Creative beginnings and crisp endings: pillars of a happy class

Nabanita Deshmukh

“GOOD MORNING!” greeted the teacher but no one paid attention. Students were screaming and running all over the place. Some were quarrelling and one chubby boy had even climbed up on his desk to sing his favourite song. The poor teacher, probably in her mid-twenties, was in tears and would have surely left had not the headmistress intervened, and the class resumed.

Similarly, an instructor in a small town was busy concluding a lesson when students rushed out noisily without bidding goodbye. The young man was summoned by the headmaster and asked to manage his classes better.

Hmm…is this a frequent occurrence in your classroom? If it is, you need not worry because a large number of teachers face this ordeal. Most of them are clueless on how to control their students, yet all it often takes is a creative warm up and a fun ending to usher peace into the classroom.

Children come to school after a flurry of activities done at home or during recess. It is essential for teachers to quieten them down so that they can concentrate and look forward to the lesson. Pedagogues believe that the first few minutes at the start and the end of a lesson are extremely important as regards children’s learning abilities, but how to make them count? Well, here are a few ideas…

Serene tunes
Good old tunes are instant hits! The cadence and the inversion of words in a song break down rigid grammatical structures. Children feel less tense when they learn or start a class with music. Use familiar tunes that children love and watch the effect they have on the class, yet unfamiliar songs are also effective. ‘Breathing In, Breathing Out’ is a Zen song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNBj23_irT0) that incorporates deep breathing with soothing gestures to calm restless children. Another strategy is to take a familiar song and ask children to sing it by humming each alternate line. Students could also clap, thump or tap every time they hear a particular word in a song written on the blackboard by the teacher.

For more songs, check the website: https://www.songsforteaching.com/

Groovy games
Short, crisp games can quickly bring back children’s focus and interest in the subject. The competitive element and the novelty of ‘playing’ motivate children and make them eager to learn. Besides, games develop strategic thinking, good planning and cooperation with peers among other skills. Here are a few quick-fire games to start the class:

Big to small
The teacher writes a long word such as ‘hippopotamus’ on the board. Students are asked to create as many words as they can using the letters of the long word within a stipulated time frame. The student who writes the highest number of correct words becomes the winner.

Word Antakshari
The teacher gets a soft ball to the class and calls out a word, for example, ‘earth’. She then passes the ball to a student who has to say another word that begins with the last letter of ‘earth’ which is ‘h’. She then passes the ball to another child and the game continues until children are warmed up enough to start the class.

For online classes, the teacher calls out names of students, instead of passing the ball around to continue the game.

For more ideas on the use of games in classrooms, log on to: https://www.quizalize.com/blog/2018/03/02/classroom-games/

‘MASTI’ mimes
Children learn in different ways, and many especially the timid ones, shy away from verbal activities. The teacher has to prepare non-verbal warm-ups and mimes work well. Narrate a story but do not say all the words aloud. Choose only a few interesting ones and mime them out to see whether students can guess the meaning. Or, get slips of paper with words written on them. A few students could pick up the slips and act out the word to let the others do the guessing. The words could be new or picked up from lessons the children have completed.

For more mimes, check the website: https://news.collinselt.com/tips-for-teachers-working-with-gestures-and-mime-5-classroom-activities/

Creative crayons
Small children love to draw! In fact, many students learn better by doing art than by reading conventional books. Teachers could use arty warm ups to enthuse children. A very short tale or a peppy rhyme could be read aloud. Children could then doodle or draw anything that comes to their mind either from the story or elsewhere. Or, a story could be started and stopped mid-way and students could imagine an ending and draw some of the objects that figure in their conclusion.

For arty activities, log on to: https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2020/07/22/drawing-learn/

Pesky puppets
Puppets are children’s best friends and instantly grab their attention! It is a good idea to start the class with a puppet and let it tell a story, sing a song, ask a riddle or even give instructions. Children, especially the shy ones, feel less intimidated to hear a puppet talking rather than the teacher. A collection of different kinds of puppets (stick, finger, hand, shadow, socks) could be stacked in the classroom for fun warm ups and creative storytelling.

For more information on puppets, check: https://www.parentcircle.com/benefits-of-teaching-through-puppet-play/article

Finishing touches
A lot has been written about starting a class creatively but what about the endings? Aren’t recaps and assessments important? They certainly are!

Recaps are important because they touch upon essential points of a lesson and fix key concepts in a child’s mind. For small children, diagrams or mind maps work best. Teachers could draw different designs on the board such as a flower and write the main topic in the centre, different petals could represent parts of the lesson. Ideally, recaps should be done by involving the whole class or an eager child who could take up the role of the teacher for a short time.

For a quick assessment at the end of a lesson, making deliberate mistakes is an effective strategy. Write down the exercises to be done and then deliberately say the opposite. If children protest and correct the teacher, then it is clear that they have understood the task that needs to be done. Teachers could use this strategy, instead of boring comprehension questions to gauge children’s understanding of a topic or concept at the end of the class.

Tangy tips
Teachers who plan their warm ups and closures properly are more in control of their students and here are a few tips that could help:

• Warm ups and concluding activities are primarily done to quieten children down, prepare them for the lesson, summarize the main portions of a lesson and assess their understanding of the subject.
• The activities should be short and not take away the focus from the main lesson. Ideally, the time limit is 5-7 minutes.
• Select activities that are linked to your students’ interests, backgrounds and cognitive abilities.
• A systematic plan will go a long way in making your warmups and class endings fun and innovative. Choose interesting activities by fixing an objective and an outcome along with a list of materials required.

That’s it, then! The stage is now set. Begin your classes innovatively but don’t forget to end them well lest children climb on desks to sing their favourite songs or rush out of class without saying goodbye!

The author is a teacher, a teacher educator and a writer of children’s stories and poems. She can be reached at [email protected].

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