Interactive storiesSee all
Classroom managementSee all
Routines and consistency
Young children need routine. If you use a Wall Chart, use it every lesson. Once you introduce a new technique, like Vocal Call and Response, use it all the time. Routine is especially crucial in transitions such as entering the room, lining up, tidying, etc.
Positive interactions are greetings, smiles, encouragement, etc. Negative ones include bad body language, criticism, sighs and frowns. The average person expresses two positive interactions to one negative. Happily married couples manage five to one! Research shows that a person needs to hear praise five times before feeling good – whereas they will remember one criticism for a long time. Try to reach this 5:1 ratio with your class.
This theme of positivity should reflect in your language, especially when correcting behavior. So ‘Don’t talk’ becomes ‘Listen’. ‘Stop running’ becomes ‘Can we walk?’. Psychologists have shown that if children keep hearing a trigger word like ‘running’, they simply learn it as a response that gets a teacher reaction. Challenge yourself never to say ‘No’ or ‘Don’t’.
Use praise to deal with bad behavior: a child may be not sitting properly in order to get your attention so instead of asking her to sit up, draw attention to another child’s good behavior (‘I love the way Daniel is sitting’). Try to praise children who struggle with behavior as it breaks their cycle of ‘I feel bad, I misbehave, I get told off, I feel bad, etc…’.
What should you be doing?
‘What should you be doing?’ is one of the most useful phrases you can use. When a child is off-task (e.g. kicking the table), don’t ask ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘Why are you doing that?’. It’s a pointless question – the child will never answer, ‘I’m kicking the table.’ Don’t focus on their behavior. Instead, bring their focus straight back onto the task.
Wait for silence
Only begin the next instruction when the class is quiet, or they will begin to think that a constant low level of noise is normal. Wait patiently, use non-verbal signals for silence (e.g. Looped Movements, Mirror Thumbs)… or walk over to your Wall Chart or Star Chart and they should fall silent!
The behavior not the child
If you do have to talk to a child about their behavior, avoid phrases like ‘naughty’ or especially ‘naughty boy’. If a three year old thinks that he is ‘naughty’, he may adopt this label for the rest of his school career. Always separate the behavior from the child.
Adapt the task
Children often misbehave because they are bored or they don’t understand. This means you need to adapt your task to the child – rather than the other way round. If a child doesn’t want to take a specific role in an activity, be creative and find something else for them to do.
Bad behavior eventually needs consequences, or children will assume they can get away with it. Your school may have its own policy but we suggest ‘time-outs’ at the side of the class. This gives time for the child to calm down and reflect, and means they’re not missing learning time. Talk to them one-to-one before they re-enter. If this doesn’t work for a specific child, then change your tactic. You need to find what works for you and your children.
Give your children a fresh start every morning, especially if they had a bad day yesterday. Children always need another chance to be the best version of themselves. Some children will even need a ‘reset’ every session. Therefore always start your day with positive interactions, such as greeting children by name – or (using the Wall Chart) saying ‘Hopefully we’re all going to be on the rainbow by break-time’.
Systems exist to improve the behaviour of the whole class. If a system is simply highlighting the brilliance of some pupils and the failure of others, you’re not using it correctly. Give children ownership of systems by making them together. And finally, always remember you want an ethos where children feel proud of good behavior in and of itself, rather than behaving just for the sake of the reward.
Ask questions to reinforce learning. In Sorting Boxes don’t begin with ‘On this box, we have a B, on this box a C.’ Start from the beginning: ‘What’s this?’ (a box) ‘What letter do you see?’ (B), etc. Turn statements into questions to reduce your talking time, and increase student participation.
Step by step
Play the simplest possible version of the game first. Introduce more rules as you play. In Change Places, before telling the ‘apples’ to swap places, simply get them to stand up. Then the next instruction is to change places.
Where possible, show how the game is played (don’t just explain). Give the children an example, e.g. in Touch or Jump, act out an example line of flashcards before the children begin. This helps visual learners and those who find it hard to process spoken explanation.
Plan extensions into games so that they’re not over in two minutes. This reinforces learning and challenges high ability learners. Games have multiple levels: in Four Walls, the 1st level is just the names of the posters (‘Winter!’). In the 2nd level decide an action for each season (‘Play in the snow’), and for the 3rd level say any phrase (‘Put on your gloves’) letting the children decide where to go.
Use sentences to extend the learning in games. For example in ‘Run To The Flashcard’, after you’ve checked that Sara is on the correct flashcard, ask her to use that word in a sentence. You can give her a very simple structure (‘This is a…’ or ‘I like…’). Get your children talking.
If games become chaotic, reduce numbers (half the class, one pair, one child…). Find something for the ‘audience’ to do (e.g. check answers, cheer, clap, count, etc.). With games that require space, we often include a ‘Less Space’ idea.
Most of these games work well in the classroom but almost all of them work well (if not better) outside or in the playground. If playing indoors, clear the furniture as much as possible. You can make this into a game or a song (Everybody Tidy Up).
