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Yes - A Powerful Word

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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brickI've been around the preschool block a few times. I've been in numerous classrooms and heard a variety of teachers interact with a myriad of kids. I've taught preschoolers that are now adults making their ways in the world. (Wait, that's an unnerving thought.) And, often in a classroom, the word I hear more often is a variation of "No."

Now, I'm a firm believer in setting limits and maintaining a safe classroom for investigation and learning. So, sometimes, a child's behavior must be curtailed to keep him, others, or materials safe and whole.

But too often I think "No" is a default answer for us teachers.

"Can I have scissors/tape/a pencil?" "Can I color the sky red?" "Can I just watch instead of play?"

A some point in my teaching life, I cannot pinpoint an exact time, I decided to start saying "Yes" as much as possible.

Scissors, tape, glue sticks, and scrap paper are always available in the room. You can cut and glue, even if other materials are on the table. The power of "Yes, you can use that" results in creativity and exploration, unplanned and spontaneous (at least on my part).

Sometimes parts from one place will migrate to another place. Pencils and paper move to the blocks center. A doll and a block and a book end up on the digital scale. The power of "Yes, you can take that over there" leads to a greater exploreation and understanding. 

Sometimes, the creative minds of my kids push away parts of an activity and go in a completely different direction. Instead of using the counters to create quantities, the kids will build towers with them. The power of "Yes, you can choose what to do" yields competence and satisfaction.

Recently we were playing with a "build your own gameboard" activity. The boys built a road on the table and played a round, moving their game pieces through all the board. They began to rearrange the pieces and began to feel that the table was too limiting. 

"Can we put these on the floor?" they asked. I said yes.

They created a long gameboard around and through the blocks center. (No one was playing there at the time.) Then they played their very long game. I watched and heard the excitement as they played. We all cheered when they reached the end of the game.

Look for ways to say yes. 

  • Encourage kids to explore their own ideas. If they want to do things in a different way, don't insist they do it your way. As long as they are using materials in appropriate ways (and they are not disturbing others' work), say yes.
  • Don't default to no. Ask yourself: What would happen if they did this? Does it cause a problem or is it just a different way to do this?
  • Allow kids to have additional materials if possible. Provide scissors or tape or pencils if they ask. 
  • "Violate" the rules occasionallly yourself. Move the dolls into the blocks center. Suggest that kids stack blocks on a table. Create a more flexible atmosphere.

The power of "Yes, you can" helps children test their ideas, stretch their understanding, and grow. The power of Yes helps TEACHERS test their ideas, stretch their understanding, and grow.

As you mingle with your group of kids, look for opportunities to say "Yes" and just watch the powerful things that happen.

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Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

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