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Chapter 2     Care and Control of
                      Young Children


Children from Grade One up are not as dependent as preschoolers.  This chapter will focus on those pre-elementary ages. Here is the scenarioElt;/FONT>

It is the first day of school and you are the new teacher at Happy Flowers Kindergarten *.  Your job is to teach the little ones to communicate in English.  Never mind that they can hardly communicate in their own languageEhich you do not speak.  Never mind that some of them feel their mother has abandoned them and that they are determined to cry or howl until she comes back later in the day.

Your first problem is to get and keep their attention.  At this age, children have an attention span countable in nanoseconds.  They may listen for a minute but unless they can understand you and what you want them to do, you will lose them quickly. So what do you do?

You make them laugh. You keep them busy in a light and fun way with activities thatare varied, that make them giggle, that teach them something new and ideally where they do not even know that they are learning.  You do this by making it seem natural Elike story-telling, games and art.  You try to get them all to join in Eeven the cryers.

These toddlers should get over their abandonment syndrome within a few days as they realize that mommy does come back and get them later.  They will make new friends and begin to look forward to this new phase in their lives. What seems like an earth-shattering experience one minute can be completely forgotten in an instant when something more interesting comes along.

What specific techniques can we use to get and keep children’s attention?

I think we cannot stress too strongly the motto “keep it simple.Elt;/FONT>
I frequently see teachers who rely too heavily on language for instruction, explanation and discipline become frustrated and disillusioned with their job. “They just don’t listen!Elt;/FONT>
That’s right.  They don’t.

We need to use less language for better understanding, a faster pace and more learning.
? Demonstrate rather than explain.
? Over act.  It’s also a great way to grab attention and get a giggle.
? Exaggerate your body language.
? Use your voice.  Rather than shouting, make it interesting, scary, funnyEry whispering.
? Make explanations visual, with single words added to give meaning rather than full sentences.
? Avoid telling them that they don’t listen.  If you are not keeping their attention look to yourself for the solution Eyou are the one who must try out some new techniques and initiate the change.

As children learn more vocabulary and “tune inEto you, they will be able to understand more complex instructions and explanations..  However, if they have already learnt that they can’t understand you, they most likely won’t even try.

You may be lucky enough to have a native language assistant to help you to deal with the traumas or these pre-schoolers.  If the school does not offer one, we suggest that you ask about the possibility. If they seem reluctant, ask about having one for the first few weeks until you get to know the children better.  It is a reasonable request.  In Japan, teaching assistants are automatically supplied. Many international schools provide assistants as well.  It all depends on the resources that a school has available. Chances are that you are being paid a good deal more than a local teacher who in turn is receiving a higher salary than an assistant.

A warning about using an assistant to translate into the students first language:
This should  be done with care, preferably only when necessary for admin matters, when a child is sick or in urgent need, etc.

If you use an assistant to explain language or instructions, the danger is that the children will look to the assistant, and not attempt  to understand the teacher.  Students  will commonly just wait for the teacher to stop talking so that they may get on with the business of listening to the assistant to find out what is really going on.  This greatly hinders the crossover that occurs when the student starts to think in English.

It also bothers parents who are paying high fees for native English speaking teachers. Many language schools will drop teachers who use too much of the childrens first language in the classroom, either themselves, or through an assistant.

If you cannot get your studentsEattention, anarchy will reign and the classroom will resemble a cross between a racetrack, zoo and locker room after losing the big game.  Not a pretty sight.  You need to try to understand what makes each one of them tickEne at a time. With most students, this task should come easy.

However, there will always be a few  that will take longer to understand and some whom you may never figure out.  Don’t worry. Keep trying. Do your best and you will survive.  You may even come to enjoy it! It does take a love of small children and a sincere desire to help with their academic, intellectual, social, moral and emotional development.  Anything less and we’d suggest that you consider teaching older agesEerhaps even adults.

You must have a game plan that includes a plan of action for any contingency.

What will you do if one of them:

- needs to go to the bathroom?
- does go to the bathroom?
- gets sick?
- doesn’t stop crying?
- doesn’t stop talking (in his or her own language)?
- makes a mess with paints?
- leaves the classroom and you can’t find him?
- falls and hurts himself?
- falls asleep during an activity?
- throws a tantrum?
- hits another child?

