Tuesday, September 14, 2010

S-l-o-w-l-y teaching impulse control

One of my favorite aspects of the first few weeks of school is playing impulse control games. You know, the games we all thought were lots of fun when we were kids but actually taught us to listen, follow directions, and stop our bodies from moving even when we don't want to stop?

I think what I love so much about these games in the beginning of the year is how hard it is for the kids to play them. They want to play them- they want to follow the rules- they think they're going to stop when they are suppose to- they plan to stop when they are suppose to- but they never do. Their little faces fill with frustration when they realize they didn't stop/move/run/tap their head at the right time. It's such a metaphor for the beginning of kindergarten- they want to follow the rules they just haven't trained their bodies to do it yet. They're not being impulsive just to make us mad- they're just in the process of learning how to control it. Our job is to teach it (the faster the better for our sanity...) We don't have to get frustrated and angry at the kids, but we do have to firmly teach expectations and then give them safe time to practice the skills we want them to have. Just like if we were teaching a math game or a reading strategy.

All the classic games are so perfect for this. Red Light/Green Light is a killer. A perfect impulse-control practice game, but so, so tough for those trying to have impulse control. My mother taught me the game "laughing machine" where the teacher drops a tissue from in the air and the class laughs until the tissue hits the floor. This teaches them to control their laughing- something that comes in handy when you're ready to move on from a funny part of a book and they just aren't...

Today we played Follow the Leader and all the kids had to do was walk behind the teacher while doing whatever motion she was doing. Which meant their eyes needed to stay on her. And not their friends, or their shoes, or the frog, or the window, or the bathroom. Every time a little one looked up and realized the whole classroom was taping their heads while he was still taping his knees his face would scrunch up in confusion- and he'd put his eyes on the teacher with more determination than before- until something else caught his eye and he looked elsewhere.

We'll get there. Every game will get a little easier everyday, right?

Any good recommendations on more games that teach impulse control?


Doing Differentiated Math said...

Simon Says is the one that I use with 1st and 2nd graders for that purpose. Oh, but nobody ever gets "out," and I don't make a big deal over mess ups.

Also, I love partner, team, and whole-group red light/green light once the kids are a little more skilled. Partners have to hold hands or stay connected and if one partner moves, both partners go back. You, of course, have to be nice to your partner, even if they wiggle. With teams larger sets of kids join hands and with whole-group, everyone joins hands. If one child moves, the whole group starts over. This sounds like a recipe for diaster, but actually changes the whole dynamic of the game. Usually, everyone slows down and works together, supporting the children who have the most difficulty. Very powerful stuff!

Gayle said...

I love your latest writing! What a struggle it is when our students come in with such limited ability to manage themselves. How can learning take place when their attention is not on the lesson, their bodies are not still, and their voices won't let up? I like to do "The Freeze Song" by Greg and Steve. It is a challenge for them to really "freeze" when the music stops! The students love it! This is just another idea for building self-control!;o)

Jason Buell said...

I think NurtureShock mentioned having students draw (or something like that) and stop as soon as the music stops. I know when we go to the library, the librarian has a bunch of music she plays during story time where it tells you to dance and do all this crazy stuff and then FREEZE! And everyone stops. That sounds like it'd be really fun in class.

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Oo I love the laughing tissue game idea!

I like playing four corners where one child is in the middle of the room with their eyes closed. Kids walk quietly to one corner of the room and the kid in the middle has to guess where the most kids are. Then those kids are out until there is only one person left. It's not exactly impulse control in theory but it can be if they are so excited they want to sprint to the corner!

magpie said...

Another game I try later in the term is Into the river.
This is where you have the class in a straight line and they are next to for example, a straight line on a basketball court.
The line represents the river.
The children can step either side of the line which represents the bank.
You all start on one side and begin.
"Into the river, onto the bank , into the river, into the river."
Those jumping off the line and onto the bank are out.
Game continues.
☺☺☺ HOO ROO ☺☺☺