Here’s another blog in response to a call from a teacher about struggling to get her students engaged and quiet. I think there’s an epidemic of impulsivity going around our country as a result of too much screen time. I’m not an expert, but here are my thoughts and some ideas that might help.
Do you feel like some of your children are not connecting with you when you talk to them, look them in the eyes, or try to engage them? When children spend time in front of a screen they are a passive participant. The people on the screen do all the talking and moving and they can sit there and watch. Children who spend too much time in front of a screen can often disconnect with reality, but you may be able to remedy the problem with some of these tips.
Set the Stage
Explain what your expectations are when you sit down for circle or group time. It’s a time to listen and learn. Your feet need to be….Your hands should be… Model, model, model!
If your class has a difficult time sitting in a spot you can make them a “sitter spot” from felt squares or fun foam. Cut circles (any size) and write the students’ names with a maker. Spread these out so they all have a defined place to sit. Explain that it’s their “special” spot.
Divide and Conquer
One of the simplest techniques for “impulsivity” is to separate children who tease each other. Putting a high-energy student between two quiet friends will definitely have a calming effect.
When I was in kindergarten 100 years ago (not really – only 63) Mrs. Meyers taught us to fold our hands and put them in our laps. Do you know this still works? One teacher demonstrated folding her hands as she told her students, “These are smart hands that will help you listen and learn.”
Criss cross. (Children sit cross legged on the floor.)
Be your own boss! (Children fold arms around their chest as they give themselves a hug. Hugging their chests helps children center themselves and gain control.)
Lower Your Voice
Lower your voice and talk very slowly. When the teacher calms down the children will follow.
Get a box or basket and write “brain toys” on it. ("Brain toys" sounds so much more positive than "fidget toys.")Tie some old socks in a knot and place them in the box. If children have a difficult time keeping their hands to themselves “invite” them to get a brain toy. Wouldn’t you rather a child knot and unknot a sock than poke or pick?
Get some bubbles and play a game called “beat the bubbles.” Blow bubbles and challenge children to be sitting quietly before all the bubbles pop.
*You can also play a music box or xylophone as a signal to be quiet and listen.
Children tell us things by their behavior. Look out for signs of frustration or things that trigger out of bounds behavior.
Teaching routines and helping children focus takes time. Set your expectations high and practice, practice, practice.
In my first education class I learned the importance of being FIRM, FAIR, AND CONSISTENT. That’s still pretty good advice after all those years.