Published 28th January 2016
Does the idea of a classroom on 25 6-year olds make you want to run for the hills? If it does, you’re not alone. There are not many people in this world who are natural Young Learner teachers. It takes nerves of steel and the patience of a nun to be able to handle the bundles of energy and neediness that are our Young Learners, yet you may just find yourself in this unenviable position.
For those of us who are required to carry out a Young Learner class as best as we can, here is a secret weapon: Stirrers and Settlers (and no, these do not refer to martinis).
Stirrers are activities which encourage your learners to be active. These activities usually require movement – anything from standing, jumping and acting to walking or running. When these activities are in play, you can expect noise, laughing, screaming and general good times.
Stirring activities include songs, roleplays, ball games, class games and mingles.
Settlers are the opposite of stirrers. Settlers are activities which encourage the learners to sit down and be calm. They are necessary to establish routine in the Young Learner classroom and to ensure that your classroom is not always a place of chaos.
Settling activities include drawing, silent reading or story-telling, word games and arts and crafts.
The key to teaching Young Learners is variety and this can best be accomplished through variety of activities. This is essentially what stirrers and settlers do. During the course of a lesson there should be opportunities for your learners to be out of their seats and active, and there should be times when they are quiet and working by themselves or listening to you. However you decide to organise it, your lesson should be broken down into activities of 5 to 10 minutes each, as this is the extent of their concentration capacities.
When you need to switch between activities, make sure you give a clear signal to the learners that they will recognise and understand. In other words, come up with an action which is associated with another action – when you clap your heads everyone must return to their seats, when you bang on a drum everyone must sit on the mat, when you hold up your hand everyone must keep quiet.
When your learners become aware of the different signals and if they are given a range of stirring and settling activities, you will find your classroom will become a lot of organised and disciplined. Your learners will appreciate the structure and will be able to benefit from the content of the lessons.