Sunday, 26 February 2012

Getting what you want when you're 3!

I recently had an intake of 3 year old's in my class, which has taken us back to basics in some areas...snack time in particular...

I'm a great advocate for having a communal snack time in Nursery.  It's a good opportunity for the children to learn social and communication skills, and to help develop a sense of community through adult lead discussions.

Turn taking is one of the first social skills that comes into focus...

No matter how many times you explain how the process works, the temptation is far too great when you're 3.  The temptation to get off your seat and go and help yourself to a juicy apple and a carton of milk.  My TA's and I have developed a 'zonal defence' system that ensures all the runners are intercepted and returned to their seats with a minimum of fuss.  It takes about 3 days for the runners to learn that their attempts are futile.

Next they move on to the 'I want one' stage...

Despite the routine of milk and fruit being passed around the table, it seems likely when you're 3, that standing up and excitedly shouting ' I want one' will get you an apple more quickly.  Of course it doesn't work, and the shouts are ignored by adults until the fruit bowl is within reach.  This leads to the introduction of the concepts 'please' and 'thank you'.  Some children already use these concepts effectively to get what they want, some get too excited and forget them, and some...well actually one in particular...

'I want one'

'I'm sure you do. How do you ask for one nicely?'

'I want an apple.'

'How do we get things that we want?'

'I want an apple.  Do I have to count.  1.....2.....'

Seems modelling behaviour is a very effective strategy!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Getting stuck with stickers in Nursery!

There are some things that I just can't seem to nail in Nursery...things that ought to be easy...things that all teachers do without trouble...things that I used to manage perfectly well in Year 3...things like lining the class up in pairs...or calling out the register...and using stickers as rewards.

I made my first attempt at using stickers in week one...

I decided to use stickers to motivate the class at tidy-up time...didn't put much thought into it...didn't need to did I?...can't be difficult.

'Everyone who tidies up will get a sticker!'. The class cheers.

No problem, easy. All I had to do now was remember who did a good job. I wrote about ten names on a post-it note. Less than half the class...better than previous days, but not great...that was why I needed to use stickers though!...they'll learn.

We all sat down on the carpet once the room was tidy, and I started...

'Who thinks they should get a sticker then?'

Every hand goes up...'Me, me, me, I do' etc.

'Ok, let's settle down. What did we have to do to get a sticker?'

Blank faces and silence.

'Tidy up' last, one child managed to remember. This triggered the memory for a few more, but most looked baffled. Fine, let's carry on...

'Ok, well I have a list here of the people who did a great job.  They're going to get a sticker!'

Everybody cheers, and there's plenty of chatter..'Yessss...I'm getting a sticker, i did it, i did it' etc.

Sensing that things were going slightly pear shaped, I added...

'Don't worry if you don't get a sticker, because you can get one tomorrow by doing really good tidying up!'

Sorted...let's get on with it.

I decide to make a small ceremony out of it. I call out the first name and enthusiastically beckon the child to come forward. She stands up and comes to the front.  I call the second name, but the first one wants their sticker right now...they're trying to grab it from the sheet of stickers I'm holding. I decide that's ok and give them the sticker.

By this time half the class is standing up and moving towards the front for a sticker. I start regaining control...aided by the second child who is pushing some of the others back saying 'it's my turn'.  I settle the second child down, and gently remind the class that not everyone will get one, and manage to get them sitting down again. Alarm bells are ringing in my head, but I've come too far to stop now!

I call the second child out again and give the sticker. All's going well again. I decide to speed things up whilst I'm ahead, and begin calling out the rest of the names. By the time I get to the fifth name most of the class are on their feet and moving towards the front again. Some are jumping up and down with excitement. Some are coming directly towards me, at speed, with outstretched arms...

I recall my first experience of trying to do the register by calling names out...a random mixture of complete silence and yesses from children who may or may not have the name that I called out. The process ended up with a list of ticked names that bore no relation whatsoever to who was actually in the class that day! This was a similar experience, except that this time they had a goal...a shiny gold sticker.

Within a few seconds the situation was indeed pear shaped...children grabbing at the sticker sheet...children grabbing at stickers already on someone else's jumper...'it's mine'...'I want one'...'give it back'...and then the tears started...tears because they didn't have a sticker...tears because someone else had their sticker...tears because their sticker didn't stick any more.

Some of the tears lasted until hometime, but that wasn't very long. It had seemed a good idea to have the ceremony just before we put our coats on, to leave on a high!...seeing the parents beginning to queue outside led me to reflect that this probably hadn't been a good idea.

Nothing stops tears like a sticker. Especially when you're in a hurry. So there we were, everyone had a sticker...some had theirs for tidying up...some had theirs because they'd stolen it from someone else...and some had one to stop them crying. I'd lost track of who and why, but they all went home happy. Stickers had been devalued. I needed a new plan for tidy-up time...
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