In last week’s post, I talked about the importance of getting to know children and how September is a huge learning month for me as a teacher. This week I am thinking about what kinds of questions I need to ask children in order to know them better. My daily go to is “What would you like to do?” I believe that in order for children to maximize their learning potential, they need to be engaged in tasks that they have chosen.
Now you may be wondering “But what if they always choose the same thing? I used to worry about this too. But here’s where a carefully designed learning environment comes into play. If the space is dynamic and provides a wide variety of activities that children can choose from, they will not choose the same thing day after day. By dynamic, I mean the opposite of static, or staying the same.
Currently, one half of one of the classrooms is set up as a dramatic play area, where children can pretend. There is a stage with instruments and many children have pretended to be musicians, rehearsing in the locker area for a show, as well as inviting other children to be in the band or act as the emcee. Costumes are available as well as paper and to compose songs or make programs. The other half of the space is set up as a home with babies in a crib, a kitchen with food and dishes, and a table and chairs. A telephone, some pets, a clock, and store flyers with paper to make grocery lists, complete the area. These areas are designed to be dynamic; they include some basic furniture but their contents can be replaced with other dramatic play items. The areas can become hospitals, schools, veterinary clinics, stores, campsites, or a whole host of other places. The possibilities are endless and are ignited by children’s imaginations.
Another question I like to ask children is “How are you feeling?” Answers vary greatly, depending on the activity the child is engaged in. On Friday, some children were “cozy”, cuddled together with a friend and some pets in the reading cube. Another was “thirsty”, after spending a half-hour running and climbing on playground equipment. Yet another was “nervous”, waiting in line to walk to the lunchtime eating area for the first time. This question can often open up the conversation about a child’s physical or emotional state and whether or not they are experiencing stress. Self-regulation is our ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experiencing the world in a way that is both tolerable and flexible. Giving an external or internal voice to the stressors that we encounter is a self-regulation skill that children need to learn. Simply asking a child how they are feeling also helps to build trust, because children know that you will be responsive to their needs and that most importantly, you care.
“What do you think?’ is another question that I regularly ask in my interactions with children. I could probably write a whole post dedicated just to this one important question. In fact, I think I will.
I am planning to try a couple of new grouping strategies and activities this week. Next week, I’ll let you how how they worked out.
Dedicated teacher for the past 15 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy