... Sometimes I have had to go 2 minutes. I can think of one time when I had to probably around 5 minutes, but it still eventually did the trick. The trick is never giving up, because the strength of the silent treatment grows exponentially with time.

The message with the silent treatment is simple. "I'm here, I'm ready, and when you are ready, we will begin."

The message is also respectful to the students, because it doesn't attack them or tell them they are bad. You'll be surprised at how even the really really bad kids will eventually give up, and how other kids will feel embarrassed and run around shutting everyone up for you.

-The other technique that works really well with the youngest kids is "Clap once if you hear me, clap twice if you hear me, clap three times if you hear me."

This is an alternative to the silent treatment. It is more friendly and is more of an attention grabber than anything.

When I lose the kids attention, I say "clap once if you hear me" and any kid who hears (and myself) clap their hands once. Then I say "clap twice if you hear me" and any kids who hear and myself clap twice. I keep going until everyone is clapping.

The kids enjoy it, and it is a good way to grab their attention without yelling at them and putting a damper on the class mood or their energy.

-Be patient and don't get stressed. Sometimes there is something you can do, sometimes there isn't. Some kids are determined to be bad, unhappy, or frustrated. I had a kid who would completely refused to listen, would always do his own thing like hiding in cupboards or rolling on the floor, and played terribly with other kids (cheating and yelling). All the yelling and punishing in the world had no effect.

Don't let them ruin your classes and just ignore them completely. If they get violent or extremely distracting to other students, remove them from the class, but if they are just not listening and doing their own thing, ignore them. Often I found that they will come to feel left out and give up on being the bad kid. Most of the time they ended up joining in on the games (sometimes even having the most fun).

By not confronting them you are not giving them attention, but more importantly you are not making them feel unwelcomed or disliked. This is important, because if they feel the teacher is still friendly towards them, they won't be afraid to join the game when they are ready.

As for cheating and stuff, the other kids would watch well enough, and they would refuse to play with him when he cheated. Slowly he learned his lesson, and made the realization. The kid I'm thinking of never fully recovered from being a little ****, but he did get quite a bit better and made good progress.

-When all else fails, play a game they like. It doesn't even have to have an English focus. Just direct them into doing something you know they will enjoy.

If it is the last period on a Friday, there is so little hope. I could probably do a real productive lesson, but I know it will be a struggle to hold their attention. So I do the games they want to play. At least this way, it appears I'm still in control of the class and directing things (at least from their point of view)... even though I am really just caving in.

You can't fight their energy. If they are ready to run around, getting them to sit down and draw won't work well. If they are tired and want to sit down and draw, getting them to play a game where they run around won't work well. Be flexible and adaptable and you will have a much easier time.
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Unread Apr 12th, 2009, 10:12 am
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Default Re: Very young learners

I normally teach 20-30 kids with a homeroom teacher present (though I rarely use them), but in the afternoon I teach smaller group sessions. Your situation sounds more like my afternoon style. The first thing I would do is check out the room for any distractions. See if you can position things or people in such a way as to keep the distractions out of their line of sight. I almost always have the kids sit in a line of chairs, so if I know that people walking past the room will be a distraction, I place their backs to the window so that they can't see outside. If the bookshelf is too inviting, I'll place a table in front of it.

In general, I try to control the kids' energy levels by doing low-key activities followed by very active ones. I normally start with a hello song. If there are 10 kids, I usually use a song that keeps them in place, like B-I-N-G-O (but modifying the lyrics to be "Hello, hello, how are you... how are you todaaaay? H-A-P-P-Y..."). The way I do it has footstomps and handclaps to go along with generic hello song actions. My standard color warmup is to dump a bunch of colored objects (colored chips are best, but torn up pieces of colored paper work fine too - and tearing it up can be both interesting and functional if you have the kids repeat the color with each tear) on the other side of the room and have them run and get a designated color. I then present the main theme and do a fun activity (usually a game) to reinforce that. In general, I never do games at the board. I like to keep the kids active. They normally want to be moving about, so if they know that they get to do so as part of the class, they're more interested in what I have to say.
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Unread Apr 30th, 2009, 08:11 pm
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Default Re: Very young learners

It could be something to do with the type of games you use. Some games create a disciplinary problem and at that age they do not understand that. Sometimes you do not need too many games because it is amazing how little kids can have fun with just about any activity. TPR and Songs work, but you need to have like a routine with them. Choose a few activities and build into a routine. For example just by saying 1 2 3 my kids promptly get back to order. This is because these signals have been built into a routine.
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