Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School

Going back to school can be filled with an array of emotions for both parents and kiddos.  Parents can be sad, wishing they were able to spend more time with their kiddos during the summer.  On the other hand, some parents may be thrilled to not hear "I'm bored!" one more time.  Kiddos can be filled with curiosity about their new teacher(s) and classmates; wondering what/how they'll be learning, what the homework will be like, and more.  Parents want to hear about their kiddo's school day, but when they ask they may get one of the standard replies: "nothing" or"fine".

It can be easy to give up when getting responses like these.  Despite what kiddos say there is definitely something going on at school, and not every day is fine.  So...how do we get kiddos to say more about those hours they spend away from home?  Ask more open - ended questions.  Asking open - ended questions invites kiddos to say more than fine or nothing, and provide you with more information.  

Try some of these:
  • Who did you work with today?  
  • What was the best/worst part of your day?
  • What was the most interesting thing you learned about today?
  • What was the thing you struggled with the most?
  • If you could pick one thing from your day to do again, what would it be?
  • Who did you play with at recess?
  • What is one thing you can not wait to do in school tomorrow?
  • If you could change 1 thing about your day (classroom), what would it have been?
Even open - ended questions can prompt one word answers, but follow up questions or comments invite your child to share more.  
  • Wow, that sounds really fun!  Tell/show me more about that. 
  • That must have been really upsetting (exciting, unpleasant, surprising).  Why do you think that is?
  • It sounds like you were frustrated.  How can you let your teacher know that tomorrow?  
Sometimes, kiddos will only talk about the same thing each day; like recess or someone being unkind to them.  When kiddos repeatedly talk about things they are telling us what is important to them; fun, friends, autonomy, kindness.  Yet, we want them to be able to speak on a variety of topics.  To encourage this, try inserting a particular subject, like math or social studies, into the question. Also, more teachers are using social media to keep families informed; 'like' the class on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or bookmark the class website to help direct the questions.   You could also use a few different questions every day will help, as will focusing on both the positive and negative aspects of the day.  Using popsicle sticks, a beach ball, dice/number cubes, or apps like Evernote or Wunderlist can help.  

Over time, tools like these won't be necessary.  Not only will open - ended questions become like second nature for you, but your kiddo(s) will become accustomed to coming home and talking about his/her day; looking forward to it.