Ask any teacher about the challenges of the classroom, and somewhere near the top of that list will be getting children to listen. Particularly in the early childhood classroom, we’re not only working with all the competing stimuli around us (squirrel!) but also with impulse control and other executive functions that are in the early stages of development. With so many factors working against you, getting a room full of young children to listen can be quite the challenge.
But there are also things we do as we speak to children that may increase or lessen the likelihood that children will actually be listening. Here are 6 ways we may be unintentionally telling children NOT to listen, and how to correct that:
1. Making it Sound Optional
Sometimes we give a direction, but present it as a choice. “Should we sing that song again?” “Help us pick up the blocks, OK?” In our adult world we know the subtleties that imply that these aren’t really optional, but that’s all lost on young children. Adults often give what they believe are polite directions, only to be met with a polite, “No, thank you.” So make directions...well...direct.