Find opportunities to speak
Make eye contact and actively listen
Use body language and facial expressions and be approachable
React and comment on what is being said
Be interested, responding and questioning to maintain conversation.
It is important that children are given enough opportunities to talk. This is due to the fact that some children have very little chance to put their own thoughts forward and express themselves with adults. The child may lack confidence and will need to be given a chance to “warm up” first so that they feel able to do so. As a teaching assistant, if you say you are listening, but are looking away or are busy doing different activities, the child can get mixed messages or signals; ultimately the child will believe that you are not interested in what they are saying. Always make sure that if a pupil is talking, you are listening. Children thrive when the adult shows interest in what they are saying, for instance with very young children, get down to their level. This is due to the fact that it can be very intimidating to have someone towering over them. It is also important that you smile at the child and react in a positive way to what they are saying. As a teaching assistant, you may need to repeat back to pupils to check your understanding, particularly if they have used incorrect language, for instance “I bringed my book in today”, an adult will then passively correct the child “you have brought your book in today” to ensure that the adult and child have a shared understanding. It is paramount to model and invite the “norms” of a conversation with children so that they can build up an understanding about how it works, this can be done through experience. For children to communicate effectively, they should be encouraged to ask questions and put their ideas forward. The child should feel relaxed and confident enough in school to do this, it is by questioning and finding out that they learn. Children should also be able to offer their own suggestions and ideas so that there is a two-way dialogue between adults and pupils rather than a one-way flow of instructions, this can help to encourage positive relationships.
When developing relationships with children, adults may need to change and adapt their behaviour. Children of all ages, cultures and abilities need to feel secured and valued and an adult’s interaction with them should demonstrate this. Through positively communicating with and being involved with children, members of school staff can show them that they are part of a school community, however this is not the same as always giving children attention when they demand it. Therefore the following criteria should be fulfilled:
The age of the child or young person
The context of the communication
Children of different ages require different levels of attention. Younger children may need more reassurance, especially when they first start school; they may also need more physical contact as well. As children get older, they may need more help with talking through issues and reflecting on their thoughts. An adult’s vocabulary may need to be adapted and it should be considered how to interact with pupils positively as they are listened and responded to. As a teaching assistant, you will be dealing with children in a variety of different situations. Adults always need to be mindful of this and should therefore adapt their vocabulary accordingly. When working on a learning activity, it is important that all children are…