Whether building relationships, supporting language development, or pushing learning, conversations with children are important. (And fun! And funny!) Every afternoon, I walk my dog Holly to the bus stop to wait for my daughter. At the stop, there are a handful of other parents and their pre-K and toddler children. My favorite is a four-year-old who chatters nonstop:
Erin: Can I pet Holly?
Me: Sure. But watch out—she’ll snortle all over you.
(She pets Holly who sniffs and snorts at her hands and face.)
Erin: She snortled me!!!
Me: She sure did snortle you! Does your dog do that?
Erin: No, my dog is biiiggg.
Me: Really? How big?
Erin: I could bring her to your house for a playdate so you could meet her. And I could bring my brother and we could play on your swing set. What are you doing later, cuz I could come play!
That’s an easy conversation to have, because Erin loves to talk and loves my dog. But what about quieter children? Here are a few tips from Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) instructors on how to build and extend conversations with children who need more support:
Let me know how these suggestions go--and please do add your own tips for engaging children in conversations.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on November 4, 2013, but has been updated to keep the content accurate and engaging. Many thanks to Jenn Fowler, Kathy McKechnie, and Pam Parmenter for sharing ideas.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.