Imagine a community of learners where children are teaching each other in collaboration. Imagine the idea of supporting individuals AND the group.

How do we bring children to be able to collaborate with one another?

A starting point is to begin to understand that what I see/feel is not the same as what you see/feel. For example, if a big dog runs up to you, do you jump up and down with excitement or hide behind the nearest tree? If you were about to get on a roller coaster would you feel excited? or frightened?

Metacognition is thinking about your thinking:

Play with loose parts.

How do we teach metacognition? Suzanne Axelsson uses questions to encourage children to think more abstractly. She gave the example: “What colour is Christmas? Why did you choose that colour? The ‘why’ is the important part. Suzanne tells us she has noticed that as children mature, their reasons for choosing the colour change.

Suzanne Axelsson tells us she records what children say, reads back what they say, and checks in with them and to see if it is accurate, then she adjusts accordingly. She mentioned that she sends the questions home a day in advance to families with children who may have trouble coming up with answers or are a bit shy to speak in the group so that they can practice at home first.

How do we teach listening, recognizing that 40 percent of communication is listening?

“We listen with eyes, ears, mind and heart.” S.A.

Suzanne brought up an important point about children who require extra support. Rather than just the adults sorting out how to support the child who needs it, what about asking the child’s classmates? What if we shifted the mindset from each child’s individual learning to learning while being supported by peers. How could we as educators encourage children to support one another in areas where they need help?

Loose parts provide endless possibilities and a springboard for communication.

My reflections:

Communication skills are the foundation of collaboration. So teaching these skills are key to working together as a group towards both individual and group success. When you think about the whole picture of communication skills, we are talking about reading, writing, speaking and listening. In my mind, greater value needs to be placed on speaking and listening. Early childhood educators have opportunities to encourage children to express themselves in full sentences and to listen to one another with the intent to fully understand. The process of asking questions and recording children’s answers and then going back to check the correctness of the written record is a really useful tool in the support of developing early literacy. During the process, the children get practice with speaking and listening skills AND they see reading and writing skills demonstrated for them. The model of writing and reading is the first step in learning these skills in the same way we model speaking and listening.

What will my next question be? I want to ask the children about their parents. If your Mom/Dad was an animal, what animal would they be? Why did you choose that animal? I’m looking forward to the discussion and cannot wait to hear their answers, especially to hear the reasons for their choice.

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