Chicken, chicken are you listen'?
One of the things that seems so hard in an early childhood room is to get the children's attention when the room is a buzz with play. Many educators call out, "Freeze!" or a more wordy versions of, "Hands on top, that means stop." to which the children may comply or may ignore. There is nothing that is 100% certain to gain the attention of a room full of playing children but there are ways that are more respectful and playful than others.
Things to consider in your stop play call are firstly is it something that you would say to a group of adults? Would you, for example, walk into a board room of adults busy talking and looking at charts and books and demand an instant freeze? Would you insist on a "drop what you are holding and put your hands up" approach to a group of twenty year olds? The answer is likely no. Why then is is acceptable to demand instant attention, instant focus and instant compliance and change in activity from preschoolers?
We have all heard Play is a child's work. This lends itself to the idea that play is important in the lives of children. How we transition from child-directed play activity to adult-direct activity request should be considerate of the importance of what the children are doing when you are asking them to stop - playing.
Enter Charlie Chicken.....
This simple squeaky rubber chicken is one tool I have used to playfully get children's attention. Before you use the chicken talk with the children. Let them know that Charlie always has something important to tell them. When Charlie squeaks they need to pause and look and listen for what the news is. Ask the children what the best way to listen to Charlie is. Is it with their eyes open or closed? Is it with still hands or moving hands? Agree together what the listening pose will be.
The difference with Charlie and a bell, for example is that it's playful. He is like a fun puppet. You have decided together what the response from the children will be and it is playful and silly and softens the harsh demand of a bell or a whistle.
Respecting children means giving them agency and choice in their actions and respecting their opinions. By taking a playful approach to attention getting you are saying to the children, "I see you are busy and that it is important to you. I have something to say but it won't take away from your play." I used this tool at the last preschool room I was in with great results. It was so much better than yelling "Freeze!" or the demeaning "hands on top, that means stop!" chant. I have used this tool with toddlers as well. I also use this tool with teens and adults when we are in large groups. This playful approach makes people smile not sigh in frustration.
Many of the educators I have spoken to about Charlie chicken have reported great results in their rooms too. You may choose a rubber chicken or another tool - but before you put on the sudden clean up song or demanding ringing bell think about using a more playful approach to attention getting. It shows your respect for the children and their play.
Charlie Chicken says, "Are you listen'?"