Open Thread: Words create worlds

Published by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 12:49 PM

Words create worlds. Accordingly, positive words will create (mostly) positive worlds — whereas negative words will create (mostly) negative worlds. So use your words wisely, especially your questions — as they tend to create the worlds within other people’s minds. — David Cooperrider

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If you received my newsletter last weekend, you know why it’s been quiet around these parts for several months (and why I had to cease publishing the Tip Sheet). If you’re already on the PBH mailing list, but didn’t see the newsletter in your inbox, check your spam folder (or, if you have gmail, your social and promotions tabs); if you want to get the one I sent last weekend, sign up fast and I’ll get it to you before the new one goes out on Sunday.

Easing back into things, I’m reinstituting an open thread most weekends! Have anything you want to discuss? Ask? Share? Do it here! It’s your thread.

 

Love what David Cooperrider says above about words creating worlds — and the importance of being careful with your questions. When we talk with children about their interests and plans, we can accidentally kill their enthusiasm with the wrong question. We can create possibilities — or we can accidentally squelch them. I’ll put some of my ideas for engagement-killing questions in the comments!

So what’s on YOUR mind this weekend?

25 comments

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 01:04 PM

A few questions might kill enthusiasm:

Why are you doing THAT? (better: Interesting — tell me about that.)

Do you really think that’s going to work? (much better: If that doesn’t work, what will you try next?)

Why don’t you ever […]?

Does that make sense to you? (implying you already know the right way/the answer)

Does that seem realistic to you?

Why don’t you finish xyz first?

Why don’t you wait until later?

Why don’t you ask […] for help?

Comment by Kerry on August 26, 2016 at 02:49 PM

I wish there was a way to completely erase these phrases from my vocabulary. Ugh I hate how easily and often they pop up if I'm not paying attention.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 02:53 PM

I was just talking to someone about this — how the wrong thing comes out and you want to grab it and stuff it back in!

Comment by Tonya Prim on August 26, 2016 at 01:36 PM

With all the talk lately about "grit" in education, I thought I would point something out that I noticed in my son this week. He has been teaching himself computer coding for the last three years or so. It's always with an objective in mind, "how can I accomplish such-and-such in this video game?" or "how can I cut down the lag time on our computer?" Of course, that means a lot of trial and error, but he powers through to get to the end result. Well, this week he was working on some math on Khan Academy, and it took him a while to get the hang of it. When he was finally able to answer several questions correctly in a row, he completed the practice session and earned the corresponding points, along with a badge for perseverance. I love that this website gives credit for sticking with it, and I know exactly how he learned to do that: by teaching himself how to code because he wanted to learn it for a specific purpose. Schools tend to look at the importance of grit and try to force it on their kids with "rigorous acadmics", which I've learned is code for doing a bunch of stuff you hate to do ad nauseum. Well, I like the way my son learned to have grit a whole lot better!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 01:51 PM

“Schools tend to look at the importance of grit and try to force it on their kids with "rigorous acadmics", which I've learned is code for doing a bunch of stuff you hate to do ad nauseum. Well, I like the way my son learned to have grit a whole lot better!”

i agree with you so much — i hate how schools have twisted the idea of “grit” to mean this: you need to learn to knuckle down and do things that WE say are important. bleah.

i’ve also seen at least one homeschool blogger apply it in the same way — “i am making my child do XYZ against his will because that way he will learn grit!” um, no.

carol dweck wrote about how schools misused the growth mindset here and angela duckworth implores schools/school systems to stop assessing grit here.

grit is pretty much the same thing as conscientiousness and eric has a couple of great articles here and here about now crucial that trait is.

Comment by Miranda Jubb on August 27, 2016 at 06:37 AM

Yes, this whole 'grit' thing gets applied in some very contradictory ways sometimes. How is forcing someone to do something going to teach them to stick with things themselves? Grit for me is supposed to be about having a determination to work at something, and that determination needs to come from within.

I saw a video of 'mothers of Olympians' talking about how they had to force their children to keep on with their sport and how it was all worth it now they made it to the Olympics. This makes me so uncomfortable. Would it have not been worth it if they hadn't become champions? Is that the point of sport? Let alone the idea of the parent who 'knows' better than the child that they have talent and so must make sure they pursue it whether or not they want to.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 27, 2016 at 07:10 AM

it amazes me that people think helping kids become “gritty” can be separated from helping kids do things they WANT to do!

angela duckworth has said “Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” you can’t force passion — and you may be able to help a child develop grit around THEIR long-term goals, but can you do it around goals they have NO interest in?

that olympic parent story makes me wince as well. i am sure that the kids became more motivated when they succeeded and began getting positive recogntion for their talents — but what about the kids who were pushed and didn’t become olympic athletes? and do we care if kids are programmed to perform for external praise and recognition?

Comment by Tonya Prim on August 26, 2016 at 02:12 PM

Thanks for those links; I'll add them to my weekend reading list.

