On the first day with my new group of 4-5 year-olds I had a bit of a nightmare with two children. This is their second year in the English academy, whereas all the other children are here for the first time, and I think that partly because they had 7 new classmates, and because they did not know me, they started to play up and "test" me to see what they could get away with. One of the two boys would not sit on his chair for more than about two minutes before he would get up and move to another part of the classroom, or start swinging on his chair. Him and his friend were also quite silly and began shouting and making noises, which, when I asked them if that was correct behaviour for a classroom, they replied "yes". I did have a word with one of them and mentioned speaking to their mothers, as that was no way to behave, especially on their first day, but this didn't really trouble them for more than a few minutes.
So, it was obvious that I had to try something different. Yesterday, I had the same class for their second lesson and we spent a good part of it discuccing appropriate behaviour and I also introduced them to a reward scheme.
We played a game which helped us discuss good and bad behaviour, where I would give an instruction to a child e.g stand on your chair, and the others would have to decide whether this was appropriate classroom behaviour. They either put their thumbs up and said "OK" or they wagged their finger and said "Don't do that!". We had great fun and managed to agree on what behaviour was and wasn't acceptable.
Small children love the idea of getting stickers or stars and it usually motivates them to behave better. So, we now have a reward scheme: a chart with everyone's name on it and plenty of space to stick gold stars. After explaining the system and writing their names, the children helped me to decorate the edges with drawings. I have told them that they can get stars for good behaviour, or if they do their work really well, or try very hard, or help their classmates. The "naughty" boy from the first day informed me that he would be behaving very well and that he was going to get lots of stars. We shall see...
Another idea which will hopefully complement the star system is that of having a class helper. Each day, one of the children will be responsible for helping me to hand out and collect books and worksheets, crayons etc. I have cut out a small smiley face which I stick next to the name of that day's helper on the star chart. Yesterday I made one of the two problematic boys helper, and he seemed to enjoy that responsibility and was very good. His friend kept asking me if he would be the helper the following day.
So, even if I can't keep their "bottoms on seats" I do think that this system will make life a bit easier for me and enjoyable for them
Note: I have used similar schemes before, with slighlty older children. Last year I tried to get the children to cooperate more with each other by dividing them into teams, giving it a competitive aspect. The team with the most stars at the end of term got a prize. With this I hoped that peer pressure would encourage the naughtier children to behave better. It didn't go quite as well as I had hoped, since some of the children often complained that they didn't want to be in "so-and-so's team" because he never got any stars. For this year I have decided to make it individual.