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Valuing Ideas

I choose a teachable moment to tell a story that encourages risk-taking and mutual respect during discussion -- when a child's response to a question is met with tittering causing the child to feel embarrassed. I tell this story: This reminds me of a story I've been meaning to share. A few years ago many of my students went to see the circus when it was in town. Our discussion came around to trying to decide who was the most important person in the circus. One child raised his hand to say that the ringmaster was most important. Another said the acrobats were most important. Yet another said the motor cyclist was most important. Throughout the discussion a quiet hand attached to a patient person remained in the air. I asked that child, 'Who do you think is most important? ' The child announced that no one may have noticed but each time the lights went out a person went around checking the cables on the safety net to make certain no one was injured. We voted on who the class thought was the most important and the safety net person won, hands down. Then I tell the students we need a safety net in our class so that on one is ever harmed in any way. We discuss physical and emotional harm. I ask if there is some signal we can use with our bodies to alert one another that we need to raise the safety net to support someone in case he/she is in danger of falling. The signal we most often use is both hands clasped together and while still clasped, opened wide. This signal stops a student from laughing at a fellow student's idea and assures the speaker that he/she has everyone's attention. This strategy works well to make students aware of choices available to them in responding to classmates and also improves listening skills.


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