This is my second blog post related to common phrases that I hear repeated in preschool classrooms. During a recent classroom observation at interest area time, the following scenario occurred. Joe was engaged in the toy area with all of the magnet tiles building complex structures. Marcos decided to change interest areas and walked over to Joe and began taking the tiles. Let’s consider two different options for how the teacher could respond.
Option 1: The teacher says, “You need to share.” She takes half of the blocks from Joe and gives them to Marcos.
Option 2: The teacher observes and gives them time to try to solve the problem. She encourages the children to "use their words.” Marcos asks Joe, “Can I play with you?” However, Joe tells Marcos, “No, I’m using all of them right now.” Joe responds by saying, “Will you come get me when I can have a turn?”
What are the advantages and disadvantages for Option 1? The advantages are that the teacher wastes little time solving the students’ problem and both children get to use the materials. A disadvantage is that children, like Joe, who are forced to share materials, may feel powerless and resentful toward adults. Another disadvantage is that children like Marcos are immediately rewarded for getting what they want whenever they choose to change activities. They do not develop the concept of delayed gratification. Children also learn that the teacher will solve their problems and their input is unnecessary.
What are the advantages and disadvantages for Option 2? Advantages include that children feel empowered to solve their own problems and learn to use their “big voices” to express their wants. Children develop strategies to solve their problems through communication. A disadvantage is that the teacher will utilize time to engage in conflict resolution. However, time spent working with children on steps at the beginning of the year, will reap greater benefits in the long-term.
Option 2 does align with what we know about the developmental capacity for young children to share. Sharing is a skill that takes time to develop in young children and the teacher’s role in modeling and facilitating it is critical. For further suggestions and creative ways to teach sharing, read Creative Ways to Teach Sharing.