In April, I visited Christi Crawford's amazing church Cornerstone in Jonesboro! She shared lots of great ideas with me. When I asked her what she would like to see added to the monthly emails, she said she would like helpful ideas on how to communicate with kids! "Uhm yes, brilliant," was my response! I love it when you all tell me what you need. It helps me serve you in your ministry at your local churches. So going forward I will add some helpful tips for you to share with your volunteers.
Communicating with Kids
When working with PK-5-year-olds, you always want to model exactly how you want them to sit for a story. For example:
- Taylor, will you show me and the rest of the class how we sit with our bodies for the story? (I always call on one that may be questionable if they can show it. Then with the student, we direct the rest of the class how to sit criss-cross applesauce and keep hands in lap.)
Doing this with a child who you may suspect or is known to struggle with this skill instantly makes them the expert in the room. Praise the child for helping you teach the rest of the class how to sit for a story. Direct the rest of the class to observe and make their bodies look like Taylor.
- If Taylor forgets that he/she is the model student you can easily remind with a comment like: "Taylor you are the model for how to sit for a story. Show us again how to best sit for a story. I know you can do it. Everyone be sure to match Taylor." (This last sentence is for others who may be struggling.)
This is a great way to redirect behavior you don't want to see, but also give praise and build self-esteem. When you have taught the children a behavior skill you can easily redirect in the moment. When you don't teach the skill, it is not fair to hold them accountable to what you expect from their behavior. Communicating clearly and quickly your group behavior expectations by modeling them in the beginning allows all students to know quickly what is expected of them and lowers teacher frustration levels.
Of course, many of you will ask what do I say if Taylor or another student continues to have trouble sitting for the story after the first redirect? The second need for a redirect is when you give them a choice.
- "You have a choice to sit as I know you know how to sit for story OR I will ask our room helper to sit with you. What would you like to choose?" Let the child respond with their choice. If they don't choose, let them know that by not choosing they are letting you know they need a room helper to sit next to them. Respond immediately and quickly to the child's choice and move on with the story. (No long behavior lecture. Just the choice is given and move on. If it was for attention seeking, you will only feed the behavior with big grand lecture stops.)
I started this article giving the age range of PreK-5 year olds because I was giving the example of sitting for story. The same communication approach can be totally be adapted to older age students who may not need a visual example of what is expected, but still need redirect and choices in a firm and loving voice.