Teaching children patience is so difficult! I am having problems with children waiting their turn to take part in activities. These are young children, ages five to six. There are only two or three children in the group that are over eager to participate but this leads the rest of the group to become over excited also.
Does anyone have any ideas to teach young children the art of patience?
I received this question from the contact form on my Question and Answer page. It deserves a full-page answer as it is very common and requires certain classroom management strategies.
"I don't do patience very well."
"The art of patience" is a very nice description of this issue; patience is not natural to most humans, and like fine art it must be practiced to be perfected. Teaching children patience starts with the recognition that impatience is developmentally appropriate behavior for the 5-6 year old crowd...and for many kids who are even older. But even this young age is the optimal time to begin teaching waiting skills.
To Wait is Human
We spend a lot of time in our lives waiting...waiting in line, waiting for dinner, waiting for vacation, waiting for the future to arrive. "I can't wait for _____ !" is an all-too-common phrase.
Waiting is inevitable for all humans. Learning to wait with patience is a mark of maturity, and teaching our students to wait for five minutes in 1st grade is a very necessary step in their development.
Teaching young children patience begins with setting students up for success before they begin a highly engaging activity. Part of your introduction to the activity should be discussing what great waiting behavior looks like and what it sounds like. Model for the students how to...
Follow this by emphasizing how impatience impacts other students. Personalize it, reminding them how they feel if another student blurts out answers that steal their thunder, or jumps ahead on partner projects.
Next, give the kids some good mental hooks to remember by talking them through how to put themselves on "pause" by taking a slow, deep breath and exhaling.
TIP: You might want to film them practicing, because it is sure to be adorable!
Have students practice this a few times before the activity begins. Once the activity begins, if the over-eager students start amping up, pause the activity, practice the "waiting behaviors" and then continue.
As you are teaching and modeling such behavior, plan a little extra time into your lesson delivery. Expect to stop, remind, practice and give it another go. It is worth the extra effort!
Our approach to teaching children patience is not all that different for grades four through six. By this time, they will most likely have at least an intellectual understanding of the need for patience, so set expectations as a starting point. Modeling may not be necessary.
But don't hesitate to model if needed, since many of our students (especially those on the autism spectrum or suffering from ADD/ADHD) may need some visual and physical reminders for the lesson to really stick.
NOTE: If you are teaching exceptional children, they may need to practice patience to keep from blurting answers.
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