The 12 Days of
Christmas Managing VYL:
12 Ways I try to ensure my lessons are the sparkliest thing in my VYL classrooms.
One of the toughest things about teaching little people is that, well, they behave like little people!
Not long ago I promised the ‘Teaching Very Young Learners’ Facebook group a Christmas gift. So here it is (albeit a little late). I’m sharing 12 things that have helped me over the years to improve my classroom management.
No matter how competent and confident you are with your teaching in general, Very Young Learners are not Adults or Young Learners. And teaching VYL is not the same as teaching other groups. Far from it. And it’s much easier to cope with a 5 yr old (and indeed 2, 3, 4, 6 year old) behaving like a 5 year old when you’re able to anticipate it. Learning a bit about early childhood development will help with both understanding their behaviour and also planning your lessons accordingly. Thus helping to avoid many of the classroom management issues us experienced VYL teachers know all too well. I therefore highly recommend to all those teaching VYL, particularly those new to the age group, taking a teacher development course like the International House IH VYL (Disclosure: I mention this particular course because I work for IHWO), or at least reading books, journals articles, blogs etc on the topic. Lesson planning is so very important for classroom management. All the tips in the world won’t help if the activities and language aren’t age appropriate.
But for now what you really want is for me to get on with said tips, right? Getting there.
You should know (so that you don’t reach the end disappointed) that this post isn’t a replacement for the above or even a list of classroom implications e.g. ‘They have short attention spans so keep activities short’ (Although I do have other blog posts for that – see links at the bottom of this post). It’s not even a list of activities that work well with this age group, sorry. I don’t have anything flashy, new of fancy to share. Rather it’s a list of simple things that I have personally found to be effective for me, in my own classrooms.
Something else important to note, I called this the 12 days of managing VYL classes because I don’t think super efficient VYL classroom management something you should expect yourself to achieve overnight. Maybe not even in 12 lessons. It’s more realistic to try one thing at a time and slowly build your classroom management techniques with trial and error, tweaking as you go so that your techniques suit both you and your learners. Effective classroom management is a work in progress for all of us. With every new student, class, comes a new challenge, a new way of doing things.
WARNING: If you thought the introduction was lengthy. Get ready. Super long blog post ahead! Can you make it to number 12?
What: I take 5 minutes before the lesson starts to prep both myself and the room
I do my best (although sometimes with other lessons being taught immediately beforehand it’s not perfect) to arrive in plenty of time to set up the classroom and get organised. I don’t just mean moving tables around or taking flashcards out of my bag. I mean taking a moment to look around the classroom and visualise where I will stand for each part of the lesson and where the learners will be. What they will be doing. How they will be reacting. This includes managing my space, thinking about where I will do different things e.g. will I sit with my back to the board for the flashcard games? The back left corner with my back to the window for the story? And also placing the materials I will need for each task within easy reach. I might put my flashcards in a pile on the floor close to where I plan to sit, my story book on a back table or the window sill, some sticky tac on the board ready for a board race etc.
Why: It only takes a moment to lose them to a dried leaf on the bottom of their shoe. To say prevention is better than a cure is an understatement when teaching VYL and the proverb underpins almost every one of the below ideas.