In keeping with my resolutions for the new school year (see previous post), I’ve added a new daily activity to my pre-school classes. I call it ‘Talk Time’ because I like alliteration and it’s simple enough for the little ones to say and remember.
We always start our classes in a circle so that we can see each other and interact as much as possible. With ‘Talk Time’, the first five minutes or so of class are dedicated to whatever the children want to share with us. For those familiar with the Responsive Classroom, it’s a concept similar to the ‘Morning Meeting’. Each child has a turn to tell us anything they want: what they did during the weekend, any pets they may have, something funny a classmate said, etc. In the two weeks we’ve used ‘Talk Time’, the children have only spoken in L1 but I respond to them in L2, sometimes asking them questions such as, ‘How do we say ‘abuelo’ in English?’ This allows us to revise vocabulary we’ve talked about before as well as put it into a real life context, making it more meaningful for them.
My decision to incorporate ‘Talk Time’ in our classes was based on a number of factors. First off, and probably most importantly, children at ages four and five love to talk about themselves and share stories with everyone. Coming to English class is a social hour for them more than anything; learning English is a by-product of what they’re really there for: to have fun! Through the years, I’ve noticed that the beginning of class is always a bit of a struggle to get them focused on what we’re doing that day because all they really want to do is tell me about their new pet birds. I realized that it might be a good idea to set aside a few minutes at the beginning of class to let them ‘vent’, as it were. I was hoping that after having a chance to speak their mind, they’d be more interested and willing to concentrate on what I had planned for the day.
Another reason for establishing ‘Talk Time’ is to give pupils a chance to get to know each other. At four and five years old, they’ve only just joined the program and don’t know their classmates very well at all. During ‘Talk Time’ they give and receive personal information which could help them form bonds creating an environment in which they feel accepted as well as secure. We’re setting a foundation of integration and trust for subsequent years of learning and interacting together.
‘Talk Time’ also requires children to practice certain social skills that will be useful to them later on. We have discussed and I remind them (constantly at the moment) to ‘look and listen’, meaning that they should look at the person speaking and listen to what they have to say. In this way, they’re practising the basic rules of conversation, i.e. turn-taking, making eye contact, showing interest by looking at the speaker, etc.
As I mentioned above, we’ve only used ‘Talk Time’ for two weeks but so far so good. The pupils seem to enjoy it and afterward they appear to be more willing to focus on class. I’ve also noticed that I have to remind them less and less to, ‘look and listen’ while their classmates are speaking.
Do you use a similar stage in your lessons? Do you find it effective? Please share your comments and ideas below. Thanks for reading.