There are lots of techniques teachers use to capture the attention of preschoolers.
When needing to get the attention of only one child or a small group of children playing together, it is always more effective just to walk over, bend down close and speak warmly to them. What doesn’t work well? Yelling across the room. Kids learn to tune this out pretty quickly.
I always say if you don’t have eye contact then you really don’t have the child’s attention. If I need the children to stop and listen to my words for a few seconds, I will use a creative technique to get their attention first (which will be described below) and then pause to get eye contact. I might say, “Eyes on me so I can see you listening” and then wait again for just a second.
Waiting too long
I don’t want to exasperate the situation by waiting too long for every student to stop and put their eyes on me. Waiting too long is like putting out fires. The minute you get one set of eyes, you will lose another. So go with the majority of eyes on you and move onto what it is you needed in the first place.
The child that just wont look at me
For this child, I often will walk over while talking to all the other children and gently take his or her hand and have them walk with me while I continue talking to everyone else. I avoid shouting or coming down on the child in front of everyone else. No need for humiliation and the truth is, shouting or harshness really isn’t all that effective – it just creates stress and stress leads to a unhappy learning environment.
The observant child
Have you ever watched an adult lecture a child and just by observing you start to feel uncomfortable? When you decided to come down on one child, the rest of the children may very well feel like they are being punished too. Children are sensitive to your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words whether or not they are target of your frustration. I had one little girl tell me, “I don’t like preschool…. my teacher yells at Nathan…”
It is better and more effective to walk over, make eye contact, and gently address concerns with a child or small group of children personally than to punish the entire class by making a loud scene.
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