Monday, 30 January 2012

Teaching children - some discipline issues...



I have just started teaching karate to a class of 5-7 year old children at an after school club for a local primary school. The first class was last Friday and my instructor was present to ensure that everything got off to a smooth start. Having introduced me to the children he then sat at the side and watched, leaving me to run the class to my own plan.

This was fine, I knew he was there if I needed him and he did offer me occasional advice dealing with discipline issues. This week he won't be there, I'm on my own!

So, how did it go last week?

Well it went okay, exhausting, but okay! The thing that is most challenging is the fact that the whole class is new. I had 20 very young children all having there first karate lesson together with no other child role models to follow. In our usual club classes, if a new child joins, they have many other children to follow and copy, particularly when it comes to procedural or behavioural things. New children tend to fit in and settle down fairly easily and their behaviour is generally very good.

Twenty new children with no one to follow is a bit more chaotic! They don't know what 'line up!' means, they think bowing is funny, they don't know what 'start running round the room' means for the beginning of the warm up (they start running randomly in all directions, screaming and shouting as if in the playground). You have to explain what every single command means!

Having finally got them to line up in two rows (that took longer than you'd expect) we started with a seiza bow. They seemed to think this was quite fun to do though some of them thought that being on the floor was a good opportunity to 'play wrestle' with the kid next to them. However, while I'd got them down on the floor I decided to go through  a couple of dojo rules - just bowing on entering and leaving the dojo and the importance of listening to me and not talking when I'm talking.

We then got on with the warm up - running round the room - I led this in the hope that they would follow and all run in the same direction, which they did - kids just love running around don't they? I then started shouting instructions such as ' when I say one, touch the ground with your left hand', 'two! touch the ground with your right hand', 'three! change direction' etc. Kids seem to really like the challenge of doing this. We then stopped and did a bit of light stretching - so far so good!

My two big themes for the lesson were, 'whole body movement' and 'evasion'. For the first theme I just got them to find a space (I thought getting back into ordered lines would take to long!) and we went through punching - in all sorts of strange directions! punching straight up in the air, out to the front, to the side, across the body and to the other side; then kicking in all directions too. It didn't matter what it looked liked I just wanted them to experience stretching their limbs right out, coordinating their movements and just having some fun with it. We followed this with a game to stop any boredom setting in.

I then went back to the body movement theme and we went through some basic blocks for a couple of minutes. I could see some of them were flagging  a bit by now and getting restless. There was a little bit of messing around, particular among certain groups of boys and the odd child wandering off to climb on PE equipment stored at the back of the hall. I decided it was time for a short break!

You've never seen 20 children rush off to the loo so quickly in your whole life! I was then a bit torn about whether to go down to the toilet block with them or stay in the hall to supervise the children that returned quickly to the hall. My instructor said to stay in the hall. Fortunately they all came quickly back and I did a quick head count. Letting them have this scheduled toilet break seemed to work well because not a single child asked to go off to the toilet during any part of the lesson (unlike in our usual club lessons).

Next, I decided to move onto the theme of evasion. I explained that evasion meant 'getting out of the way' and we started with an evasion game called 'space invaders'. This got their heart rates going again and was a bit of fun. We then did some circle work - getting 20 young children to form a large circle is easier said than done! Eventually we formed the circle and I stood in the middle with a large foam padded stick. The kids are always intrigued by this stick and I've generally got their full attention whilst they wonder what I'm going to do with it!

Remember the theme was 'evasion' so I told them that I would either sweep the stick over there heads so they would have to duck to evade it or I would sweep it at ankle height and they would have to jump over it or I would poke it towards their tummy and they would have to move out of the way. This proved a very popular drill and we spent a good 10 minutes on this one.

I thought that they'd probably learnt enough new things for one day so we had a final game of 'dodge ball' using bean bags  - always a riot this one and a good chance to run around and make a lot of noise!

I managed to get them to line up again for a final seiza bow. However there was still a few minutes left before parents picked them up so whilst I'd got them down on the floor we did some counting in Japanese. I'm always amazed how quickly kids pick this up!

