Teaching Young Learners: the challenge
One of the very important things we need to remember in the YLE classroom is to have a number of resources handy. There are things we can really not go without in a young learner classroom, such as crayons, colouring pencils, flashcards, glue, paint, old magazines, string, bits of cloth (these can make a very handy, last-minute hand puppet), scissors (with a blunt end of course), dice and so much more.

This section of the site will, on a monthly basis, provide ideas of how we can produce, store and use some of the resources we need. The idea in this part is for teachers to add their own suggestions and comment back, so we can build up practical and effective ideas of how we can deal with these resources in class.

This first post is actually going to focus on how we can store and hand out crayons and pencils to learners during the lesson. This may seem to be a simple issue, but it can create situations which upset the children in class!

Those who have worked with young learners know that when we ask them to colour something in or illustrate a story we run the risk of what I call a "classic moment for potential loss of control" in the classroom. Suddenly, all your 10 learners decide to use red to colour something in and you only have 5 red crayons! Or the pink crayon Alice is using is exactly the same pink crayon Carla wants to use, even though there is another pink crayon in front of Carla (yes, you've guessed it, it's not the same, don't be silly!). So, not only do we need to ensure that the children have the resources they need, but we need to ensure we can distribute the pencils, crayons fairly between them.

I've found that nothing works better than having pencil holders, which already contain the crayons/pencils needed, stored away in a cupboard or set of drawers so that when you need to use these it's just a question of getting a helper to distribute these. It´s a good idea for teachers to check how many usable crayons are left by the end of the week or fornightly, depending on the frequency of your lessons, so that the children do have a good choice of colours to use.

My personal preference is to use crayons rather than pencils as: (a) they are easier to grip by small hands, (b) they don't require sharpening, which can create another classroom management problem, (c) crayons are smaller than pencils, which makes the storage issue easier as well. 

A good rule of thumb is to have one pencil holder for every two children. It is part of our work in class to encourage children to learn how to share. Working in pairs does just this and as there are only two children, the frustrations of not having what they want or need at any given moment is reduced dramatically and wait time is far lower. This can be very helpful. It is easier for a teacher to ask children to wait for something when they can see the quite soon they´ll be able to sue the resource than to wait for three or four children to use it before they do. It also provides us with a learning opportunity, encouraging children to ask to borrow a specific colour crayon.

In order to encourage children to start thinking about the importance of recycling, a good idea is to make pencil holders out of plastic PET bottles. The teacher can cut the plastic bottles up (ensuring there are no sharp edges where the plastic has been cut). This can then be decorated by the teacher or alternatively the children can decorate it themlseves. (Note: if you want to paint the bottle you may find that by adding some PVA glue to the paint it makes it thicker and the paint spreads better. Alternatively, you can brush some PVA glue onto the bottle and glue white tissue paper. Once this has dried, you can paint the bottle with normal paint.)

If you keep the pencil/crayon holders in a cupboard or drawers in the classroom, you need to organise yourself and the kids when it comes to using the crayons. If these are left out on a side table (if you are lucky enough to have space in your room), young children may be tempted to get the crayons before they are needed. It's best to hand these out once the acitivity requires the use of crayons.

Teachers can call upon their "class helper" to hand these out or invite one of the children in the pair/small group to come up and take their pencil holders to their table. The same needs to be done once the crayons have been used and need to be put away. An important thing to do at this stage, however, is to ask children to check if crayons haven't fallen off desks and onto the floor. Tidying up the classroom is a good routine we also want to encourage children to participate in.

This is my suggestion. What about you? Do you have other time-saving strategy to store and hand-out crayons/pencils to your learners?

(Written by: Valéria Benévolo França, Cultura Inglesa S.A.)

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