Thought from training – Interacting

As per dictionary “rapport – noun –a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

So how do we build this connection with children?
Interacting & Facilitating … as a means to empower childrento do what they want to do, learn what they want to learn and become who they want to become.

A clarification – facilitate actually means “to make easy” – which is far from what our interactions are trying to do – the interactions are more working as a catalyst. Hence, need to clarify three presuppositions that we are working with:

1. A child’s learning is not dependent on our interactions and facilitation. The child learns anyhow – all the child needs is freedom to explore, experiment and express. Hence, facilitation is not compulsory but supplementary.

2. Learning happens not merely when child does or experiences, but when the child THINKs about what he or she is doing or what is happening. [John Dewey]. The thinking mind goes through processes like understanding, analyzing, using, creating, evaluating, enjoying, etc [Blooms Taxonomy]. Hence, interactions are primarily aimed to start, stimulate and extend various processes in the child’s mind.

3. Child is doing and learning for his or her own reasons (or goals). Pushing our objectives, under the guise of facilitation, would tantamount to being controlling, or dictatorial rather than acting democratically. Hence, interactions are effective when we align them to the child’s goals (and wants). Also implicit is the trust we have on the child, her abilities, and her intentions.

So, by interacting we are neither trying to “give gyan” nor “solving their problems”. We are rather intending to enlarge the process of learning itself so that:

We Empower the child [eg: Child figuring out how to open own water bottle]

We Expand the situation or circumstances or experience. [eg: Child examining in which direction most things open – taps, jars, doors etc]

We multiply the learning opportunities available to the child (without an attempt to direct any specific learning) [eg: Child designing own bottle cap, creating a dance step based on opening of bottles etc]

Since the objective is to facilitate thinking process, we primarily use questions (and encouragement especially through non verbals and FISH)

We recommend the following guidelines

1. Be a wonderer and wanderer yourself. Then the questions come automatically.

2. Ask questions, not answer them. If a child asks a question – chances are that the child is thinking. Ask questions that listen to and further extends that thinking.

3. Ensure that questions are open. Questions that elicit fixed ‘known’ answers or that get a yes/no or one word or a definition as a response are closed questions and do not contribute much to learning (except for verification). Questions that may have multiple answers, no set answers are the open ended ones.

4. Many open ended questions start with How & What – so try to start with these two words. Also, keep the question plural – like  “What could be the reasons…. (instead of saying reason)

5. Don’t look for answers or even wait for the answer. A question is like a seed thrown in the mind of the child – our objective is to “let it grow” – not see some fruits immediately. When a child perceives that the answer is not only not important – it is not even expected, the child is free to contemplate on the question whenever, how much ever and in whatever way.

6. An attendant strategy to the #5 above is to ask question to nobody in particular. A kind of wondering aloud – throwing the question up in the air. Then children know that there is no expectation of an answer.

7. Also when with a group of children, sometimes few children may want to respond immediately to your question. Request these children to wait and let others also think. This gives all children time to think it through more deeply and widely. It obviously also gives time and space for others to think – otherwise they would have left their thinking and instead focused on the immediate child’s answer.

8. Further consider this framework

Child interacting with himself or herself

Ask feeling questions like “how are you feeling”?

Request child to express his thinking – if he/she wants to!

Empower to self evaluate

Encourage non verbally

Child interacting with activity,  resources and material

Ask experiencing questions … like .. “How are you…..?”

Ask exploratory questions like “What else …?” or “How else….?”

Ask expanding questions like “What if ….?

Empower to self learn, to draw own conclusions, etc.

Child interacting with peers

·        Encourage: Ask and learn, tell and teach

Peer doing, peer discussions, peer mentoring, peer assessemnt etc

·        Ask children to observe others

·        Ask children to collate, summarize and present on behalf of the group

·        Agree to disagree;

Child interacting with you

·   Ask the child to show or teach you!

