Working with young learners is all about managing their energy levels and a skillful control of their attention.
Kids are full of energy. That’s why teaching them is such a challenge and why many teachers opt out from it. However, if channelled well, this ocean of energy can be your biggest asset.
Similarly, in today’s world human attention is the most valuable currency and most businesses are ready to exploit that. Kids therefore, gullible as they are, are utterly susceptible to the Global Attention Industry, which affects their attention span, making it the shortest it has ever been in history.
This poses a major challenge to teachers, who spend half their working time on trying to get their pupils to focus on the topic.
Luckily, there are things we can do make the teaching job a bit easier.
Below is the 5 step strategy on claiming kids’ attention for the rest of the lesson.
Psychological reasons for each step are highlighted in orange. Reading it isn’t essential to the warm-up procedure, though we’ve included them to provide you with helpful context.
First, tell them to stand up and give each other high-fives. Say that every student should clap palms with every one of their classmates.
Be careful doing this in bigger classrooms with over 20 students or ones with poor discipline. Most of the time this is very effective to get the young learners moving, however, once or twice it spawned chaos in my classroom. I highly recommend it as the first exercise, but make sure to control it.
Kids love high fives. This, as a first exercise, is easy and exciting and above all gets them up on their feet. For the next task you want all your learners engaged which is easier if they are already standing.
Second, play them an action song on a bigger screen. This would be a song created for kids to sing along and perform exciting actions.
Clap Your Hands: http://bit.ly/2EU9Wq3
I’m So Happy: http://bit.ly/2JXhlZS
Wheels On The Bus: http://bit.ly/2wBTeXQ
In case you cannot use a bigger screen:
Second, play them the Happy song. But before you do establish some actions, for instance: touch your nose! Cold! Hot! Find a friend!
Once all kids know what action goes with each command play the song and randomly pause it shouting: Find a friend!
Pharrell Williams – Happy: http://bit.ly/2wIr1P7
After these two exercises your kids’ energy levels should be high and directed towards your directions. What we need to do now is to mute the energy while maintaining the engagement and evoking imagination.
Third, give them a worksheet to do individually. Sit them back in their seats and distribute the printouts, give them 3-5 min to finish. Those who work faster may use colours.
(50 more connect-the-dots worksheets: http://bit.ly/2EUQERr)
In case you cannot give them printouts:
Third, drawing time. Give your students a specific topic (airplane, western food, football) and tell them to do a simple drawing. Kids love drawings and it usually takes them a long time so make sure to point out 5 min max and remind them of the time every minute.
The reason for this sudden change of tone is that you want your kids to decrease their energy level but not lose their attention we’ve built with that energy.
A group exercise such as Hangman will not work because it doesn’t require every child to be focusing throughout the task. However an individual task, which is creative and enjoyable, will do exactly that – let them relax but not lose attention.
Fourth, play charades as a whole class. Get one volunteer to go up front and have them draw one of the words you’ve prepared beforehand. (or if you’re short on time download the app GuessUp)
Play this up to 3-4 volunteers.
Note: if you’re short on time skip this one and go to Fifth.
After the major wind down we want to spike up the energy a little. Kind of an energetic push-and-pull.
Fifth, put them into groups of 4-5 and play the A to Z game. How it works is you ask the students to write a list of alphabet letters, one under the other…
…and, giving them 3 min on the timer, say they must fill this list with English words.
This one is a mental exercise which means low energy, however, the added element of cooperation and competition is sure to keep your pupils highly engaged.
Do these five exercises in succession and you’re sure to have your beloved in the best shape for whatever you have in stall.