Modelling positive behaviour for young learners

Posted by Jeanne Perrett on 30 May 2018

It’s true that we have sophisticated, useful, amazingly creative technology available to help us educate our children.

It’s true that our children can, even before they can say "Mama" and "Dada", activate tablets, swipe screens, skip ads and find the tunes and games they want online.

It’s also true that in the past 40 years, human evolution has not suddenly gone into overdrive. We are still helping children to discover and make sense of the world and to make their mark on it, the same way we have for thousands of years.

So, yes, our kids blow us away with what they are capable of but yes, they still need teachers, books, guidance and support.

In the talk I’ll be giving at the Trinity Future of English Language Teaching conference at Regent’s University London on 17th June, I’ll be looking at five essential ways in which we can help our students. Number one on my list is: Paying Attention.

Book conference tickets

This is for us, as much as the children. In our Twitter-Instagram-Facebook world, we have got used to focusing briefly on short, (sometimes) interesting snippets of text, then quickly moving on to the next. But, as we know, when we relax and properly focus on the activity in hand, not only are we more productive, but the activity becomes deeply satisfying and, even more importantly in the context of education, more memorable.

But of course, we learn, from an early age to ‘hurry up’. We have to, in order to not spend the rest of our lives in toddler mode, gazing at stones in the street and blowing dandelions. We learn, and we teach our children, that we have to get to places on time, do things when they are meant to be done, pay a little less attention to each fascinating thing we come across.

The phrases "Pay attention," "Listen to me," "Concentrate on what you’re doing" and "Look at me when I’m speaking to you" are such a familiar part of a teacher’s vernacular, that we can lose sight of why we’re saying them, and they certainly float over students’ heads. So, we must lead by example and show the children that we enjoy sitting and reading and writing.

The temptation to get on with other small tasks while the students are doing some heads-down work is strong. We get up and tape drawings to the wall, quickly mark a few homework exercises, send a brief text, check our to-do lists and so on. But we shouldn’t. We could get out a book and read when they’re reading; we could write when they’re writing. We could show them that it’s okay to be still and focused.

Children rarely see adults doing any kind of sustained writing. In fact, in many homes, the only place where you will find pens and blank paper is in the child’s school bag or room. Word-processing programmes are not installed on laptops as a matter of course. So, it falls to us to read, write and pay attention in front of children, and to let them see that you are enjoying it.

Find out more about about 'paying attention' and the five steps to modelling positive behaviour in young learners during my talk at the conference - tickets available now.

Book conference tickets

About Jeanne Perrett

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Jeanne Perrett has been working in the language-teaching sector for over thirty-five years as a teacher, school owner, publisher and writer and is the author of many acclaimed pre-primary and primary EFL series. She has trained teachers all over the world and frequently presented at professional conferences. Jeanne graduated from Sussex University with a degree in English Literature and has lived in Greece since 1981. Apart from her professional experience, she draws a lot on the practical knowledge she has gained as the mother of four children and now as the grandmother of five.