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April 14, 2015

Increasing Confidence with Thoughtful Interactions

While I was leading a music class as a student teacher, one of my students (who rarely spoke) raised her hand to answer my question. I responded, “No, that’s not right. Does anyone else have an idea?”

Building a ZooShe was crushed. She had put herself out there to answer the question, and the adult in the room had told her that her addition to the conversation was invaluable.  Because of my response, this particular student became so disengaged that she did not only miss the correct answer (offered from another student) but she missed out on any further opportunity to learn in the classroom. My response had changed the way this student would ever interact in my classroom again. After this encounter, my discussion with my cooperating teacher forever changed the way that I would respond to students. She explained that it is always beneficial to validate the act of responding. Instead of saying “No, that’s not right.” I would forever begin to say “I think that is an interesting  idea. I can see why you may have thought that. Let’s see if someone else in the classroom has another idea.”

Children are eager and excited to share their knowledge with us. It is our responsibility to listen to what they have to say and empower them to continue to collaborate with those around them. Research shows that preschool aged children have the ability to reflect on what they don’t know. Furthermore, this research indicates that once a teacher or other adult has 10517325_10204076391054267_847402830499988491_oconfirmed that they were “wrong” , their confidence level substantially decreases. A decrease in confidence then contributes to a student’s lack of response.

We want our children to feel empowered enough to share their thoughts. We can help encourage them to do so with kind and thoughtful interactions in the classroom. For example, consider a technique called   Sticking With Students:

  • Teachers convey to their students:  I find your participation very valuable, I believe in you, and I have great expectations.
  • Teachers use a number of strategies such as restating the question, providing additional time for the student to think, or extending the teachers response to include elements of problem solving and scaffolding.
  • For example, a teacher may say: “That’s such an interesting idea. I can see why you may have thought that. However, I’m thinking of a word that starts with /bl/. Would you like to try again?”

11076284_10153125802763361_7276627991255536052_nAnother study has shown that it is beneficial to give children 7 seconds of time to answer a question; we refer to this as “think time”. When you ask a question of your students – whether it is in the block center, playing in the sensory bin, or working at the fine motor center – pause for 7 seconds and allow children the opportunity to think about their response. This has shown to produce different answers, and an added level of depth, in children’s responses.

In “The Building Blocks of Preschool Success” (Beauchat,  Blarney, and Walpole), theauthors state: “If we are asked about our opinion or a question that has no right or wrong answer, we are much more apt to participate. As children respond to open-ended questions they build confidence in sharing their opinions and understandings… This confidence will help children when they are asked to respond to more advanced, high-level questions…”

Put simply, we know that every adult interaction has the power to inspire confidence and build competence.  When your little ones are sharing their knowledge with you, your response can empower them to continue to think critically, take chances, and enjoy learning.

Contributed by Toni LaMantia- Education Specialist

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