Following Student Cues

I recently replied to a question in a Facebook group:

May I ask the primary school teachers. How to you keep your younger students attention?

Currently, the majority of my students fall into this age group – or even younger. They can be a cute as a button – but they can also be such a challenge!

In responding to the question on Facebook, I mentioned some of the things we often do when teaching – changing vocal inflection, using puppets, even singing. But the key, I think is following your student’s cues.

Young children are massively – constantly – immersed in learning. When they are resisting the direction we’re taking a lesson, they aren’t resisting learning. Often, they’re just interested in something else and they’re resisted what feels like us pulling them away from that. What works for me is to stop.

Stop insisting on doing things my way. Just for a few moments, I share their obsession.

It’s not always easy. Twenty-five minutes goes fast, and there are tasks we’ need to complete! But the truth is, sometimes, being a little flexible saves time in the long run.

So – how do you follow along (and still get your lessons taught)??!

Here you go!

  • Sing. I do not mean sing a sing here. I mean – sing the content. I’ve had kiddos who won’t say a word suddenly cooperate and start echoing the crazy-but-harmless lady.
  • Sing a song… but with new lyrics. I have found that -regardless of age – lessons about food tend to be fairly easy going. Kids like to eat – and they know what foods they like and don’t like, Just give them the tools (vocabulary) to express it! But… sometimes you hit one of those times when a student is obsessed with a topic. So, change it up! My dinosaur-loving student was completely deaf to my attempts to get him to join in the curriculum farewell song at the end of class… However, he was very willing to sing the melody along to the words, “Tyrannosaurus, tyrannosaurus, he likes meat! He likes meat!”
  • Count. Just when I think I’ve counted everything… Nope. I haven’t. A student who is developmentally driven to practice counting over and over and over… he might not be interested in the target vocabulary, but he’ll be willing to count the stars, fountains, cats, ears, fish, rabbits, dinosaurs
  • Play a game. This can be a traditional game like Hangman (so easy to work in vocabulary practice), but that won’t always work with the littlest studnets. Here’s a non-competitive “game” that my very youngest students always find amusing.L
  • Draw an I, turn it into an L, then an E
  • Draw an I, turn it into an F, then an E, then B
  • USe the chat box. THis is something I’d rather do with bigger kids, but the occasional eearly elementary studetn – using a computer with keyboard, not an iPad. Typing the alphabet
  • typing word families
  • words that all start with the same letter

Here are some ways that I follow my students cues:

  • LIghten things up. Sometimes, the pressure can really slow a kid down. I’m not just speaking here as a teacher – I’ve seen it in my own son. During his online language lessons, I’ve sat silently and watched while his brain goes on overload… and he can’t answer the simplest question in the language he’s studying. SOmetimes I get really drustr
  • Slow down.
  • SPeed up. When student is really
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