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‘Not the survival of the loudest: or how to have a conversation with four children at once’ A play for four children and one adult.

Date posted: Saturday 26th January 2013

Johnny DeppThe scene: The cloakroom in a Foundation Unit

Mr Jones (MJ) is in the cloakroom at 8.45am, helping children put their coats on their pegs and ‘meeting and greeting’ children and parents as they arrive. Enter Jessica (a quiet, shy child) and her dad. Dad’s in a bit of a rush. He kisses Jessica, and says ‘Mummy will collect you later.’ He looks at MJ and says, ‘Mr Jones will help you with your bag and coat.’ (Winks at Mr Jones). Exit Dad.

Jessica is a bit unhappy to see dad go, but doesn’t cry. She stands with her coat and bag on.

MJ I like your bag Jessica. That’s Peppa Pig, isn’t it. Let’s hang it on your peg.

(Jessica moves to take her bag off.) I like Peppa.

Jessica I like…

(Enter Josh)

Josh (says loudly to MJ) I’ve got a Spiderman bag! It’s over there on my peg. Come and have a look. And I’ve got Spiderman shoes. Look at them!!

(Enter Zak)

Zak (to MJ, in a voice louder than Josh’s) I’ve got a Thomas bag and Thomas wellies. And I’ve got a train set in my home.

(Jessica moves off. She has hung her bag up but still has her coat on.)

MJ Wait Jessica. (Holds her hand) Let’s help you hang your coat up and then we can tell Josh and Zak about your bag and shoes.

(Jessica looks anxious. MJ helps Jessica with her coat.)

Right boys; let’s hear about Jessica’s bag and shoes. Jessica has a Peppa Pig bag, and she’s wearing Peppa wellies…

Zak I got…

MJ Wait Zak. It’s Jessica’s turn, then Josh’s turn and then Zak’s turn. Let’s start again.

Jessica has a Peppa bag and Peppa wellies. Josh, you’ve got a Spiderman bag and Spiderman shoes. Zak, you’ve got a Thomas bag, Thomas wellies and a train…

(Enter Reece. He pushes Jessica and Josh. Josh is about to push him back. Jessica starts to walk off. Michael holds Jessica’s hand.)

Reece(To MJ in a voice louder than Josh or Zak’s) I got a…

MJ Wait Jessica. Reece, do you want to hear about everyone’s bag and shoes? Let’s start again. Jessica, what have you got? Ah, yes… you’ve got a Peppa bag and Peppa wellies. Josh, you’ve got a Spiderman bag and Spiderman shoes. Zak has got a Thomas bag, Thomas wellies and a train set at home. Reece has got…

Reece I got a Buzz Lightyear bag and a Woody outfit in my home and a fish in a bowl.

Zak and Josh I got a Buzz at home! I got a Buzz at home!

MJ Great! Now it’s Jessica’s turn, then Josh’s turn and then Zak’s turn and then Reece’s turn. Let’s start again. Let’s see if we can all remember who’s got what, and then it’s time for family groups. (Take’s a deep breath.) Jessica, you’ve got a…

All (including Jessica) … Peppa Pig bag and Peppa wellies. Josh has a Spiderman bag and Spiderman shoes. Zak has got a Thomas bag, Thomas wellies and a train…

MJ And Reece has got…

All (including Jessica) A Buzz Lightyear bag, a Woody outfit and a fish in a bowl.

MJ Well done Jessica! Well done everyone. You are all so good at listening to each other and letting each other have a chance to speak. Now let’s go to our family groups.

(Exit all. Children go to family groups. MJ heads for the staffroom.)


A review of ‘Not the Survival of the Loudest’, by Ben Kingsley of the Guardian.

“It’s very common for quiet children to find it challenging to compete for an adult’s attention, when confident children quite naturally join in, but unfortunately take over. Some children also join in to compete for the adult’s attention, just for the sake of competing!

Faced with this situation (which let’s face it is commonplace in settings and classrooms where there are young children) quiet children will walk away.

Michael Jones, (Played brilliantly by Johnny Depp, here in his West End debut), could easily have taken the easy option and allowed Josh to butt in and take over. Another option would have been to tell Josh to, “wait until we have finished talking”. However Michael’s approach allows the other children to join in, and encourages Jessica to stay. He turned the whole conversation into a listening game, and showed the children how to take turns in a conversation.

So children don’t feel the need to out-shout each other to get heard, and it no longer becomes ‘survival of the loudest’.

One would imagine that Jessica (played by Keira Knightley) would have felt an increase in her self-esteem, even though she didn’t say very much.”

‘Not the Survival of the Loudest’ starring a quiet child, one adult and host of confident children, could be performed at an early years setting or KS1 class near you. Every day!

Feel free to write your own review of this play! What strategies to you use to support quiet children in this type of situation?

Supporting Quiet Children: Exciting Ideas and Activities to Help ‘Reluctant Talkers Become ‘Confident Talkers’ by Maggie Johnson & Michael Jones is published by Lawrence Educational. Visit for details.

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3 responses to “‘Not the survival of the loudest: or how to have a conversation with four children at once’ A play for four children and one adult.”

  1. Auntie Ruth's Childminding says:

    Totally agree, this kind of interaction avoids the quieter children being overshadowed, and yet holds the interest of all concerned as they are all getting a chance to be heard. Great conversation skills we all need in everyday life. Hopefully these kind of supported conversation will give quieter children a sense of inclusion and help them gain confidence and self-esteem, and help louder more confident children appreciate what others have to contribute. I will be making an effort to do this with the children in my setting.

  2. It is helpful for nursery staff to read exampling of how to manage such situations, as all too often they get caught up in the loudest taking the limelight.

  3. Michael Gasper says:

    It is all too easy for the quiet child to be swamped by louder, more boisterous colleagues and this kind of supportive intervention is very important for all involved. Alongside the group listening development, one to one interaction can help a quiet individual (or indeed a loud one) to have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and to dveelop greater confidence in expressing themseleves calmly.

    I recall activities which were very effective in addition, where the adult encouraged the child to tell their story which the adult either wrote down as they spoke, and they later illustrated if they wished, or recorded the dictated story and later transcribed it. The second technique does come with a warning: once children become more confident to share their tale it can become a mamouth task to transcribe!

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