© Kids Club English 2020
Arts and crafts activities are often an integral part of the very young learner classroom, and they are often great tools to consolidate the English you’re teaching. BUT…we’ve all been there. It doesn’t always go smoothly and a great, fun activity can quickly turn into a source of frustration for both you and your students. This article will outline some of the things that have gone wrong in my classes and give you my tips for how to avoid craft chaos in the very young learner classroom.
While I love doing interactive crafts and art worksheets with my groups of kids, I have definitely had my share of days where I have spent a lot of time running around putting out fires, then finding myself pretty frazzled by the end of it! These are some of the common issues I’ve experienced:
Do any of those things sound familiar? Read on to find the best techniques and strategies that have worked for me, to make craft activities with kids go smoothly.
Sometimes it can be tricky to estimate how much time an activity will take, especially if teaching very young learners is new to you. I generally like to have quite a flexible lesson plan, so I can react to what the kids are enthusiastic about that day. Sometimes they are getting so much out of another activity that I don’t want to rush on to the craft. That’s why I think it is helpful to have different potential endpoints for that day’s craft. That might mean giving them a limit for how many items they are colouring/cutting/sticking that day. It might mean, they do all the finding and sticking but they do the colouring at home. Perhaps it’s folding today and colouring and gluing the next day. Either way, make sure you tell the kids, so they aren’t upset that they’re not completing the whole thing that day. On that note, don’t forget to give them a countdown of how many minutes they have left! You need to make sure you leave enough time for them to clean up too. There’s nothing worse than finishing the lesson by chasing the kids to clean up and rushing them out the door….then doing most of the cleaning up yourself!
There are several different ways you can do this, depending on how many kids are in your group, the resources you have, and what your teaching purposes are. These are a few ways I’ve avoided arguments over crayons, pens and pencils.
The groups I teach don’t have a lot of ‘English’ time each week, so I generally try to keep cutting down to a minimum. I find this is the part of a craft class that is less language rich. Of course, if you have a small group, this can actually be quite a nice opportunity to talk to them about other things. These are some strategies I use to make cutting activities simple, easy and manageable:
It’s important to prepare a model to show the learners for reasons such as motivation, but it is also to prepare them for what they are going to do themselves. They’ll expect to be able to do it, so don’t set those expectations too high!
I’ll often choose to colour in crayon, rather than pen, and I leave little white spaces so they know they don’t have to colour it perfectly. I’ll also make sure to include a variety of colours, to encourage them to use a variety too. A monkey doesn’t have to be brown, it can be blue!
If you are making stick puppets to complement a story/song, there are probably a variety of different characters to choose from. Do you really want to print out enough of each character for every child in your group? This might be possible and you might be willing to do any pre-cutting prep necessary, but you could be left with a lot of wasted paper that you can’t re-use. To avoid any arguments about who gets what, why not create an element of suspense and luck about it? You can do this by putting the different bits in a ‘mystery bag’, getting the kids to close their eyes and take turns seeing what they get. Of course, there might still be someone who’s not happy with their selection, but they will be much more willing to accept their luck this way, than if their friend got to pick their favourite character before them.
There are a variety of reasons for why a child might not want to join in with the activity. They might be tired that day, or feel like they’re not good at these type of activities. They might simply not enjoy arts and craft that much and would prefer to be doing something different. These are some things that work for me in these situations: