I had two boys in my class who were screaming just to cause a bit of havoc. I think they may have been expecting a telling off or pleas to be quiet. No point in that really, all it would do is raise my own blood pressure and amuse them more. As soon as you allow your own physiology to change you are allowing yourself to become more heightened which will in turn affect those you are dealing with. Deep breath, smile, be certain of your own calm state and move forward……….. with a nice loud educational song in my tuneless singing. You can’t beat a rendition of ‘cranium, clavicle, carpals and tarsals’ to the tune of heads, shoulders knees and toes. Either my singing was that bad or their surprise at the response greater than they expected because they stopped screaming. I stopped singing, they started screaming. I started singing and they stopped screaming. We carried on with this little dance for a minute or so much to the general amusement of the rest of the class who were totally absorbed in the spectacle taking place before them. The two boys who wanted to cause havoc couldn’t quite work out why but the jumped down from the bookshelf and sat down on the bean bags. They presented me with my chance to grab the attemtion of all pupils and start the process of learning. Quick fire directed questions — directed so that they were differentiated by ability — “James, where is your cranium”, “Gemma, where is your cranium and what it’s job”, “Fred, where is your cranium, what is its job and give me an example from sport.” The questions carried on until a voice piped up from the beanbags in the corner “Miss, what was that song again?” Cue a class redition of cranium, clavicle, carpals and tarsals” complete with actions. The class was buzzing and we were ready to start our English lesson.
Does it matter that the starter was connected to PE and science when the subject was English? No, absolutely not. I could argue that the song was helping to increase their literacy by expanding vocabulary but I’m not going to. The point is that a difficult situation was diffused without the need for a cross word or a negative exchange between teacher and pupil. Children laughed, children chose to behave, children became engaged; children prepared themselves for learning. That is what a starter truly is, preparation for learning. If it needs to be cross curricular to prepare pupils to learn, no problem. If it promotes behaviour for learning, fantastic. If it triggers a natural inquisitiveness, fabulous. Job done.
What age group was this? Well, this group was a mix of Y7 & Y8 so 11–13 year olds. Would it work with other year groups? It has with my Y10’s and with Y4’s, at the other end of the scale. Here’s the real beauty of it though. The same principle can be adapted by the parent dealing with their children at home. Take a deep breath and smile, prepare yourself for a calm interaction with a child not doing as they should and try to distract or engage them with something else. Diffuse the situation. It takes work, it will not be second nature but in time it can become that way and it is good for the health and well-being of all of those involved. It’s worth giving some thought to, for sure.