WELL, yes, that can be a problem, but with a gentle mindset adjustment the fact that kids pay so much attention to each other can turn into a powerful teaching aid that works to everyone’s benefit… yours and theirs.
Children’s early education is enriched by playing together with classmates. Each conversation, whether talking about the class pet or deciding which color block to put on top of the tower they’re building together, or who gets to be IT when they’re playing Hide N Seek helps children develop their thoughts, their language, their sense of themselves and how to best connect with others. This is a deeply important dimension of young kids’ development, and interacting with peers, with classmates, is really the only way those discoveries can be made. I mean, right? HOW ELSE CAN IT HAPPEN?
Children, like all of us – as scientific research reveals – want and need to BELONG. As educators, we have a profound responsibility to nurture healthy belonging amongst our students. The kind of belonging that builds on the best, on the healthiest, on the most positive and most constructive of children’s shared values and perspectives. This is not going to happen with lectures. This is going to happen by creating consistent opportunities for kids to DISCOVER TOGETHER how much they have in common, in terms of their own honest feelings, understanding, values, and insights.
Sounds good, right? Next question: How to make that happen? Good question… in fact, questions are so often the answer, IF they’re the right kinds of questions, and IF they’re asked with the right mindset, within the right context. We’ll get into all those IF’s in future podcasts, but for now, the ‘the right context’ is groups of kids pondering their answers, and responding to those right kinds of questions TOGETHER. Gotta love those CIRCLE TIMES, eh?!!!
It’s easier than it sounds … and the healthy belonging that can be nurtured is everyone’s reward.
On a more serious note, if healthy belonging is not nurtured in the earliest years of children’s development, is it such a mystery that feelings of isolation (not belonging), when ignored, devolve into the kind of mental torment that motivates some kids to use guns against their fellow students and against their teachers? This is an issue we need to reverse-engineer, starting with our youngest students.
By ages 3 and 4 children are starting to identify and verbalize an ever-widening range of emotions…. By ages 5 and 6 they are, we know only too well, testing boundaries, yet they are still quite eager to please and to help out. The commonality of the healthiest of their natural tendencies can be made more conscious amongst your group of students for everyone’s benefit, as I’ve mentioned before.
For now, we just wanted to smash that myth that children pay too much attention to each other and not enough attention to teachers. You CAN stop resisting that fact of life and make friends with it for the happiest and healthiest of Win-Win’s in your classroom.
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