At Sunnyside, we focus so much on the language we use with the children. Well-chosen words can significantly improve each learning opportunity! This short (but not insignificant) exchange between an educator and a child is such a good example of how carefully selected language makes all the difference in quality of learning.
Let me start by offering an alternative – what would have happened if the educator answered with the typical adult answers? “Good job!” or “what color did you use?” are regulars that come to mind. The child would have likely answered “thanks” or “blue,” and went back to painting. It would have been an even shorter exchange, that’s for sure.
Instead, the educator’s open-ended statement, “you painted muscles,” led to so much more. The conversation continued naturally – like two adults would speak to each other – with an interactive, back-and-forth rhythm. This gave the child the opportunity to further practice their social skills (talking in turn) and their language skills.
Furthermore, a huge part of being an educator is observing the child. This conversation gave the educator a terrific look into the child’s development. Not only socially, as explained previously, but cognitively, as well. This child demonstrated the understanding of time (“when I am big”); cause and effect (if I exercise, I will get strong); anatomy (exercise strengthens muscles); and more. It also showed the child that she was acknowledged and her needs and interests valued – she was allowed to paint her arms, speak her thoughts, and demonstrate her skills. If you consider the motor skills needed to paint on her own arms and change her clothes, and the responsibility she learned when cleaning up the mess, this was a huge learning opportunity in just a short time!
Such a simple exchange yet so meaningful to both parties.