What if you need to go to the bathroom? Who will take over your class?

As a teacher of young ages, you will have many things to consider. The next several chapters will look at how children learn, how they learn a language, how to create a good, friendly learning environment and then some techniques for getting the job done.

* from the German: Kinder = Children
   Garten = Garden

Motivating and Controlling a Young Class

The two most important aspects of maintaining your sanity in a young class are
keeping your students motivated, and maintaining some semblance of control.


Learn to think on their level

Can you think like a four-year old? The following chart outlines where children are in terms of their development at various stages.

Stages of Development

1. Cry to get what they need and what they want
2. Are dependent on adults
3. Love to play with their food
4. Grow rapidly
5. Get into everything -Sleep less as they grow
6. Learn by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing

2-year olds:
1. Are learning to be independent (say "No" many times)
2. Are possessive ("That's Mine")
3. Are noisy
4. Try to get their own way
5. Have a short memory
6. Can't make up their mind
7. Are pokey (play in food, dawdle)
8. Can't sit still

3-year olds:
1. Try to please
2. Follow through on tasks fairly well
3. Accept suggestions
4. Can be reasoned with
5. Are attentive when spoken to, especially when called by name
6. Can make choices
7. Can talk enough to be understood
8. Haven't learned how to share yet

4-year olds:
1. Want friends
2. Ask many questions
3. Tend to be bossy
4. Brag and stretch the truth
5. Tattle frequently
6. Talk a lot
7. Can learn to take turns
8. See themselves as the center of attention
9. Enjoy playing with made-up words
10. Say words that shock you

5-year olds:
1. Are friendly with friends (usually) and parents
2. Are businesslike
3. Like to imitate grown-ups
4. Like to feel independent
5. Tattle on others
6. Enjoy dressing up
7. Can give their name and address
8. Are serious and demanding

As a teacher, you should be in tune with the anticipated behaviors for each age.
Children have a very short attention span. They have to be active - some would say in a constant state of motion.  They don't have an adult's patience to accept boredom and they don't have an adult's control over the emotions.

Don’t attempt to modify basic behaviour patterns which are normal to that stage.  For example, don’t try to make a four year old sit still for a ten minute lecture, don’t try to make a three year old share, or expect a 2 year old to memorize the alphabet.  We can encourage them on their developmental journey,  but attempting to push children ahead of where they are is an excercise in frustration and futility for all concerned.

Motivating Young Learners

The secret of good motivation is preparation.

 - Keep your activities short, 5-10 minutes.
 - Children get very restless if they have to sit for any longer.
 - Longer activities have to involve the children moving about.
 - Be careful to sequence the activities so children do not become over-excited or excessively bored.
 - Some activities will excite children more than others. Singing or moving around the classroom keep up the excitement level.
 - To calm your students down, use drawing, coloring, writing, or copying.
 - Use a balance of exciting and calming activities.
- Use a balance of :
- competitive games to provide immediate motivation for learning target language.
- content-based activities to provide intrinsic motivation for practicing the target language in real situations.
 - Vary your activities so that the activities are done in pair, small group and as a whole class. This helps the children to learn to interact in different types of social situations.
 - Allow time for handing out colored pencils, books or whatever materials you will be using that day.
 - Let your students know what activities you have planned for them.

Whatever lesson or textbook you are using, be sure to think about these points and you will find that it improves both your motivation and control.


Discipline is the maintaining of control, through either external or internal motivation, so that (in the classroom context), children behave in an acceptable and social manner.

They Eget along with classmates and teachers
         -maximise their own learning opportunities and allow others to learn undisturbed.

When we discipline a child, we are teaching him, by either pro-active or retro-active means to behave in a way appropriate to the above goals.

Some pro-active ways of maintaining discipline in the classroom.

