During a talk about engagement at a recent staff meeting, the CCLC USDA Child Development team in Washington, D.C. decided the best approach to learning would be hands-on. Rather than listen to a description of how to make sure children are engaged and learning, even if they’re obstinately refusing to participate in an activity, teachers did a little play acting.
“I’ve been doing a lot about communication recently,” said Center Director LaTonya Brown. While she’d never tried such a hands on approach to a staff meeting, she though this might give her teachers a new perspective on their interactions with children.
At first the teachers were hesitant about role playing, but once they read the scenarios, teachers and their “students” went to the dramatic play area and dove right in. While some teachers dressed up as if they were children, others remained their teacher selves and practiced having open-ended conversations with their students. In the second scenario, teachers practiced how to redirect a child by pretending it was clean up time and one student wanted to keep playing. Rather than direct the child from afar with continual reminders to pick up their toys, one teacher got down on the child’s level and spoke to the student in a calm voice while another teacher explained why it was time to clean up.
“It really helped as far as putting themselves in the child’s role,” said LaTonya.
After their role playing, the entire staff sat down to come up with a few important engagement ideas that will help them continue to develop positive teacher-child relationships, including:
- Provide warm, responsive physical contact,
- Redirect children when they engage in challenging behavior,
- Engage in one-to-one interactions with children,
- Listen to children and encourage them to listen to others,
- Get on the child’s level for face-to-face interactions
- Acknowledge children for their accomplishments and effort,
- Use a pleasant, calm voice and simple language,
- Follow the child’s lead and interest during play, and
- Help children understand classroom expectations.
In the two weeks since this “dramatic” staff meeting, LaTonya’s noticed a number of improvements in the interactions between teachers and their students, especially in their communication: so much so that she’s already planning the next hands on staff meeting activity.