“And They’re Off…”

One really great teacher trick I’ve picked up along the way is called broadcasting. It means that you narrate what the kids are doing (like a broadcaster – get it?). They love it. And it’s great because not only are you paying them a lot of attention, you get to be more involved in what they’re doing and it actually helps reduce squabbling.

Bumper cars

"He's just backing up, not crashing into you."

I was having a great time with this in the driveway the other day. It was sunny after many days of rain, and I was just happy to be soaking up some vitamin D. The kids were thrilled to be outside too, doing one of their favorite things, which is riding bikes and cars in the driveway.

When Older was little we got him one of those orange and yellow Little Tykes cars. We were lucky because the day we bought it, the gas tank was FREE. The gas tank has been one of the best purchases I ever made. And it was FREE.

All the kids love to pump gas, which means they end up fighting over the gas tank eventually. Miss M was driving her favorite black truck and was getting very upset that Miss D, who had just filled her own tank up, was chasing her around the driveway.

I said, “Miss M, Miss D wants to give you some gas.” Miss M immediately stopped resisting and said, “OK.” During this process I started narrating. “OK Miss D is pumping the gas. Thank you for helping! Miss M is so happy that she can do all her errands without running out of gas. I think Miss D is almost done. Don’t forget to put the cap back on. Who else needs gas? And there goes Miss M, on her way to work! Bye, have a good day!” Miss M drove off with a smile and wave.

Miss C, not to be outdone by her sister, needed to do something nice for Miss M too. She ran over to the car and started trying to reach in and beep the horn. Miss M got upset again because just after thinking she was free to ride off into the sunset, now Miss C was trying to steal her car too. I told her, “Miss C wants to show you how to beep the horn.”

Miss C looked at me and nodded, then looked at Miss M again, who was now waiting to see what she would do. She reached in to beep the horn and I announced, “Now you know how to beep the horn! Make some noise!”

Now Tornado wants to get in on the act. He runs over to grab the gas pump but the twins are still holding tight. One’s got the tank, the other’s got the end of the hose, and Tornado is about to be clotheslined and fall down the hill onto the driveway. I say, “Girls!!! Tornado wants to pump the gas too!!” and they immediately back off, saving him from a spill. They help him carry the pump around to the other cars and fill those tanks too. Of course he lost interest after the first one, but he was happy to be part of the pit crew for a few minutes.

Another driveway game we play is going to the store. You only have to do something once and it will stick forever. So be careful what games you start, because you will be expected to play them over and over and over and over and over. But I love this one, it’s easy. The girls get in the cars and tell me, “Bye! Store!” and I have to tell them what groceries to buy for me. They can’t leave until I give them a list, then they go to the far end of the driveway and come back and hand me the stuff. And then go back for more.

I tend to use this technique in settings like this, when we’re all focused on doing the same thing and I’m not distracted by making snacks or changing diapers or a hundred other things. But I can use it at any time, and it really is effective at making a connection. It helps me follow the flow of activity and know who’s doing what to who, and really does help to keep the peace. When you know a child is trying to love or help or just play with another instead of going after them, you can help everything flow smoothly. And like I said, they LOVE it. It makes them feel like you’re paying attention to them – which as we all know is every child’s number one motivation.

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