So there I was, wondering how to get the enthusiastic group of boys that was, unintentionally, intimidating others at the 6-12 year old program from visiting the shuriken target practice station, to step away for a moment to redirect their energies.
And then it hit me. "Take a break." I don't know if this particular classroom management technique has a name, but it basically works like a time-out. So I announced, "this particular station is taking a break for the next 4 minutes. These activities A, B, and C have no waiting!" Then I removed the items from the table, and set a timer on my phone, which I placed in the center of the table. The group dutifully disbanded with limited "but whys?!" and quickly started working on other projects. When the timer was close to expiring, I walked over and quietly told some of the kids who hadn't had a chance to try that activity yet that it would soon be open again. Then I calmly placed the items back on the table.A few of the boisterous boys were immediately drawn back, but the majority of the group continued working on other activities, allowing new kids to try out that activity.
I'm not sure why this idea never occurred to me, but I know I'll be using it again in the future. In terms of group dynamics, putting the station "on a break" was a way to calm the room down, remind everyone there were several activities to work on, and not make anyone feel like they were "in trouble." The group was using the station as I intended, but their excitement over the activity was overriding their manners, so they weren't listening to each other, taking turns, or working together as a group any longer. Not to mention, the frenetic activity around that area was off-putting to some of the calmer, quieter kids. By not ending that game altogether, it didn't punish kids for not wanting to wade into the fray, or those who took a long time perfecting their shurikens.
So the next time you feel a program getting out of control, try putting an activity, station, toy, etc. "on a break," and see if it works for you!