Thursday, April 22, 2010

How have I taught friendship?

Inspired by the workshop that I wrote about in my March 21 entry, and emboldened with a .pdf of the visual aids used by Ted Povey and Phil Strain and their colleagues, I have been faithfully incorporating these into my classroom.

May I first say - it felt a little "forced" and "contrived". My typical curriculum is free-flowing, open-ended, and exploratory. I am keen on teaching how to be friends, but I never imagined it could be broken into a formula. Here I was with five large posters teaching specific friendship skills. (I mean, who'd have thunk it? That is the point of my circle time? How will this even work?)

Mondays and Wednesdays I have a teaching assistant; Fridays I fly solo. So, I decided to introduce the friendship skills one a day on the days I have my amazing Maria to assist; Fridays would be our "review" day.

Skill 1: "How to Get Someone's Attention."
Skill 2: "How to Share."
Skill 3: "How to Ask."
Skill 4: "How to Give a Play Idea."
Skill 5: "How to Give a Compliment."

"How to Get Someone's Attention" is the foundation for each of the other skills. Once you get someone's attention, you can share a toy, ask for a toy, suggest a game to play, or give them a compliment.

I have been delighted at the children's receptiveness to practicing these skills. At circle, I read the "poster of the day," explaining the action/friendship skill. Then, Maria and I act it out in front of the children, first demonstrating how to do it correctly and then showing them a "wrong" version. Seeing their fascination, I have acted it out with individual children, too, explaining the skill again and showing how varied it might look. The rest of the day (and every day thereafter), I look for ways to repeat the skill, embedding it throughout the morning. (Transitions are great for this - for example, having them get one another's attention to go to the bathroom, get their coats, or put their lunchboxes away.)

This past Friday, we spent time at circle telling the two co-oping parents what we learned on Monday and Wednesday. James was sitting at circle, got up, and said
"S'cuse me, Ms. Maureen," tapping me on my shoulder, "Ms. Maureen!" insisting again, "I am trying to get your attention!"
(Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the children getting up out of circle and moving about, unless we are moving to a song or game - but, wow, he was demonstrating what I taught him earlier in the week!!)
"Yes, James?" I responded.
"Ms. Maureen, remember when you did that bad sharing, when you threw the toy at Ms. Maria and she said "Ouch! No!," James continued, "Ms. Maureen, you can't share like that."
His recall of this skit by Maria and I was extraordinary. He got it. My little physical friend saw and understood - there was a better way to share a toy.

Daily, I am seeing that this is not a "circle-time only" performance or a one time only success. The children are practicing over and over. Maria and I have noted the unexpectedly delightful result that there is less yelling - children are walking over to others, to get their attention.

Another example: At the playdough table, Colin often chooses to speak to me rather than his buddies when he needs something or feels some frustration. (This is pretty typical behavior for an introspective 3 year old.) At the playdough table this past week, he turned to me and said:
"Kate has all the playdough! I need some!"
"Did you get her attention?," I responded matter-of-factly.
Up he gets from his seat, walks around the table to stand behind Kate (who was sitting across the table from him originally!) and he taps her on the shoulder, saying, "Kate, Kate!" and waits for her response.
"Yes?," she responds. (This cracked me up - rather than just short-circuiting the routine and handing him playdough, she is going to work the role.)
"Please may I have some playdough?" and he puts out his hand, palm up, open stretch - no grabbing, simply waiting.
"Sure!" and she gives him a huge amount.
Colin is so into this success, he moves to Victor, saying "Victor, Victor!"
"May I have that cutter?"
And then to Zach, "Zach! Zach!"
"May I have that muffin pan?"

Have I turned them into robots? Is it not delightful, positive interaction and play?

How long will this last?


  1. James is a hoot! I hope you gave him extra playdough

  2. Can you now do this with the US Congress?
    Seems like if they all had Ms. Maureen's support, govt would be a whole lot more humane, productive & respectful.
    Wonderful post and important work.