A few discipline issues arose during the lesson:

* Some children talking when they should be listening
* Some children wandering off to play on other equipment
* A child refusing to do the activity
* A child hitting or 'strangling' another child
* Children sitting down when they should be standing
* Two brothers who refused to be separated from each other and messed around together
* A child throwing a lego car onto the floor after the toilet break, causing it to smash into pieces

How would you deal with these kind of incidents without letting it hinder the whole class?

Any tips for me for this week's class?

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15 comments:

Ariel said...

Ah, the joys of teaching brand new kids....I love it, but when you start getting into the double digits, discipline is definitely an issue, especially when you're the only one teaching!

Last week, we had 27 kids between the ages of 5 and 10/11. When my instructor broke everyone into groups, I had 10 of the newer students to teach. I so wish I had eyes in the back of my head! When you take your attention off one child to walk around the line correcting others, that's when things start getting crazy. I was given the task of leading them through a form for their yellow belt test, so I couldn't really break out into a game when they started getting restless, but that is a good tactic. If they start losing focus, swap activities and get them interested in something else.

My instructor and I have found out that getting them good and tired with the warmup really seems to help when you have a bouncy, hyperactive group. In fact, almost 30 minutes of the 1 hr class is getting them worn out so that we can teach them something.

Like you mentioned, it's harder with having twenty brand new students who can't look to a more experienced child to see how to act. Getting them used to some basic rules and discipline will take a few weeks, but hopefully they'll start settling down once they know more of what to expect from you and your class. Sounds like you had a good first class though!

Michele Apsokardu said...

Sounds exhausting!

A few years ago, I ran a pre-karate class for 5-7 year old children at a dance studio. I had a new group of kids every 12 weeks. I will freely admit...it was the most challenging age group I ever taught. :) I limited the number of participants and taught a 45 minute class.

I experienced the same discipline issues you listed. In order to reduce the amount of hitting/pushing among the children, I assigned each child a spot on the floor. I placed soft non-slip mats on the floor with plenty of space in between. I used this format to line up the kids. If I felt the kids needed to regroup for a minute, I asked them to return to their original mat.

Whenever possible, I brought along reinforcements. I invited older children/teens from the dojo to help with the class. It was nice to have an extra person on the floor. They helped the child who tends to wander return to the group, encouraged a student to participate and was a good example.

Best of luck with your new class!

John Coles said...

Firstly, when I worked at the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, I was astounded by the number of parents who enrolled their children in the school to learn some discipline. They are with me for 1 hour a week, and with their parents the rest of the time. And they expect their time with me to instill discipline in the child?! I don't know what was more disturbing, this misguided assumption, or that it actually was where their discipline came from.

John Coles said...

I only know what I did, and that seemed to work. Many parents came up to me after classes to compliment me on the examples of discipline they saw in my class.

My classes were run formally-informal. Not a military type of discipline, but it also wasn't play time.

If a child misbehaved, they'd be told of their indiscretion and to cut it out. If it was a larger indiscretion, or a second offence, they'd be taken to one side to explain their behaviour and why it was not acceptable. A third offence, or a larger indiscrection, meant a talking too and exclusion from the class for a period of time (sitting on the mats watching the others train).

Respect! I found best results when I treated the child with respect. I had it pointed out to me that I'd often kneel down to eye level when discussing some issue with a child. I adopted Jan de Jong's affectation of referring to the boys as Mr and the girls as Ms or Miss. e.g. Mr so-and-so.

It has been my sad experience to see that respect is often preached about in martial arts, but is usually only in reference to the students respecting the teacher.

Rig said...

Sue, sounds to me like your doing really well, congratulations!

As per previous comments, I've also found children of this age range very challenging but it seems you are doing the right things and more importantly you have the right frame of mind.

We use similar games but I've never heard of 'space invaders' - can you describe it?

I just wish I could attend your classes as they sound loads more fun than mine :)

Charles James said...

Ritsu-rei to you Sue for I would not teach anyone younger than 16 years and even then only if I can determine a bit of self-discipline and desire that can be built upon.

Karate, leading others as Sensei, is a challenge all on its own and as you tell nicely youngsters are a huge challenge all by themselves ;-)

Kyokushin Karate said...

Hi Sue,

I dont have experience teaching young children of that age group, so I am afraid I haven't much to add to your discipline issue questions other than "use the shinai" (lol).

