The essentials for successful exchanges:
- listening - listening for opportunities to take learning further, listening for questions regarding levels of understanding, listening for comments of challenge [challenging existing levels of understanding is often a very good thing], listening for nuances;
- encouraging self-confidence in the ability challenge existing states of knowledge and understanding
- encouraging risk taking in your child's thinking and problems solving
- promoting respectful dialogue :
- Pose open-ended questions
- Allow your child to respond to your questions, pausing before responding yourself or, if you're a teacher, before calling on a student. This allows them to process the question and retrieve and formulate meaningful responses.
- Encourage different perspectives to questions and comments, accepting divergent opinions (without having to necessarily agree with them). When you hear divergent opinions, try to help direct, guide, and facilitate discussions.
- This Looney Toon is all about listening, risk taking, and encouraging Bugs (and Daffy) to think out of the box - something Bugs does regularly but Daffy does not....
- There is a wonderful exchange in the book Frindle by Andrew Clements. It is the beginning of fifth grade for Nick Allen, who is convinced that he can distract his Language Arts teacher (a fanatic about dictionaries and dictionary usage) from assigning homework. So, just as she is about to relay that night's assignment, Nick raises his hand and asks her, "What makes a word a word?" The problem (initially at least) for Nick is that sahe throws the question right back at him, saying that is a wonderful question and in addition to the class assignment, he must 'research' his question further. He does the research and realizes exactly what makes aword a word, and proceeds to coin his own. He learns ALOT more about words and language than he ever expected from this simple exchange, from listening to various literary sources, and from challenging existing expectations.
- Another exchange happened to me in the airport. I was waiting at the gate for my flight (which was delayed) and just watching the people around me. There was a little boy "Daniel" who must have been about five years old, who had gone through his mom's stash of chips, her box of apple juice, and her patience as well. The planes out the window were no longer a novelty and he and his mom were 'losing it.' And, there was still the flight to take. At some point the mom looked at me and I suggested a game to play, "I SPY." She had never heard of it and so I explained the game: One person privately selects an object within sight and generally describes it, "I spy with my little eye, something ...red (or big, or smelly or any other adjective you care to give it)" and the other person has to guess what it is you spy by asking questions or just by guessing. When the item is guessed, the players switch roles.
The problem, once I explained the game was that mom kept picking small items or items Daniel could not see well. Through their exchanges, though, she learned adjust her selections so Daniel could easily guess them. The other problem, was when it was Daniel's turn to spy an object. He, being a five year old, and very excited about the game would say, "I spy with my little eye something blue" and then immediately share what that object was with his mom -without her having the opportunity to play or guess.
What was so special about this exchange was that aside from distracting and entertaining Daniel, both mother and child learned how to adjust their choices and responses to the game. Furthermore, Mom was happy Daniel was occupied, Daniel was thrilled with his new game, he was learning and practicing adjectives and vocabulary, and what was about to turn into a shouting match, turned into a productive exchange between parent and child.
- I observed another exchange between mother and child that did not work out well when riding on a train. It was a summer Sunday afternoon and mother and son were returning from a day at the beach. They were tired, the train was crowded, and mom had to navigate one large suitcase, a large overstuffed tote bag, and a cranky child. She propped the suitcases against the window (a mistake) and sat her son between her and the suitcases. He cried and fussed and she would not allow him to climb over (or simply move) the suitcase to look out the window, or allow him to walk up and down the aisle, or even read a book to him. Instead she screamed at him to "shut up" and if others tried to help with advice she shouted "he's a two year old, they scream and cry - that's what they do...." This woman had one expectation - her two year old cried and screamed - and she did not care or try to adjust that expectation. She also did not care to exchange, motivate, or distract her child - she just let him scream.
With 2012 approaching, let's raise our expectations, renew and enhance exchanges and become better listeners and motivators!
Here's to a great 2012!!!!