Things I wish I'd known

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Sue Cowley's personal guide for new teachers. This week: teaching a bunch of fidgets

Nothing is more annoying than children tipping back on their chairs or fiddling with their pens while you're trying to deliver the lesson.

Fidgeting is the bane of many a teacher's life. But luckily, it's a reasonably easy problem to solve.

The first secret to dealing with a bunch of fidgets is to train them.

Remember the film Kindergarten Cop in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a police officer working undercover as a primary teacher? Having no idea about teaching, he trains them as though they are police recruits. It works a treat.

Arnie's is exactly the right approach. We need to train students in the way we want them to behave. This includes not fidgeting. By the end of the film the children are listening with rapt attention, lining up in silence, tidying up the room on command - every teacher's dream scenario. (Mind you, if I was the size of Arnie I suspect even the teenage psychotics would do what I said.) Making good behaviour a game is another great way to keep your primary children in line. If you want them to move calmly to their seats, tell them they're walking over a sleeping monster's back, and must not wake him. One of my all-time favourites is the statues game, also known as sleeping lions, where the class has to freeze for a set of time. It's a fantastic way of getting a break from the stress of constant movement, and a peaceful way to end a lesson.

If you teach a bunch of wrigglers, consider why they're moving around so much. Put yourself in their shoes for a second to work out the problem.

There are various potential culprits. Fizzy drinks and e-number-laden sweets can play a part in poor concentration. And, if you're boring the class to tears, they have every right to move around in an attempt to stay awake.

If older children fiddle with pencil cases while you're explaining the lesson, it's a simple matter of removing the problem. Have a clear-desk policy in which the children get their materials out only after you've finished talking. But beware of talking too much, particularly if they find sitting still difficult. Instead, use group activities or practical exercises that give them a chance to let off steam.

And finally, no matter how tempting it might seem, remember that the staple gun is for putting up displays, and not for permanently attaching your little fidgets to the floor.

Sue Cowley is an educational writer, trainer, presenter and consultant. She also supply-teaches. Her latest book , Sue Cowley's Teaching Clinic, is published by Continuum at pound;9.99. Contact:

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