Fellow Wendy Coulson recently completed a series of three workshops for teachers of very young learners at Centro Colombo Americano in Medellín. Her message? That lesson planning is not separate from classroom management and that when the two work together, a happier and more enjoyable classroom results. She showed participating teachers how to conduct a circle with engaging games, rhymes, poems, and songs to give a seamless structure that allowed for maximum participation and no fooling around. Teachers discovered that with careful planning of routines, activities, and transitions, classroom management could become a lot more positive and a lot less work. “I learned how joy should be inside learning,” commented Fabian Guillermo Gil, a 25-year-old teacher attending the workshops.
After observing many great teachers of very young learners, Coulson learned that “fun stuff”—such as songs and games—could be incorporated as five-to-ten-minute warm ups before teachers moved on to more serious content. In her workshop, Coulson suggested that such warm ups could be a critical part of instruction when aligned with teaching objectives. All eyes lit up. Coulson advised that a tight structure with highly engaging activities can increase the speaking skills of the school’s children, who only have English class once a week. One by one, teachers are approaching Coulson to help incorporate some of these concepts into their lesson plans, and she sees the joy on their faces, which they will surely bring to their students. Marcel aan den Boom, a 35-year-old teacher from Medellín, talked about how Coulson enabled her to imagine the lesson from a student’s point of view. “We could place ourselves in the role of young children,” she said.