Phone: (517) 787-3026 | Hours: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
North Star Montessori
Preschool & Kindergarten
Young children depend on the adults around them to show them how to master skills for everyday living. Everything is new for children and the expectations we set and the language we use can have a positive effect on children’s learning. If there is one simple change you can make today it is to stop saying “don’t do this” and use a “Can Do” attitude and start asking children to do what you would like them to do.
By Barbara Barnes
NSM Founder & Director
As Montessorians we are trained to consistently ask children what we would like them to do. For example, one of our classroom ground rules in that we walk inside. As teachers we model the desired behavior by walking conscientiously setting a calm tone for our classrooms. If one of our friends begins to run around the classroom, or seem to have only one speed, fast, we ask them to walk. It’s not that we are afraid to say the word no, we find that it is more effective to ask the child to do what we would like them to do. This not only helps the child who is running to understand the classroom expectations, but it also reinforces that expectation to all of the rest of their classmates. When they hear the phrase “walk please”, or ” we walk inside”, it reaffirms the ground rules we have set for our class.
Everyone in our classroom community can identify with this and work to regulate their movements. Many children will nod their heads and repeat the phrase saying, “ yeah we walk in class”. Children are adopting a “Can Do”attitude that we are modeling to reach clearly stated expectations. Some children only need a couple of reminders while others make take a week or two to adjust, but by consistently using positive reminders children are able to master the beginning steps of moving through the classroom safely.
If we only had to say things one time to children for them to learn raising children would be easy. However, anyone interacting with children knows that children learn through repetition and it is our job as their first role models to guide the child as they grow, which will take time. Our approach can mean the difference between a happy, healthy child open to learning or a child who never reaches their full potential.
Each new skill you would like a young person to learn requires a first lesson. While learning how to paint with watercolors we orientate the child on how to use the materials correctly. We say phrases like ” these are for painting on paper” , “we keep everything on our tray” or “we use a little bit of water” as we demonstrate how to paint. We are using specific positive language to set the child up for success. Investing time in the first lesson can set the foundation for lots of happy painting experiences in the future. Infact, in our classrooms at North Star watercolor painting is an activity that the children can choose on a daily basis and complete independently.
Whether the new skill is painting, or putting on their shoes, remember to keep your words short and sweet. Using phrases like,” these are for…”, “we use…”,” it is time for…”, can let children know your expectations. Adults are the child’s first teacher and they are looking to us for guidance. Challenge yourself to see things from a child’s perspective and as you approach each new learning opportunity. Ask yourself what sequence of skills does the child need to master to do the activity and what words and tone will encourage them to learn? Having clear, intentional language can be a powerful teaching tool. Children are listening and watching everything we do and each positive interaction sets up a safe , nurturing atmosphere for children to be open to learning new things. Young children are capable of doing and enjoying many activities independently if the adults in their lives take the time to teach them new skills step by step and use positive words to guide them.