As teachers you have “everyday interactions” with children every day. These occur naturally with or without thought or intention. Everyday interactions can be good, bad or neutral. As you continue reading you will find ways to turn some of those everyday interactions into powerful interactions.
A “Powerful Interaction” is a very intentional and purposeful exchange between a teacher and a child that can have a significant and highly positive impact on learning. (Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson, 2011)
A powerful interaction has 3 steps: 1. Be present, 2. Connect, 3. Extend learning.
Step 1: Be present. This means to really stop and think about what a child is doing before you approach them for an interaction. You can do this in a few seconds by glancing around your classroom and focusing on what is engaging a child. Next, clear your mind; make sure you are “present” in your mind and that you are thinking about the child and how to best interact with his or her personality. Many things around us can constantly distract our minds. Sometimes simply taking a deep breath can help clear your mind of the distractions around you. Remember that every child has a different personality and temperament and that each one reacts differently to your personality and temperament. Use your knowledge from past interactions to help shape the powerful interaction you are about to have with the child. Acknowledge in your mind what they are doing and what you would like to accomplish with your interaction.
Step 2: Connect. “Connecting means observing what is interesting and significant about what the child is doing, saying, and thinking. It means letting the child know that you see her, are interested in what she is doing, and want to spend some time with her.” (Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson, 2011) When you approach the child, state what the child is doing in a positive manner. This shows your interest in them which helps build their trust and confidence. As you connect with the child remember to stay in the moment and be respectful of the child. The more you connect with each child the more you will learn about them and how they best relate to you and others. This also helps the child grow more secure and trusting with you. As you learn about each child’s personality you will be able to better shape your strategies to improve not only their learning but also their behaviors. When trying to connect with a child don’t worry about being rejected. Sometimes children just want to be alone, and as a teacher, you should respect that decision and try again later.
Step 3: Extend Learning. Expand on what the child is doing. Do not correct what they are doing, just add to it. This expands the child’s knowledge and encourages him to try new things. “You not only model for the child how to learn, you also stretch the child’s thinking and knowledge – all in a way that is just right for that child.” (Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson, 2011) As you begin to think about how you are going to extend the child’s learning, remember that you are looking for a teachable moment.
- What is the right content to teach at this moment?
- Where is this child in their learning and what would be the next step?
- How do I make it meaningful for this child?
When learning about powerful interactions it may seem like you are spending a lot of time just thinking, but as you practice you will realize you can assess and think through the situation in just a few seconds.
Not every interaction can be a powerful interaction, but the more you use them, the easier they become and the more the children learn and grow.
Last but not least, be realistic with yourself. Sometimes there is too much activity going on in a classroom to spend 1 to 5 minutes fully engaged with an individual child. Look for times in your schedule when the children are actively involved in playing and learning independently so you can have powerful interactions.
Dombro, A. L., Jablon, J., & Stetson, C. (2011). Powerful Interactions: How to connect with children to extend their learning. Washington, DC: NAEYC.