Child as leader
Get individual children to lead games themselves, as an extension exercise.
Even where flashcards are not necessary (e.g. Who Am I?), they add structure, help visual learners, and boost literacy by including spelling. Laminate your flashcards and keep them safe in a bag. The bag will also act as a signal to children that it’s a flashcard game.
Play it tomorrow
The first time you play a game, it may be chaotic. Repeat it the next day and you will find that both you and your children have much better understanding and enjoyment of it.
Build on our templates
Our stories are just templates to bring narratives to life. They are not meant to be read word-for-word – they are meant to be elaborated on, changed and extended. Most of all, use these techniques for your own books and stories that you do in class.
If it’s too difficult to go straight into a full interactive story, build up to it. Children can first simply add sound effects and actions from the carpet. Then they can stand to act some bits. Finally, they can do the whole thing moving round the room. Another controlled technique is to call up some children from a sitting circle to act out scenes in the middle.
Questions for learning
Ask questions to reinforce the learning. In Exploring Autumn, don’t tell children ‘In autumn, leaves turn red and orange’. Ask them what color they turn. Let them share their knowledge. Turn statements into questions.
Get children to contribute to the stories: ‘What should we pack?’, ‘Shall we go left or right?’. Different children can choose different things. You can even ask what might happen next – children can usually guess. Take suggestions from different children each time.
Language and voice
In many of our stories, the whole class plays the main character, so use ‘we’ and ‘us’, e.g. ‘Let’s go to the supermarket’ or ‘We need to find the old man’. Keep your language clear, and vary the volume and pace of your voice.
Take your time
For example when we write ‘Children explore the beach’ (in Sally and Samer Go to the Beach), this could last a whole minute. Tell the children to look under rocks, build sandcastles, try and catch a fish. You might go round the room, commenting on people’s actions, asking them what they’re doing, helping them out. If you rush it won’t feel real.
Clear the room as much as possible – or go outside (however, even busy stories can work in very small spaces). Also think about where children should be in the space. Close or spread out? In a circle or scattered? Use different parts of the room for different locations (e.g. in Finding Mishmush, make ‘home’ one corner of your classroom).
If a story becomes chaotic, reduce numbers (half the class, one pair, one child…) with everyone else still listening and watching.
Some activities (e.g. In My Home) move away from whole-class, teacher-led activity and into ‘guided play’, whereby children do their own imaginative play, with a rough structure set by you (e.g. each group knows which room of the house they are in). When facilitating groups, don’t tell them answers (‘The sofa is here’), ask open questions (‘Is there a sofa? Where is it?’).
Recap & extend
Recap stories using visual aids such as pictures or objects from the story to consolidate learning. Create extension math, literacy and craft activities related to each story. You’ll find children will engage with these subjects more when they are linked to an exciting story.
Make it a lesson
Make songs the culmination of a mini lesson, even if they already know the song. For example This Is The Way We Wash can be preceded by asking children what we do in the morning, laying out flashcards, putting them in order, etc. If you rush through 3 songs, you’re skipping lots of potential learning. Take your time, ask children questions, use the board, use props, etc.
Many songs include moments for new words or ideas, such as songs which have repeated verses with one word changing, e.g. I’ve Got A Puppy. Ask your children for these ideas so that they feel like composers. This should be part of your mini lesson.
Include movement or dance in every song. It helps children understand and remember songs, and it engages kinaesthetic and visual learners. Get children to create movement themselves.
Display the lyrics
Younger children may not read yet but singing is a great opportunity to start learning word and letter shapes. Write, project or print large words of your songs and use them when singing.
Try to move from singing with the singer’s voice (Voice) to without (Karaoke). You may find it simpler to sing without backing music at all, especially if you’re singing spontaneously (e.g. for classroom management) – or if you want to pause between each verse to discuss the next idea.
Break it up
To teach a more complicated song, teach it line by line, and combine the lines slowly. So teach the first line, then the second line, then put the first and second together. Only then move onto the third. Use clear hand signals, as suggested below…
For young children, ‘conducting’ means finding simple signs that they understand. Here are some ideas:
o Palm out (stop signal) or fist closed = stop
o Point to yourself = listen to me
o Point to children = now copy me
o Roll your hands = do it again
o Fingers on lips / to ears = be quiet / listen
Change the lyrics
Change or simplify lyrics, if you think other words work better. The English, Arabic or French dialects may not be the same as yours, as these languages change across countries. Also, use traditional songs like Frère Jacques, and write new lyrics to them for your topic.
Sing it tomorrow
Just as with games, a song will not go perfectly the first time – it will be much better the next day, and the next day and so on.
Second language and age
It is difficult to assign ages to songs because a Spanish 8-year-old will learn a lot from an English song for a 4-year-old. A lot of our songs use the simplest language possible and are recorded at steady tempos. Songs are a great way to learn a second language.