Actually, I have a question for you (and if its too long to answer feel free to tell me to just bugger off); I was wondering how those certain games and exercises translate with into karate skills as they grow older - other than building body awareness and fitness. Or is that precisely the aim of those exercises?

I guess I'm asking: what is the transitional lesson/step from "kid games" to karate practice.

And good luck with the kids, even though I dont think you'll need it. It sounds like they all had a blast and you handled it wonderfully.


-Brett

SueC said...

Ariel, having a longer warm up to get them tired may be a good idea - I may try that one.

Michele. I like the idea of allocating a defined spot to each child, another idea I may try!

John, I'm totally with you - martial arts are not a miracle cure for ill-discipline, what goes on at home is far more important. I also agree that respect is a two way process too.

Rig, Space invaders is a game to help teach young children evasion skills. Half the class are 'Space invaders' and line up at one end of the room. The rest are 'aliens' and space themselves out throughout the room. The space invaders then have to get to the other side of the room without being tagged by an alien. However, aliens can't move off their spot - they can reach out but must keep one foot on their spot. Once across the room space invaders can make their way back again. If tagged a space invader has to stand still and wait to be 'released' by a team member. The game is over after all space invaders are tagged or time is up.

Charles, kids as young as this are definitely the biggest challenge - mainly to your patience LOL!

Brett, At ages 5 and 6 you are really focusing on 'preparing' them to learn karate more than actually teaching them karate. Children this age are pretty uncoordinated and are not brilliant at controlling their limbs. They also have problems with listening, concentration and focus. So games get them to listen and follow instructions and rules and generally get them to stretch themselves a bit (they like to win). Exercises help get them fit, improve balance and coordination as well as strength. Various 2 or 3 partner drills get them working cooperatively together and used to touching each other, they also help to introduce some basic karate techniques.

Once you've got them fitter and more coordinated and able to listen and follow instructions - you can start teaching some karate!

Kyokushin Karate said...

Hey Sue,

I suspected it was something along those lines, when I thought longer on it. Not being a parent, I forget how short a child's attention span can....HEY LOOK! Something shiny!

Journeyman said...

Sue,

I've been in a few scary spots in my life, but nothing compares to the sheer terror or facing a room full of kids!!!

I'm kidding of course (sort of). Thanks for sharing. I've seen a few instructors teaching children. I first thought some were too hard with the commands and the discipline issues but I quickly learned that kids that age respond to that type of structure (within limits of course). I also noticed the odd sly wink or smile given to a student who was being 'scolded' for misbehaving.

I'd love to hear more updates about these new experiences. Well done.

SenseiMattKlein said...

Welcome to my world, Sue! Sounds like you and the kids enjoyed it, and bottom line, that is the most important thing.

A few tips: after a couple of classes, explain the "rules of the karate class". First warning, nothing, second warning, sit down for two minutes, third warning sit down for whole class if necessary. Kids hate inactivity, especially when other kids are doing something, so usually one warning is all it takes.

Second, don't let them stop for a minute, keep them moving the whole time, so no chance for boredom to set in.

Third, play lots of games (especially ones that promote concentration and focus).

Fourth, lots of praise and recognition and you will have them eating out of the palm of your hand.

SueC said...

Journeyman, Maintaining discipline and order is definitely the most challenging part and needs constant attention from me. As usual its just a few of the boys (three to be precise.) I need to work on the best way to handle these particular individuals then I think the class will settle. I'll keep you posted....

Matt, some good advice here. I think I need to work out a discipline policy such as you suggest so that I ensure that I remain consistent and fair in the way I treat children. I think I also need to notice the good, well behaved children more and praise them - its easy to get wrapped up in the attention seeking naughty ones!

John Coles said...

Watch Waterloo Road - it's a pommy show about kids and schools. Not half bad in how they deal with problem children.

SueC said...

Hi John, You get Waterloo Road in Aussie land? I've never actually watched it (not a soap fan)but I understand it's a good programme.

I'm not sure I'd call any of the kids in my class 'problem children' . I think they are just normal excitable kids that have yet to learn to control some of their impulses (they are only 5-7 years). A good dose of karate discipline is just what they need ;-)

website said...

It's basically for their future. It's what they initially needs.

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