"IT'S MY TURN!" HOW MANY TIMES HAW YOU HEARD that during your group-time gatherings? If you are like most teachers, you've found that learning to take turns speaking and sharing is a skill of major significance that children learn in preschool and kindergarten. Your group-time setting is the perfect place to practice this essential life skill that is useful not only during group meetings, but throughout a child's day.

The simple practice of taking turns involves a host of social and emotional skills. In order to take turns, children need to learn how to self-regulate, or control their desire to be noticed and to interrupt others. They also need to wait and listen. This takes patience, a skill that young children are just learning to master, as they move from the egocentric "me" stage to a more group-conscious "us" stage.

Learning to take turns does take practice, but it is not difficult to learn. Even babies learn how to do it when they begin to babble back and forth with their teachers! Keep it light and fun, and children will catch on quickly. Try some of the following fingerplays and games for teaching turn taking today in a fun-filled way!

Fingerplay Fun

Fingerplays work well as a way to get children's attention without resorting to raising your voice. They can serve as quiet (and quieting!) reminders of your turn-taking expectations. The first fingerplay below helps set the stage by emphasizing how important turn taking is as a way to maintain the flow of the meeting. Invite children to all talk at once. Then, ask children to raise their hands and take turns. Ask them which sounds better.

As you introduce this fingerplay, invite children to talk about how difficult it can be to wait for a turn. Then say and do the fingerplay together. (You will probably need to familiarize children with the phrase "to and fro," but once they get it, they will use it all the time!)

Take Your Turn

You can help children remember whose turn it is to talk by using a soft ball as a tactile and visual reminder along with the fingerplay/song. Explain that the ball is a "talk" object. Whoever is holding the ball can talk, while the rest of the children should look at him and listen.

You can practice this by asking a simple question (such as "What is your favorite color?") and inviting children to silently raise their hands if they want to answer the question. Roll the ball to a child who is quietly raising her hand. After answering, she rolls the ball back to the teacher who then rolls it to another child who has his hand raised. Eventually children will learn to roll the ball to the next child who has his hand raised. Use a wide variety of fun questions and play the game frequently.

Add a Sign

Nonverbal cues can help children remember the rules of taking turns at group time. Teach children a sign from American Sign Language as a turn-taking reminder. The sign for TURN is an L handshape that starts with the thumb facing the body and turns the thumb to face someone else. This represents the concept that the speaker has finished her turn and it is now someone else's turn. You can move the hand back and forth in this way to remind children to take turns! You can look up signs for other words in the American Sign Language Glossary online at: www.masterstech home.com/ASLDict.html.

Listen and Move

Turn taking requires strong listening skills. Invite children to silently move their fingers as you recite a favorite fingerplay. The listening trick is that they have to stop moving as soon as you stop talking. Stop in the middle of a sentence (or word). See how long it takes children to stop moving.