Monday, September 28, 2009

Encouraging Active Participation in Preschoolers

 “Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared.”
Eddie Rickenbacker, World War 1 hero

I love positivism. It comforts me like a warm blanket. Within the preschool learning environment, one way to inject it immediately is through applause. Yes, applause. In my classroom we clap and cheer for one another constantly and for everything. We also take it a step further. Within the curriculum we will clap for the heroines in the stories we read, the coats we have managed to put on, the sticky little hands we have washed…The children are learning to notice and to respond to one another in positive ways. Individually and as a group.
I recall a little boy in my three’s class. He’s name was Marcus, and he loved ketchup. He elected on his own not to speak at preschool, but today was the day he decided to talk. One day we were all sitting at the snack table and he let out a low soft whisper, “Please, I have ketchup, please”.
Everyone froze. Some children even froze with spoonfuls of cheesy mac still in their chubby cheeks. Finally, Mei-Mei broke the silence, “Wow! You talk! Let’s clap for the man!” We all began to clap and cheer. Marcus smiled a big Cheshire Cat grin as he stood up and bowed. “Hey!” I suggested, “Marcus, may we show you how happy we are for you by giving you a ‘standing ovation’?” Marcus nodded in approval. I explained to the children that when you stand up and clap for somebody that means you think they did something great. They all agreed, and it was the start of something wonderful! At our circle time gatherings, we had children regularly report accomplishments that needed ‘standing ovations’. It built such a sense of community in the classroom; to see children so young learning to encourage one another to overcome heartbreaking obstacles in their lives. For children so small, it is such a great and wonderful thing!

2 comments:

Dan Gurney said...

This is a wonderful story. Encouraging children to speak is very important work, especially for the reticent child. In my classroom we use applause, cheers, and "hip-hip-hoorays" on a regular basis.

Barbra Stephens said...

He is quite a talker, now. Amazing what a little encouragement will do! I have to say, the class as a whole really loves to encourage each other!