The idea of throwing a party for a gaggle of your kid’s friends sounds great in theory, but dealing with an additional five (six? eight? a dozen?) children requires a special set of skills — the very kind a teacher has, in spades.
The next time you find yourself corralling a group of rambunctious children, ask yourself, “What would a teacher do?” Here are a bunch of suggestions, straight from the experts.
Give the kids a job
“(Give) kids something to do so they have a purpose,” says Melanie Stanley, who’s been a teacher for a decade. She points to something as simple as lining up to get a group to settle down. “Their purpose right now is to get in line. It makes them feel important, like ‘OK, I got this. I can do a line.’”
The technique works well when the directions are simple and quick.
During a previous school year, Stanley says, she gave each of her five-year-old students a job each week: The electrician turned the lights on and off, for example, and the chairperson pushed in any chairs left out.
“It changed my class community because they all felt like they were needed and important,” she says. “They’re willing to help and they’re able to, and it makes them feel more confident.”
Give kids a spot
Stanley also points to the importance of giving kids a location, especially if you’re trying to keep a group together: Tell them to sit on the rug, or make a circle out of jump ropes, and have them stay in the circle.
“(If) they have a place to go that’s clear, they understand, ‘I need to stay in this area,’” Stanley says.
Break up the group
Angela Watson, a teacher who runs the website The Cornerstone For Teachers, shares 10 tips to calm kids who’ve just come in from recess. Try this when the group has been running around outside and it’s time for cake and ice cream: Allow just a few kids to come back inside at a time. Watson writes,
“Rather than having 30 overexcited students tear into the classroom all at the same time, set a calm, controlled atmosphere right from the moment they step through the door by allowing them to enter and settle down in small batches. Stand in the doorway and let the first five kids in, pause for a few seconds while the area around your coat hooks clears out, then let in the next five children, and so on.”
Call and response
Fifth-grade teacher Kate Patterson likes to use a call and response technique in her classroom, and it’s something you can use in your home as soon as the kids have arrived.
It works kind of like the poolside Marco Polo game: She tells the group that she’ll sing the start of a song or jingle, and the group should respond with the next line.
Watson lists 50 different call and response techniques, covering everything from rhyming options (Hocus pocus … Time to focus!) and movie quotes (To infinity … And beyond!) to songs (Stop … collaborate and listen!) and sound effects (Flat tire … shhhhhh!)
“Explain to them that when you are doing it, they have to listen to instructions,” says Patterson, who has taught for 13 years and lives in Springhill, Tennessee. “Practice when they first get there. If you can get their attention, that’s the biggest piece.”