Patience is a virtue. Not only for us adults, but for the kids as well.
A few children in class have been going through a real rough patch the last few weeks when it comes to knowing what to do when a problem arises with a friend. One of the reasons this may appear to be surfacing as a bigger issue may be that my expectations have changed (and I'm just now making this connection). Since we are coming to the halfway mark for the year, my expectation is that all of the modeling, reinforcement, and work that we have done on developing our social skills will be evident in the way children interact with one another throughout the day. Well, I've realized after two weeks of wondering "what the heck is happening?" that simply because I am ready to remove the scaffolds and expect to see sharing and turn-taking happening spontaneously and eloquently that....well that is just not where some of the children are right now. They still need language support to negotiate with their peers when problems arise and they still need prompting to think about how their actions make others feel. How did it take me two weeks to figure this out?!
Today a problem did arise in block center. One child took a block from another child's structure without asking and before you know it he meets his punishment...being hit in the head with a block. Immediately Mrs. Lee and I get the story in English and Chinese. Both children are removed from block center and spend two minutes in "thinking time" and a talk with me. You have to think quick in moments like this and I decided that the rest of the time remaining during centers, these two would spend together. I escorted both boys to the light table and gave them the box of magna tiles. The instructions: They were to use the materials together. The light table is a relatively small space and really requires negotiating space, materials, and hopefully ideas.
I stood back to watch and immediately an issue arose. So, I plopped myself down and with a bit of trial and error we came to a fruitful activity that gave both boys a successful encounter with sharing and turn taking. What I came to realize was that neither of the boys were going to be successful without assistance. It's basic Vygotsky but still took me a moment to realize what was needed. The photos below tell the story.
I asked both boys what they would like to build and was met with two very different responses, an airplane and a castle. So we decided to build both, one at a time. I held the box of tiles in my lap and one at a time we each took a turn adding one tile to create the airplane.
I was so impressed after one of the boys placed the triangle on top of one of the wings - the other child chose a triangle and did the same to the other wing. This immediately earned a compliment from me, "wow, that was so nice how you paid attention to what your friend added to the wing."
Then we cleared our palette and began to build the castle. One at a time we took turns adding a piece. There were a few hiccups, with pleas of "no don't do that" but we dealt with each one in the moment and really practiced negotiating our differing ideas.
I'm not working under some false reality now - where every child is ready to use their words to solve their problems. Some are not and that is okay. By the end of the year I do think we'll all have gained quite a bit of patience.