Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How You Ask

I think that communication is one of the key things in the classroom. The words I say (and they say), the tone of the room, the way the room is set up - all of these are means of communication. And, as Vanessa at Pre-K Pages often says, "All behavior is communication." The children communicate through what they do and how they act or react. If they are antsy, they are telling me something. I must just listen.

I am often surprised by the way I sometimes hear communication with preschoolers. Sometimes voices are harsh and commanding. Sometimes the only things said are orders. Sometimes the voices are more sing-songy and baby-ish. At one time or another, I have done all of these communications.

Over the years, I've learned that how you ask or say things is as important as what you actually say. I never (now) ask, "Would you like to clean up?" Well, I don't unless the child can choose not to clean up. (Never offer a choice unless it's a real choice.) I give some context or explanation when making a request. "I need your help. Please do this...." If there's no choice, I just state what needs to happen. "Please put the blocks in the blue bin and the cars in the small bin."

When our table needs cleaning after art or play dough, I often say, "Will you help me? Could you wash the table with this wet cloth?" Now, I am offering a choice and the child could say no. If the child does, I tell him what I want him to do instead (Go sit in group time or whatever) and ask someone else to help.

But I've discovered that more often than not, young kids want to help and want to do things for their adults.

Communication is about respect, about expectation, and about relationship. That doesn't happen overnight. It takes consistency and patience. But the payoff is a great classroom community where everyone contributes.

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