Giving Verbal Instructions to Children

“The manner and quality with which adults give directives and verbally interact with young children can make a big difference in the kinds of behaviors exhibited by those children,” writes Tom Udell and Gary Glasenapp in their article “Managing Challenging Behaviors:  Adult Communication as a Prevention and a Teaching Tool,” in Behavior: A Beginnings Workshop Book.  They provide the following guidelines:

Be specific and clear when giving directives.  Children need to know precisely what is expected.  They are more likely to respond appropriately to ‘Keep your feet on the floor’ than ‘Be careful.'”

Avoid using questions you do not mean to ask.  Use question statements only when you truly intend to provide a choice.  A direct request, such as ‘Jason, please wash your hands,’ is preferable to ‘Jason, will you wash your hands before snacks?”’

“State requests and directions in a positive manner.  Asking a child to ‘Walk in the classroom’ is more positive and more clearly understood than ‘Don’t run.'”

Avoid repeating requests and directives.  Repeating directives can become troublesome because children quickly learn that they are not expected to respond the first time they are given a direction.  Adults do not want to inadvertently teach children that it is okay to ignore requests that are made of them.”

Courtesy of The Child Care Exchange

Making Shapes in the Sandbox

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

“One of the most memorable experiences for me at age five was digging in the sandbox at our neighborhood park, my feet burrowed deep in the sand and a shovel and pail as my only tools,” writes Elice Swanson in her article, “Learning through Conversations with Children.”
“Asking children what they are thinking, hearing, and seeing is the means to the excitement of learning.  As teachers, what we can offer to children is a ‘sandbox,’ a digging place, where we present tools, but not solutions. It is a distance that a new idea can travel to a world not yet seen.  As facilitators of young children’s learning, we can usher toward — but not dictate — the road ahead.  If we try to eliminate frustration and the possibility of failure, we often also eliminate the power of trial and error as a problem-solving tool, the value of experimentation, and the real possibility of success.  Helping students ‘make shapes in the sandbox’ gives them a point of view.  Their personal impressions are like no other.  What they make and what they see are pieces of their own identity.”