When I was director of an "open space" program, one teacher had a "Kyle." He was a delightful little guy who seldom stopped to get involved in any activity. (He just flashed by the learning centers!) The staff and I met and came up with a four-prong plan:
1. We would rearrange the classroom to eliminate the large open space in the middle, which was such an invitation to run!
2. We would make each learning center much more engaging, so they almost called out, "Come and try this!" We want children to "try" more learning experiences, so tempting them to come and investigate is appropriate.
3. We would schedule staff so that someone was always "assigned" to greet the child and escort him through the arrival activity, and then on into a learning center activity. An adult would help him get involved in an activity and return to get him interested in something else if he began to roam, run, or roughhouse. During all transitions, a cheerful adult would steer his energies into something constructive.
4. We would put more energy and pizzazz into teaching. A learning center in which an adult is working energetically with children always attracts them.
Our plan worked quite well. Here are some ideas for settling Kyle into a learning mode.
Reworking Room Arrangement: If cubbies are near the entrance, there's nowhere to run to upon arriving. Stopping to tug off coats slows children down.
A table, or two together, displaying the enticing table games or puzzles of the day, located so it blocks the route into the room, will snare many a child in its web of educational delights.
Quality Learning Centers: Surely Kyle is interested in something. Woo him with learning possibilities! Include in your learning centers intriguing math games to play, fascinating science experiments to do. Change the activities as soon as the group's interest in them begins to wane. Win Kyle-and all the children-with the reward of mastering something and feeling competent!
Scheduling Staff: During the peak "arrival" period, ask all available adults (teacher, assistant, a lingering parent or two) to meet and greet each child. They can help children who are sad about separating from family members or shy about plunging into an activity. They can keep children company until each has been "hooked" into an activity. You can explore finding a volunteer from a high school, college, or senior center to move with Kyle throughout his day as his "special" person.
Teaching Effectively: Effective teaching means developing a positive relationship with each child and enjoying activities with the child that interest him. What is Kyle interested in? What does he do in his free time? Develop one of his interests with him. It may involve large muscles and lots of physical activity. Don't forget outdoor play, and take every opportunity to engage Kyle in large-muscle activities in the classroom.
The secret is to make friends with Kyle, observe him, and work with rather than against him.
Dear Reader: What troublesome issues are you dealing with in your program? Write to us at Early Childhood Today, 555 Broadway, New York, NY, 100 12 and we'll do our best to provide you with helpful advice and "try it now" problem-solving strategies from our experts.