Let the Kids Do the Thinking This Summer!

By Megan Green | Categories: Summer School

There is power in letting the kids do the thinking and the talking. A successful day for after-school leaders is when they go home rested and the kids are exhausted from all of the thinking and collaborating! Facilitating more and talking less is something you can make happen this summer or as soon as tomorrow. With a few adjustments in the way you lead, you can be a  “guide on the side” so that the children do the majority of the thinking and talking.

There are plenty of ways leaders can put kids in charge of the heavy lifting, but for many of us, it’s a change in how we work. It may also be a new experience for the kids. As with anything new, allow everyone time to adjust to this new way of working together. Success won’t happen overnight, but with patience and practice, you will succeed and grow.

Here are some facilitation tips to keep in mind when you shift to this way of leading:

Ask open-ended questions. Avoid yes/no questions that provide little feedback to inform your decisions. Think of what you will get from your kids if you ask an open-ended question like, “What would you like to do differently next time?” rather than “Should we do it differently next time?”

Use wait-time. Of course, you may not get thoughtful responses if you don’t allow your children adequate time to think about their answers. You must wait for kids to answer. If you slowly count to 10 in your head, most of the time you will get an answer. It may seem awkward at first, but you and the kids will get used to it. Children appreciate the opportunity to be heard; be an active listener and you will be amazed by what you learn.

Give every child a chance to talk. It’s easy for a few confident, outgoing children to monopolize a discussion. To give all children ample opportunities to be heard, try some of these strategies and facilitation techniques during discussion or brainstorming time:

  • Think, Pair, Share Use this technique after you have asked an open-ended question. First, give the children time to think, and then have them turn to the person next to them and discuss the answer to the question. Finally, have a group discussion. 
  • Think, Pair, Write As in “Think, Pair, Share,” children think for a few minutes individually before talking with a partner. Then the children write their ideas down. Pairs may then be asked to share their writing with another pair or with the class.
  • Heads Together In this exercise, groups of four students discuss a question among themselves. Groups may then share their thinking with the other groups.
  • Turn to Your Partner Allow children to have a discussion with a partner to answer a question. By allowing each child to turn and talk to the person next to them, all the children get a chance to speak. If you ask a question and only call on a couple of children to answer, most of the kids do not get a chance to respond. 
  • See More Tips Click here to access a pdf of the leader facilitation tips that were covered in this blog post.

Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself: who is talking more, you or the kids? What are you doing to give the kids more time to talk? What are your biggest challenges in implementing the ideas provided in this post? What are you going to try this summer?

For more ideas and inspiration,  read more blogs about summer school from Collaborative Classroom.