For very young learners, children aged 3-6, being in a classroom might be a completely new experience. Most of them won’t know any English words at all and might have very little idea of what English is or why they are learning it. Some of them may not yet be completely fluent in their mother tongue.
At the beginning of the school year, some of them may find it distressing to be separated from their parents and they also have to learn to get along with their new classmates.
If we want to keep them comfortable and safe and provide a friendly and welcoming environment, we need to establish routines.
7 ways you can build routines into your classes
Here are some areas where you can easily incorporate classroom management routines into your English language class.
1. Think about your target language
Our target language for each lesson may be one or two short phrases or a few new words. We should always keep the presentation and practice of this simple and clear.
However, we can use English for all our greetings, praise, instructions and explanations. After a few days the children will begin to expect it and they will gradually understand what you are saying.
2. Coming into the class
Take time to greet each child by name when they enter the classroom and encourage them to learn and use each other’s names too. This makes a difference in how they perceive themselves and each other and encourages friendly communication.
Notice the small things about each child. They might have a new T-shirt on or have done their hair specially. They may not tell you that they have made an effort to look nice for their lesson, but they will be pleased when you notice and will feel encouraged to continue.
3. Circle time
Make circle time the start of every lesson. It gets the children sitting down together and this helps them to get to know each other and feel part of a comfortable group.
It’s the time where you present the target language for the day. Use a puppet to help you do this. Make the puppet part of the routine by keeping it in a certain place and bringing it out from there every day. The children can call its name.
The puppet can greet the children by name and the children can answer back. Use picture cards or realia to present the language to the puppet first. Then the puppet can show they understand or ask for repetition.
Let the children call out responses as a group. As they build their confidence in English they will want to speak by themselves.
Always accept approximations of words and phrases. Rather than correcting the children, continue to model the words and gradually the students will self-correct. Pass this tip on to parents too.
4. Book time
Give students time to discover pages and images they like in the books they are using. Always leave time to help each child find the correct page and then help them to focus their attention on that page.
In Circle time you have introduced the language and presented it with flashcards or realia. In Book time, children can look at these images – the content will be familiar and they will start to feel ownership of what they are learning.
5. Songs, games and miming
Singing, playing games and miming are the main ways in which the students will start to freely use and show that they understand the target language.
In My Disney Stars and Friends each stage of every game is detailed, along with the language you and the students can use. Students might become so involved in the action of the game that they forget to speak in English! That’s okay – continue using the language and eventually, they will start to use it too.
When a game or a song involves physical activity, have drinks of water ready and let them rest and relax afterwards. Always have a ‘sitting down’ activity ready for them to move on to so that they do not become overexcited or tired.
6. Craft and Stickers
For any craft work there are four stages: preparation, production, playing with the completed craft work and tidying up. If you’re using My Disney Stars and Friends, there is a special Tidy Up song and all the craft projects are press-outs so there is no need for scissors.
Children of 3 or 4 years old will need to learn how to unpeel and then re-stick a sticker. Allow time for this and encourage them to learn from each other once some of them have mastered this fine motor skill.
7. Leaving the class
Time your lessons so that the students don’t have to leave in a rush. It takes them a while to collect up their things and find their bags and coats.
If there is something which you want the parents to know, make sure that the children know where they have put the note. One notebook for such messages is a simple way of doing this and you can tell parents to check it after every lesson.
Just as you greeted each child by name when they came in, say goodbye to them individually as they leave.
Effective classroom management routines make young learners feel more comfortable as they know what to expect from their language classes. Familiarity is welcome for children, so exploit these times for more language learning opportunities.￼￼
Find more ideas on effective classroom management routines in Jeanne Perrett’s webinar where she focuses on practical ideas and teaching tips for how we can organise and manage a class of young learners.