There should always be a time for silence.

Posted on 22 mars, 2013 av

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This post is written by Tim Mighall (@tim_sweden), Utvecklingsledare / Development Manager, Happy Kids Education AB
http://www.happykids.se

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The other day on Twitter Malin Ekberg (@EkbergM) asked ”Hur ställs frågor och varför? #förskola”
This got me thinking to a recent interaction with a child. A child aged 4 who is extremely clever for her age but who will rarely offer an answer to a question. If you ask her a question she will sometimes give an answer, at other times though she will not. Her decision however not to give an answer is nothing to do with her not knowing, this girl has proved many times that she is very smart for her age.
There could of course be many reasons why she chooses not to answer. Maybe she is shy, maybe she just doesn’t feel like it. The reason why though is not important.

If you look back to traditional schooling it was often the case that a teacher would ask a question and a row of hands would shoot up in the air ready to give an answer. It is a similar situation in many preschools today when children have a circle time… a question is asked and eager little hands shoot up in the air desperate and proud to be the one who can answer correctly.

I was looking at a Caterpillar with this child in the yard last summer. While we were looking I took the decision not to ask her any questions. From previous experiences I knew if I did ask then she would either lose interest very fast or just sit their silently and not answer. After a few minutes of us watching the caterpillar she turned around, looked at me, and in a very soft voice told me that this was a caterpillar and that it had lots of colours to try and make it look poisonous for birds to eat. She explained that caterpillars eventually make a cocoon and turn in to butterflies and that butterflies look the same on both wings. They make a cocoon by making thread from their bottoms. She then suggested that we move the caterpillar in to the hedge before one of the younger children comes and plays with it. With that, the girl picked up the caterpillar on a leaf and walked away to take it to safety.

On reflection:
If I had of questioned this child then I would never have gotten all of this information. Even if she had of answered some of my questions then I would have led her somewhere else completely different and her answers would have been steered by my own inquisitiveness, not hers. If I had showed a picture of the caterpillar to the whole class in a circle time and asked what it was, then she would have just sat there silently as normal without raising her hand. The other children would have told me it was a caterpillar and then I could have asked some more questions and eventually led them in to certain answers and facts. But this girl would have already been there with her knowledge and a long way in front of me and from where my simple questions could ever lead the rest of the group…

My conclusion:
Just because a child doesn’t answer our questions doesn’t mean they don’t know the answer. Try sometimes ”not” to ask the question… It is amazing just what kind of answers we might receive.

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