 -  Teachers must first have a clear understanding of  their own expectations.
 -  Expectations must be relayed to the class in a manner they can understand, preferably before the problem occurs.
 - Keep the rules few and simple.
 -  Display rules in textless poster form so that they can be easily referred to without the need for explanation.
 -  Establish routines so that children know what to do, when and how.
 -  Use action chants and songs to bring the class to order or signal the required action, eg. “Sit down, back straight, feet on the floor!E“Eyes looking, ears listening, mouths closed!Eamp;nbsp; “Are you ready, are you ready? Yes I am, yes I am!Elt;/FONT>
 -  Make it a game: “Everybody sit on the mat! 5EEEE!Eand praise the winners.
 -  Regularly draw attention to and praise desired behaviours; EI like the way Nut is helping to tidy up.Elt;/FONT>
 -  Use peer monitoring:  put children into teams for games and activities.  Give additional points for good behaviour and teamwork.  Be generous!  Knock off points for talking out of turn, untidy lineup etc. (Fix the results sometimes so that everybody wins (draws) Elittle kids love this and it does wonders for morale.)
 -  Use some form of star chart or merit board to reward all forms of good work, behaviour or citizenship.  Give certificates in assembly when children gain the predetermined number of stars. Set the goals low enough to cater to short memories and shorter attention spans.
 -  Allow all students to achieve. Give children stars, stickers,  acknowledgement for the things they excel in, but also for trying hard at the things they personally find difficult.
 -  PREPARATION PREPARATION PREPARATION!    Stimulated, busy kids are happy well behaved kids.

Retro-active disciplineEConsequences.

Discipline applied after the problem behaviour should help a child to learn from his mistakes.  It should help him to understand the negative effects his behaviour has had on himself and others, and encourage him to feel concerned.
Allowing a child to experience the natural consequences of his actions is an effective way of doing this.
 It is important to understand that this is not the same as punishment.

Consequences focus on the behaviour, encouraging respect and care for others. It is solution oriented,and aims at rectifying a problem.  It gives the child the message that he or she is okay, but that the behaviour is unacceptable.

Punishment focuses on the child. It uses pain, humiliation, the loss of privileges or material possessions, withdrawal of basic human needs, or the threat of these things, to cause the child to regret his wrong actions, and make him feel afraid to repeat them.

It  gives the child the message that he is not okay, and often reinforces his negative attitude to others.

Some ideas for applying positive discipline Eafter the fact.

 -  Limit the use of language to “tell them offEor explain misbehaviour;  all kids are        practiced at turning off to what they don’t want to hear, and this is particularly easy for ESL students.
 -  Use visual aids to get the message across
    - an overacted angry/sad face.
    - silently point to the rules poster
    - draw a sad face on the board next to the child’s name
    - draw stick figures next to the studentsEnames on the board.  Remove an arm or leg for each transgression. Decide on consequences for the loss of whole body (eg. No Friday prize.)
 -  Keep it short, keep it simple.
 -  Use time-out.  This is particularly useful as a compromise with willful children. (“Okay, you don’t have to play the game, but you DO have to sit over here in the library corner by yourself to have your tantrum.Eamp;nbsp;  Time-out should not be a punishment, but a time for a child to do something constructive (if possible Eeg; look at books) on his own until ready to come back to the group.  *Time out does not mean outside the classroom.
 -  Teach and demand the appropriate language of good manners.
 -  Teach children to talk about their feelings, using songs and games, and encourage  them to express their feelings  about  othersEactions.
 -  Look for natural consequences where possible.
 -  Allow the child an opportunity to suggest a possible solution. (“I’ll clean it.)
 -  If a student has ongoing or repetitive  behavioral problems, set clear consistent limits,and search extra hard for opportunities to reinforce good behaviour.
 -  Think of asking for assistance from parents if behaviour is serious (violent, destructive) or chronic.  Be specific about the behavioural changes you want. (“I want SeungYeon to tell me if Christina is annoying her and I will help.E and ask parents to assist by explaining to children in their first language.  ** Be very sensitive when speaking to parents about children’s problems; manycultures prefer diplomacy to blunt honesty, particularly in Asia, where allowing others to save face is essential.
 -  Save “The Principals OfficeEfor issues of very serious concern.  If you send children out of the room or to a higher authority, you risk giving students  the unintentional message that you cannot control the situation.  (And if it happens too often it loses it’s usefully awful mystique!)


Smile! Perhaps this sounds too trite to be worth mentioning, but time and time again I have witnessed the positive effects of this simplest of techniques being put to use in the classroomE.and the negative effects when it is not.

