By Monique Owens, instructor at socialsklz:-) tools to thrive in the modern world
Have you ever wondered what really goes on at socialsklz:-) workshops? Past the carefully crafted curriculum, the complimentary socialsklz:-) bags, and the child-friendly worksheets that your kidz and tweenz bring home? How is it that young children are able to retain the information they learn in these workshops and why do they actually have fun learning about life skills? Well, I thought it was about time to share just a few of our secrets…
My one-year anniversary as a socialsklz:-) instructor just passed, and I’ve been reflecting on my experiences working with the kidz and tweenz in our program. Having had much experience working with little ones (ages 1-6) at Kidz Musik in NJ, I was eager to start working with the 4-12 year old crowd at socialsklz:-) in NYC. After observing (and assisting) several workshops, I was finally “inducted” as an official socialsklz:-) instructor.
I realize now, that as much as I’ve taught them about shaking hands, first impressions, being courteous, and setting the table, they’ve (unknowingly) taught me how they like to learn, what information sticks, and how to grasp (and hold!) their attention. So without further ado, here are three “socialsklz:-) secrets”:
1/ redirecting, not contradicting
Kids love to talk. At the beginning of a workshop, I will start to explain what a “first impression” is, and one of the kidz will start to tell me about when he got his first puppy. I’ve learned that instead of cutting them off as soon as they start to talk about an unrelated topic or telling them that what they’re talking about doesn’t relate to the lesson at hand, I can take advantage of the fact that they are sharing something they are interested in with me, and from there, I can redirect their point back to the lesson I’m teaching. Using the puppy example, I could circle back around to first impressions by asking the child how he felt when he first met his puppy, and explain that it works the same way with people; when we first meet people we get a feeling about them before they even begin to speak!
2/ games are sneaky learning tools
Here at socialsklz:-), we pride ourselves on being a learning environment that doesn’tmake children feel like they are at school. During the school year, workshops take place on Saturdays; most children don’t find the idea of a sixth day of school to be appealing, so we turn our workshops into “sneaky” learning environments. The kids have fun and are learning valuable lessons that will help them wherever they go, but instead of remembering the lessons by writing or reading them, they remember them through the games and activities we play. The kidz workshop section plays “Courtesy Charades,” during which we act out scenes where the characters are using courtesy words (please, thank you, excuse me, etc.), and the other children guess what is happening and which courtesy words are being used.
3/ taking breaks, not time-outs
Sometimes I like to give the children a quick break midway through the lesson to maintain their interest. On those days, I like to take a deep breath and shake it out… seriously. I try to prevent distractions by providing my own: a rapid-fire, 60 second shake-out. Instead of waiting for a child to act out, I avoid “time-outs” by having all the kids stands up in front of their seats and shake out their arms and legs for one minute, usually culminating the exercise in a fit of giggles. After the minute is up, we all sit down for a fresh, refocused start to the next part of the lesson.
As for the rest of our socialsklz:-) secrets, well… you’ll have to come to a workshop to find out.