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Now's Co-operative Newsletter
9 July 2000, #9

I'm not going to write about receiving comments this issue.

Oh, I just did. It seems that when we use negatives we first make a mental picture of something and then cross it out in our minds. I could have avoided writing about comments by not having done it at all. But once I mention it, even negatively, it's too late. The idea is brought into the mind even though I don't want it to be.

This issue I'm going to explore negativity. Oh no!

Signature

Dont' worry - be happy

One of the first commands I teach Kindergarten children is "Don't!" Sometimes I wonder if I should really be teaching "Stop!" but I usually return to "Don't " because it has more applications - it's a bigger jigsaw piece in the puzzle of learning English.

When I taught large classes I used to introduce the phrase by using a pair of outdoor shoes. I'd start the class with stocking feet and part way through 'discover' that the children all had indoor shoes. I'd then get my pair of outdoor shoes and go through the motions of putting them on. I used my knowledge of Japanese culture - wearing outdoor shoes in a gymnasium is an anathema the children wouldn't allow. The idea of 'don't!' sprang into their minds and after that it was easy to teach them the English word to express the idea. I'd end up with a pair of indoor shoes as well and we'd all have fun as I struggled to hold the shoes and get the right ones on my feet (they had laces, of course).

After that we could play games based on "Simon Says" with a leader giving commands and mixing in don't to catch people out. We did it for fun, we never eliminated anyone who make a mistake.

We never eliminated someone who made a mistake!

What a horribly negative statement!

One of the exercises I do with more experienced learners is to get them to rewrite 'negative sentences' and put them in a positive way.

I could have written. We did it for fun with everyone playing and laughing together. Would that have seemed different?

It's amazing how much secret negativity there is in our lives. As an experiment observe your own language for a day and see how many times negatives creep in. How many of those negative thoughts did you really need?

He was very good - He realised it was his own fault

Young children have a remarkable capacity for obeying orders. Even the ones that seem to mismatch and do the opposite of what we want.

One of the presuppositions of NLP that I missed out last time is that the Unconscious mind doesn't think in negatives - I mean only thinks in positives.

The truth of this came and said hello in a very interesting way. In one class with some housewives I explained this idea and we practised rewriting some negative sentences. The next week one of the housewives was late. She told us she'd been to the hospital with her young son. She told us the story of how her family had gone out for the day and her son had been running around a public hall. He ran into a pillar and needed to go to hospital to have a couple of stitches for a gashed forehead. But he was very good she said. He'd realised it was his own fault. Just before it had happened she'd told him "Don't run or you'll hurt yourself!" And then she suddenly realised what she had told him. She virtually gave him an instruction to run and hurt himself and he complied! What she had really meant was "Slow down!"

So the next time you find a child spilling a drink after being told "Don't spill the drink!" you'll see it for yourself.

Incidentally the same child used to give his mother lots of trouble by banging a toy drum. I suggested she used reverse psychology and suggest to him that he play louder. It worked. Some children (and adults for that matter) like using mismatching strategies. They like to go the other way. Perhaps they want to experience feeling they have a choice.

But that's another story.

Jenga

JengaRecently I had what I thought was a brilliant idea - take a Jenga set and number it. Then give each student a task list and play the game.

My idea was that we would play together with the objective of making the Jenga tower as high as possible. There would be no strict turn taking. A player would take a block, read the number and then consult the task list. Once a task was completed the player could place the block and then take a new one.

The beauty of the idea, I thought, was that I could make individual task lists for individual players.

But in practise the idea was less successful than I had imagined it would be.

First of all there are 54 blocks and I found making up a task list with 54 different tasks time-consuming. With one class I tried leaving some numbers blank but I left too many. Getting a task was seen as unlucky.

I think a better alternative would be to repeat tasks but I have yet to test this.

But the main problem was lack of skill. The elementary aged children I tried the idea out with enjoyed the game but they kept knocking the tower over. The amount of time on task compared with the time of resetting the game up was disappointing for me. But for change it's probably more than OK.

Under Pressure

Just yesterday I had an experience that led me to review my methods. I was teaching a brother and sister and we were playing a game where they were spelling words. Suddenly the girl, who is younger, began crying.

The game we were playing was co-operative but I was using a timer. We were playing a chase game and I was using the timer to make the game more exciting and challenging (or so I thought). The idea was that every 25 seconds the timer would go and the chasing monster would move. Meanwhile when they successfully wrote a word they would role a dice and move a key towards a door. The timer was supposed to be independent. I wasn't timing the children. At least I thought I wasn't.

The incident reminded me that it's best to let children develop and choose their own challenges. I imposed the timer without asking them. Previously we had done the game without a timer and it was getting too easy and hence a little stale. But I could have told the children how well they were doing and how it was time for a new challenge. I could have got their agreement.

Next time I will.

My Back (WEB) Pages

Phonics KeyYou can get to the updated version of my phonics pages by clicking the key. I've added sound now. But there's a long way to go before it's finished.

Ending

Promise

Lead me by the hand
To the promised land
When we get there
Let me breathe the air
And I shall see
Work makes free

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Note: Now's Co-operative Newsletter used photos to link to other sites. Some links have been replaced as the original websites have disappeared. Accordingly notall photos lead back to the sites they came from. Spelling has been left as was - ouch!

For the record:

Unfortunately the phonics key game is no more - the files are lost.

last updated: 5th August 2005

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