·   If required praise the effort put in, acknowledge and affirm the specific strength and ability used.

recommended strongly – do work along children (not to demonstrate but to learn with them) – this way you do not go about teaching, and children get automatic demonstration of so many skills, abilities, etc.

·   That’s all ••✆

Interacting non-verbally

Non verbal is most effective in giving child mental space and time, for giving encouragement, and for small subtle nudges in various direction. Non-verbals through are subtle yet carry bigger punch – hence they are a preferred mode specially when the child is seeking a response – a solution, an evaluation or an intervention. In fact we encourage facilitators to develop a set of familiar symbols which the child can come to quickly recognize and understand. Common non-verbal like thumbs up, pat on the back, smile, fingers in ears etc are excellent and may a times sufficient interactions.

When to facilitate, to interact

Well whenever we are with the child, whether we are doing something or not, we are interacting and facilitating. So going out of the room or sitting quietly in a corner is also an interaction. Facilitation is everything that an instructor does, thus it includes intentional, unintentional, subtle and not so obvious behaviors.

Four types of facilitative behaviors can be identified, as follows:

1. Intentional – Overt

These are things an instructor does intentionally and these are noticed by students. Examples:

·        A facilitator shows students he opens his water bottle.

·        A facilitator asks open ended questions like – how did you open the tap today?

·        An instructor counsels or gives verbal or written feedback.

2. Intentional – Covert

These are things an instructor does intentionally but they are not noticed by students. Examples:

·        The facilitator sits down to be at eye level with the child trying to open the bottle

·        The facilitator embeds encouragement in his talk – “The way you are twisting, you will soon be able to be open it”

·        Picks up his pen and imitates opening action.

3. Unintentional – Overt

These are things an instructor does without intending and they are noticed by the students.


·        An instructor is naturally warm-hearted (without realizing) and this makes students feel accepted and excited about trying.

·        An instructor unintentionally uses gendered or put down language which upsets several participants.

4. Unintentional – Covert

These are things an instructor does without intending and they go unnoticed by the students. But it does affect individual’s experiences and has subtle socio-psychological impacts. Examples

·    As the child is trying, the facilitator unintentionally picks up some other task and diverts his attention away from the child trying. The child may not consciously notice but it affects the child.

·    An instructor uses put down language and this goes unnoticed by the child but it contributes to underlying gender issues and tensions within a group.

Given this framework – here is what we recommend:

For all the Intentional inputs

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

* First prepare how will I do the activities / lesson plan (in detail)

** Two prepare the kind of process questions I will ask (write down the questions)

*** Three Prepare my thoughts about each child – what does this child need – how to give – through overt or covert means? etc

**** Four prepare myself to observe (build observation-breaks into my activities – ensure that my activities are so designed that they give me time and mental space to actually observe the children and the process in general.

For all the Unintentional inputs

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

* First Prepare to be conscious of the subtle feedback children give (one way is to ask each child and then take it with open mind)

** Prepare my state of mind – because that will colour a lot of my unintentional behavior and inputs – specifically ensure that my state of mind is not effective by outside classroom events like issues/ events at home, or school or any other issues with self. Similarly reset any bias you have for any child or set of children.

*** Prepare my mind to be conscious of my beliefs and perceptions – specially about the subject/ topic/ activity and about each children or children in general. Again a lot of my unintentional behavior is determined by my beliefs and being conscious of these beliefs helps in changing the ones that may be ineffective

**** Finally and very beautifully, prepare my children to GIVE ME FEEDBACK – to tell me when they are not feeling alright about something. One simple way is to keep asking – “How are you feeling” (this often puts thing which were covert into overt – once child is aware of a feeling – child can trace to what is causing this feeling and then if child can articulate that – the facilitator can take that feedback.

Overall enjoy facilitation and the session. Remember to share with others by talking or blog or any way – what all you enjoyed during the session. After all thats what we are here for – to have fun 🙂

Aditi – Ratnesh