In fact, this piece of advice forms the basis of the teacher training program at one well known Bangkok language school, before new teachers are thrown to the wolves!

Remember, children are mirrors to our own emotions, attitudes and behaviors.

If and when you experience behavior problems in the classroom (cranky, difficult, disruptive, uncooperative, inattentive, unhappy children), STOP!

Make a quick check of your own emotional state. Chances are you’re feeling stressed, worried, frustrated, inadequate, tired, bored, unhappy, overworked, underpaidEetc etc etc.
You are their leader and role model!

If at that point you can put (and keep) a smile on your face, relax your shoulders and say something positive, seemingly miraculous changes in the class dynamics are possible.  Keep it up for a few days and you may even begin to believe your own act!

Home Attitude Reflected At School

How a student behaves in class will likely reflect how he or she is treated at home. Parents have different views on discipline - with very different results.

Parents are extremely permissive when they . . .
 - Have few or no behavior rules.
 - Children permitted to do as they please.

Parents are extremely strict when they . . .
 - Expect immediate obedience.
 - Give no explanation for demands.
 - Use physical punishment often.

Parents are moderate when they . . .
 - Set limits and allow children to decide within those limits and make their own mistakes.
 - Allow the natural and logical consequences to do the teaching for them.
 - Are firm, with kindness, warmth, and love.

When parents are extremely permissive . . .
 - Children are spoiled, cranky, whining persons who are very aggressive and want their own way all the time.

When parents are extremely strict . . .
 - Children are timid and withdrawn persons who are very dependent, or rebellious persons who defy authority.

When parents are moderate . . .
 - Children are responsible, cooperative persons who have a good self-concept and are considerate of others.

With either extreme discipline method, both parent and child are unhappy. Neither method produces the kind of behavior parents want in their children. There is a more effective way to discipline children. It is the moderate way, the middle road between extreme permissiveness and extreme strictness. The discipline methods described in these lessons as "effective" are a moderate style of discipline. They are based on common sense, research, and knowledge about how children grow and learn.

The most important factor that determines children's success in life is how they see themselves. Do they see themselves as learners? As being loveable and capable? Each day brings new experiences that have the potential for either building or destroying their self-concept.

Every time we give a child an order we are sending him a powerful message that says, "You can't think for yourself; I've got to think for you." Children look to their parents for confirmation of what kind of person they are. At a very early age they begin to look for things within themselves to prove that mom or dad is right.

If it's possible to program children for failure, it's equally possible (and preferable) for us to program them for success. We can free children from playing negative roles by:

 - Looking for opportunities to show them a different picture of themselves. "You've had that toy since you were a baby and it still works like it was brand new. You take good care of your toys."
 - Putting children in situations where they can see themselves differently. "Picking up your blocks is a big job. I'll hold the bag open while you put them in. Cleaning up is more fun when we do it together."
 - Letting children overhear you say something positive about them. "She held her arm steady for the Doctor even though the shot hurt."
 - Modeling the behavior you'd like to see. "It's no fun to lose, but I'll try to be a good sport about it. Congratulations!"
 - Being a storehouse for your students' special moments. "I remember the time you . . ."
 - Stating your feelings and expectations when the child slips back into playing an old role.. "I don't like that. I know you want to win but I still expect good sportsmanship from you."

Discipline needs to be in keeping with the child's age and abilities. Ask yourself: Are my demands reasonable for this age? Do I expect too much?

Effective Discipline
To discipline effectively, think about these ideas:

1. Effective discipline is positive. It is helping, teaching, and learning.

2. The purpose of discipline is to help children learn to do that is right because they want to, not because they fear punishment.

3. Effective discipline is moderate, neither very permissive nor very strict.

4. Moderate discipline is most effective for the age we live in.

5. Discipline influences the kind of adult the child will become.

6. Understanding the individual child is the basis for effective discipline.

7. Discipline needs to be in keeping with the child's age and abilities.

As a teacher of young ages, you will have many things to consider that are not all concerned with teaching English.  Care, motivation and control of your little learners are paramount.

The next several chapters will look at how children learn, how they learn a language, how to create a good, friendly learning environment and then some techniques for getting the job done.

Chapter 3
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