Some Suggestions for Good Conversations

The following are excerpts from …

Cadwell, L. B. (1997). Bringing Reggio Emilia Home : An Innovative approach to early childhood education. USA, New York : Teachers College Press

  1. Think about appropriate questions beforehand. Try to brainstorm with other colleagues first. Think about what kinds of questions would stimulate children’s curiosity, provoke and challenge them to wonder and hypothesize, invent and compare.
  2. Arrange to have the conversation in a quiet place where neither you nor the children will be distracted.
  3. Choose a group that you feel will benefit from being together and that will work well together for any number of reasons. For example, the combination of interested children with less interested children, verbal with no so verbal, can work. Pay as careful attention to the group composition as the situation allows. Some opportunities will be more spontaneous than others. A group of give seems to be an ideal small – group number.
  4. Know how you will record. Although it is difficult, some people can write quickly and keep up with the flow of the conversation. If you tape record, be committed to listening and transcribing the important parts of the tape as soon as you can. If another teacher can be with you, one can lead, one can write.
  5. Let children know right away that you have no interest in quizzing them and that you don’t know the right answers; that instead you want to wonder and search with them and that you are interested in big ideas and you know they are, too.
  6. Communicate through your tone of voice your wonder, your belief in the children’s capabilities to think creatively and critically, your excitement at this opportunity to talk together about important ideas.
  7. Use the questions you have prepared as possibilities. Remain open to the flow of the conversation. It may go in interesting directions you had not anticipated. On the other hand, guide the conversation back to the main subject if it strays too far away.
  8. Be the children’s memory. Every once in awhile, summarize for them what has been said, using names of children if possible. This will help them realize you are listening carefully and that their ideas are going on record. It also will help them look backward to what has been said and move forward with new ideas.
  9. Stay in the background as much as possible when the children begin to talk to each other, debate, and ask each other questions. This way, the converstaion begins to belong to them, they become more invested in it, and they begin to learn to discuss among themselves without intervention.
  10. Enjoy the conversation. Laugh together. Be amazed at their perspectives. Some some of yours.
  11. Use the conversation. Share some of the things that were said, that day or the next, with the whole group of children. Use the conversation again with the same group or a different group. Ask children to expand on their ideas, critique their ideas, draw their ideas, paint or sculpt their ideas translate and transform them into different languages. Analyze the children’s ideas with your colleagues to decide whether to ask more questions, suggest further exploration and experience, and/or work with drawing or sculptural materials.
  12. Recognize that children and adults need time and experience with this way of being together. Most children need time to understand what this is all about – that you really are serious about wanting them to think and tell you and the other children what they think, feel, and wonder about and that you have high expectations of them.
  13. Be brave enough to discuss the conversations you conduct with children with other adults. It will help you gain skill and confidence.

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