Comment by Tonya Prim on August 26, 2016 at 02:18 PM

By the way, today my son is doing trigonometry on purpose for fun on a day off school because he wants to use real-world physics to make the projectile that he is creating in a video game produce a sonic boom. (13 years old)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 02:52 PM

excellent! :")

Comment by Kerry on August 26, 2016 at 05:41 PM

I am thinking a lot about the pbh digital arts group I am starting this fall. I imagine a bunch of blank stares while I stand in front of the class asking enthusiastically, "what should we do?"

...Bueller, Bueller

So, I read the teen section of your guide for starting groups to my teens, who squealed when I read the part about offering toys and started brainstorming about what we could bring. They are frustrated that our co-op leader has scheduled our class the same time as the sewing class. No easy way around it, I can see that as a grown up who's tried to make a schedule, but it does seem to split the group into boys and girls. So my girls plan to bring our sewing machine as a tool, along with big pieces of fabric and old costumes in the hopes of inspiring the boys (and girls) to sew costumes or props for their projects.

I am really counting on their enthusiasm to fuel the group, at least in the beginning, but then I worry they'll take over. They are planning to be co-leaders with me, and I'm finding myself torn between encouraging their ideas and holding them back to to see where the group goes.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2016 at 06:31 PM

oh my gosh, that idea of combining the sewing with the digital art projects! <3__<3

love love love

if their enthusiasm sparks ideas in the other kids, they won’t take over — they’ll be too busy doing their stuff and it should hopefully explode off in different directions. meetings can help them keep contributing ideas and suggestions and feedback to each other’s projects … plus maybe jumping into each other’s projects!

i also wouldn’t worry *too* much if some kids are more “followers,” helping other kids with their ideas … some kids need more time to get comfortable in a situation like this with no one telling them what to do and how to do it … they will probably warm up with time and even helping someone else they can begin to suggest their own ideas and solutions and so on. :")

can’t wait to see how this goes!

Comment by Kerry on August 28, 2016 at 02:20 PM

Thank you! I loved the idea of the sewing mixed in too! Then worried we should wait until the group asked, but realized quickly my girls' have project plans too, and they're asking for it, why would I wait? I'm so worried about steering too much that I'm holding them back. Even though their projects, that have stalled for lack of a group to work with, is the reason we're starting the group, so of course starting with their projects is the way to go. ugh I overthink when I'm nervous >.<

My other worry is that we have limited computers and cameras and editing programs. So we will likely use a variety, many that I know nothing about. I know for me this will work as a positive because I'll be less likely to jump in and save struggling kids, but I'm nervous about not being able to provide as much program instruction as the parents might expect. I know the kids will come up with some neat ways to make, edit, and share their work. And, if my own kids' excitement is any indication, it will be a fun class. Hopefully it's enough.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 29, 2016 at 09:07 AM

i think offering tools is different from suggesting ideas — and hopefully your girls’ enthusiasm is going to generate MORE ideas. once *someone* is producing, conversation starts — questions, suggestions, problems that need solving — and then you get group discussion, new ideas spawning off, etc.

we’ll see what happens, but limitations can be GOOD. it can be better to have limited computers/cameras because you’ll get three kids sharing one camera and figuring out how to take turns and swapping out jobs, etc. — one will help set shots up and one will bounce light around and one will be setting up the tripod, and so on. whereas if every single person had their own camera + computer + software, where would collaboration come in?

Comment by Elaine on August 26, 2016 at 11:32 PM

I am thinking about starting our first project with my 3 year old. I am not sure if she is ready to pursue a project by herself so am wondering if it is worthwhile to start something that is more adult led. She is really interested in bears, and I have lots of ideas about how to explore that more deeply but I know a major part of the project is that it is child led.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 27, 2016 at 06:42 AM

my earliest experiences with project-based learning were with 3- and 4-year-olds at my tiny independent school — that age revels in projects! :")

i think you should start the way you want to continue. there is no reason at all why you need to start adult-led. 

what is important isn’t WHAT she does or what facts about bears she manages to pick up — what is important is that she learns that she can have ideas and make them happen, that she can explore and figure things out, that she can express her own ideas and ask her own questions.

she can start with play and open-ended art experiences and you will learn why she is interested in bears and what she wants to know — then you can help her find out herself!

good luck and let me know how it’s going!

Comment by Janet Stücklin on August 27, 2016 at 08:47 AM

There is nothing wrong with adult-led activities. It's only unhelpful when we take over a child-led project. This took me years to get, though Lori is quite clear about it. We should fit into our schedule what is important to US then really let your kids be the leaders when it's their turn!

Comment by Elaine on August 29, 2016 at 01:46 PM

Thanks for your thoughts!

