About Me

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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

YES!

One of the blogs I follow had a posting about the "power of yes" in the classroom. Scott at Brick by Brick thinks that "No" is too often the default answer to requests made by children in the classroom.  I think that is because we as adults have pre-conceived notions about where and how things should be used.  Or we plan an activity with an idea about of how it should unfold.  Scott thinks that by stopping and considering children's requests, we create more opportunities for children to experiment and be creative across all areas of development.  In the process, we challenge our own thoughts and actions.  Isn't that what education is all about?  One of the nice things that happens if you do not automatically dismiss children's requests that do not fit your modus operandi is that they will continue to ask.  The more asking, the more learning.  In addition, when a "No" is necessary, it means something other than the standard teacher response to a child's request that does not fit with the adult's expectations.  (Sorry, Scott, I am not ready to give up my camera.)

"Yes" is also a powerful tool when setting positive expectations in the room.  For instance, a child asks to play in the sensory table but she has not picked up the blocks she was playing with.  I will usually say something like this: "Yes, of course, you can play in the sensory table.  Let's pick up the blocks first."  Surprisely, that works---most of the time.  Why?  Because it sounds so much different from: "No, you can't play at the sensory table until you pick up the blocks."  Beginning your repsonse immediately with a "No" tends to set up a power struggle.  A "Yes" does not.  And children do like to cooperate.

I like to try to take it a step further by having the children use the word yes with each other.  There is a kind of script I use with the children in my classroom.  It goes something like this.  There is something new in the sensory table, say minnow nets.  Since there are not enough nets for everyone who wants one, a child who doesn't have one may try to grab it away from a child who does have one.  I say to the child who wants the net to ask for it.  The child asks for it.  Now, the child who has the net has to answer.  Usually the child will say "No." So often, though, a child has been told to share by adults in her life so she is torn between still wanting to play with the net and having to "share."  I make sure that child knows it is ok to say "No" if she is not done with it.  As soon as the child who asks for the net gets the "No," I tell him to ask if he can have it when she is done.  He does and almost always gets a "Yes."  When the answer is "Yes," the potential conflict simply vanishes.  I then have the child ask the child with the net "When will you be done?" The answer varies greatly, but the child who has the net often gives it willingly in short order to the other child.  When children learn how to negotiate a "Yes" answer, life in the classroom runs harmoniously.

I do believe in the "power of yes."

4 comments:

  1. Bev Bos told us about that tactic of having the child asking "Can I use it when you are through?" at a conference I was at and I have used it with great success. It really works! I never thought about the reason it worked, but it was because they were able to get a "yes". I see that now.

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  2. Think about how you feel when you get a "yes" instead of a "no" when you are asking for something. It's the same with children. The "yes" feels so much much better.

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  3. Thanks for the mention!

    I like the different ways you expanding thinking about yes. I agree that saying "Yes you can. Let's pick up the blocks first." Sometimes just the way we word things can make a difference in the ways kids respond.

    "Yes" can be such a powerful word.

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  4. Scott, as you pointed out in your original post, a "Yes" answer is not always a possibility because of safety and such. But contrary to what some may think, coming up with the "Yes" answer challenges us in ways that help us grow. It does not mean automatically giving in to requests. Often times it takes some negotiation to come to a mutual agreement.

    As you can see, your original post got me pondering the possibilities of "Yes."

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