Teaching Good Manners, Etiquette, Grace and Courtesy.
Summer School is well underway now. I do hope that both you and the children are having fun working on different interesting activities. Today we are going to be looking at promoting Good Manners among the children. In Montessori classrooms we would teach children good manners under what we call the Practical Life exercises. An important part of the Practical Life curriculum is called Grace and Courtesy and this is where we would concentrate on good manners (Etiquette for children is another way this subject is taught.). You would have noticed that this has always been an important part of our culture, teaching children to behave respectfully and in the right manner. Yet there are more and more concerns about children not knowing how to behave. So today we shall consider a number of basic activities and pointers to help the children learn or be reminded of some basic good manners.
Let’s start with the basic concept of the magic words: thank you, please, sorry, excuse me, are the first ones that always come to mind. I usually always like starting with the song ‘There are Five Magic Words’ – Do you know it?
There are Five Magic Words. 2ce
There are Five Magic Words that I know
Please, Excuse me, Sorry, Thank you
And the last ones Pardon me.
(Can’t find the tune online? Send me a WhatsApp message on +234 9097343982 and I will send it through to you – Or you can create your own tune!)
Teach the children the song and then you can decide to do several activities around these words giving them lots of practice and situations where they would use these magic words. You could do presentations, role playing or have discussions, these make it interactive and more fun for the children. Please avoid situations where you are the one doing all the talking. Telling them is not as effective as getting them to role play saying ‘Sorry’, since this is something they would struggle with and even when they are asked to say sorry it is done grudgingly, getting them to role play a sincere ‘sorry’ and a grudgingly said ‘sorry’ and then discussing which one they believed would probably have a more lasting effect, is a better and more effective way of helping children get the message. Also discussing the different situations when you would say ‘please and thank you’ can be very helpful.
A point to note is not to spend your time criticizing the children, when they make mistakes, especially the younger ones, they want to learn good manners, but most of the time children need to practice and repeat things over and over again before they get it, at this point it becomes second nature and they wont struggle so much to remember, therefore patience is key. If you have shown them something and they get it immediately, you may want to give them specific feedback rather than saying something general like ‘very good, excellent work or well done.’ Instead you may want to say something like ‘It was good you said ‘Thank you’ to Ade for letting you use his sharpener.’ Also if you feel that the children did not get it to start with, plan to repeat the exercise another day. . Shouting at them in order to teach good manners is not a good way to go about this part of aiding a child’s growth.
This brings me to a touchy subject, you as the teacher or parent are the role model the child is using as a yardstick. Children will do what you do, not necessarily what you say. So please make sure that you are doing everything you are showing these children to do. They are watching us.
Another activity you may want to explore during this period is: Knocking at a door and waiting for an answer before entering. This is a very important issue, good manners will protect children from being exposed too early to things they shouldn’t be exposed to. It takes practice and concentration, but if we do not prepare them and introduce these concepts to them, then really, how do we expect the child to know that they should knock and wait for an answer before barging into a room. This activity is one where role playing would work beautifully.
Other activities you may want to explore include:’
How to wash your hands
How to write a ‘Thank you’ letter, (for children in middle and upper primary classes)
How to wait your turn when two people are talking, (the point is not interrupting conversations)
Let’s create interesting and motivating activities for them, rather than just tell them what we want them to know. That’s it for this week. Have fun with the children teaching them Good Manners, Etiquette or Grace and Courtesy.