Comment by Elaine on August 29, 2016 at 01:45 PM

Thanks for the reply. I have read your posts about projects with preschoolers, and they are very helpful. I guess we might as well try and see what happens!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 30, 2016 at 10:01 AM

let me know how it’s going! :")

Comment by Miranda Jubb on August 27, 2016 at 06:57 AM

We've had such a busy summer with camping trips and festivals and whatnot and this last week is the first time we've all been settled at home with a bit of much needed rest. My oldest daughter (nearly 11) has immediately jumped into a new project about the 'Warrior Cats' books - what is funny is that she hasn't even read them yet, just come across them in online RPG-ing and investigated (they've just come into the library though so sure a reading binge is on the cards tonight...). She's been reading and writing fanfiction, she's uploaded her first book to fanfiction.net already, she's written poems, she's made things on Scratch and explored interactive fiction, she's been doing art and pretend play, she's making friends in Warrior Cats RPGs online... It's particularly exciting because this is the first time she has shared anything like that with anyone outside of family - I have encouraged her to put stuff up online before but she is quite shy about it. It seems the community she has found has somehow made this easier for her which is wonderful. Now I just have to try not to worry she might get unhelpful feedback from strangers....

The idea of words and the way we approach our children's interests was a good reminder for me here. We were visiting with some very literary and intellectual relatives recently and one cousin (who is a writer for children) was asking my daughter about her reading. She wanted to talk about Warrior Cats and I was a bit torn between supporting her interest and maintaining my own bookish credentials! I could see there was definitely a bit of snobbery going on and I was not immune to it either. The writer recommended another more literary 'cats' book, which I'm sure is wonderful, but which misses the point entirely. As my daughter hasn't even read the books yet it's clearly something about the fictional world and opportunity for creativity that she is drawn to rather than the quality of the writing itself.

Anyway I *mostly* managed to avoid saying anything that might be viewed as negative, although I probably didn't do as good a job as I could have talking up her interest, partly because it was in fairly nascent stages then. I think I'm getting there with seeing the value of interests the world might deem trivial, but it's still hard to defend it to those who look down on it. Perhaps my own insecurities coming into play...

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 27, 2016 at 09:13 AM

“It's particularly exciting because this is the first time she has shared anything like that with anyone outside of family - I have encouraged her to put stuff up online before but she is quite shy about it. It seems the community she has found has somehow made this easier for her which is wonderful.”

how wonderful! :"D)

diving in when she hadn’t even read them yet — i know other PBHers who have done the same thing! sometimes i think the *idea* is incredibly captivating when you just know a few details. your imagination can race ahead…

i’m sure unhelpful feedback WILL eventually be given … but that is unavoidable, and it gives her the opportunity to learn to winnow out the unhelpful advice … and you can help her with that. <3

As my daughter hasn't even read the books yet it's clearly something about the fictional world and opportunity for creativity that she is drawn to rather than the quality of the writing itself.

yes, this! if she hasn’t even experienced the writing yet, it’s obviously not the draw — she’s captivated by something else.

The writer recommended another more literary 'cats' book, which I'm sure is wonderful, but which misses the point entirely.

exactly so. and this is not something you can usually explain to people adequately in a brief visit … if ever … so you end up having to swallow your own pride in order to protect your child’s work!

I think I'm getting there with seeing the value of interests the world might deem trivial, but it's still hard to defend it to those who look down on it. Perhaps my own insecurities coming into play...

it sounds to me like you are doing great. examining our own discomfort is part of the work — and it can free us up about our own interests as well!

 

Comment by Janet Stücklin on August 27, 2016 at 08:53 AM

I love the open thread!

Small win: we went to the zoo and I brought the kids' journals. All three ended up sketching or writing something of their own free will (6,4, and 3 yrs old). Of note, they were not inspired to when I pulled out my journal, but rather when they saw a group of high schoolers sketching.

I love that they were free to run around and take in the zoo with all their enthusiasm first, then sit down to observe more closely when they were ready. It was a contrast to the school group where the kids rushed around trying to fill in their sheets so they could get on with enjoying the zoo on their terms.

Same activities, different motives. Vastly different learning experience. Thanks, Lori!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 27, 2016 at 09:18 AM

me too! :") i’ve missed it.

what a great win! i love that the high school students inspired them; how wonderful that they were there.

I love that they were free to run around and take in the zoo with all their enthusiasm first, then sit down to observe more closely when they were ready.

It was a contrast to the school group where the kids rushed around trying to fill in their sheets so they could get on with enjoying the zoo on their terms.

love this observation. the “eat your vegetables first” approach vs. the wholistic approach.

and it ALWAYS works better to play/run around first … but you’ve highlighted something essential: being able to take it all in before working in a more focused manner only makes sense. how could you concentrate on a tiny piece if you haven’t scanned the whole? and it’s a version of free exploration before purposeful work, as well.

Same activities, different motives. Vastly different learning experience.

perfectly said.

Comment by Janet Stücklin on August 28, 2016 at 09:08 AM

Thanks!

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