During the final placement of my teaching course, I introduced the concept of ‘cheers’ during a streamed phonics class that I had first thing in the morning. Essentially, when a pupil made a contribution to the lesson (it was a short phonics lesson that we did all on the carpet) they got to choose from a list of cheers and then everyone else in the class would do that cheer for them. The children I taught absolutely LOVED doing cheers, and it kept them motivated, engaged and happy. Honestly, I felt a bit of a prat first using these cheers as it was something the school didn’t do in general, but the reaction from the children was so positive I stuck with it.
One of those wonderful moments in teaching happened because of these cheers; a teaching assistant from another class made the effort to come and tell me that a boy I only taught for phonics who very very rarely spoke and found writing a challenge came back from my class absolutely beaming and told her all about how he’d written the word ‘jeep’ and the class had done a firework for him!
Example cheers that I started with included:
–BING! Everyone claps, then give two thumbs up and says BING!
–Firework. Everyone puts their hands together then lifts them over their head like a firework taking off. They then clap and separate their hand like the firework blossoming, and say ‘WHOOSH!’ as they do so.
–Marshmallow clap. Everyone gives a clap but pretends that they have a marshmallow in between their hands so they don’t actually make any sound while clapping.
–Teenie tiny finger clap. Children clap using one finger on each hand.
After a few weeks I let the children start inventing their own cheers to add into the mix. They couldn’t get enough of this, and one of the children invented the ‘dolphin’ clap:
–Dolphin. Children mimic with one hand a dolphin jumping up out of the water and then falling back in again. On the way up with one hand they clap against their other hand and make a sploosh sound when the dolphin goes back into the water.
The ‘dolphin’ became a class favourite, and I made sure to lavish praise upon the rather shy boy who had invented it; he honestly looked like he would burst with pride every time someone chose the dolphin as their cheer.
I happened to be in another school over the summer break helping my partner (who is also a primary teacher) decorate her classroom, and I noticed some of the children I had taught on my last placement were in the playground taking part in a summer sports camp. The first child who saw me immediately ran over and the first things he said with a huge smile were:
‘Mr. Plews! I remember you, I remember your class! I remember the dolphin, the firework, the bing!’
Seeing how memorable these simple no-resource-needed cheers were to this boy has made me determined to employ them in my new teaching position. The immediate feedback they give is brilliant, and I’m currently trying to make the decision as to whether to use cheers instead of a points reward system in my class or in addition to it.
TIP: Introduce the cheers gradually. Start off with a couple then introduce some more and keep phasing out older cheers too. I tried to keep the choice down to about three cheers in a lesson so the children didn’t take ages deciding which cheer they would like to choose.
TIP: Make sure any invented cheers don’t require too much movement and don’t take too long to do as you don’t want them to detract from the flow of your lesson.