June 19, 2012

Building rapport through child-led interactions

During my Master I learned about Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which is a therapeutic method that aims to improve the disruptive parent-child relationships through the change of confrontational parent-child interaction patterns. The therapeutic sessions move from child-directed interactions to parent-directed interactions.

Here is how sessions work: a parent stays with his/her child in a room with toys. The therapist sees them through a one-way mirror and guides the parent through a bug that is worn. As interactions happen, the therapist either says what the parent should say or gives the command to the parent. In fact, the sessions are quite fun to watch when you see that at first parents miss the opportunities and that later they rejoice when they see that their children are getting closer to them.

I thought that the child-directed interactions were very interesting and that they could also be applied to the teaching of English to young children in small groups, as they nurture a space in which children are validated and can express themselves.

These interactions can be remembered by the acronym PRIDE.

P – Praising
R – Reflecting
I – Imitating
D – Describing
E - Enthusiasm

Below I outline these:

·      Praising is done when a teacher gives specific feedback to show children that he/she is observing, validating, and accepting their actions.
Example: Teacher: I notice how you are using such nice manners. 
                                      I can see you are separating the pieces carefully.

·      Reflecting is when a teacher shows that he/she has listened a student by paraphrasing what the student has said. A comment should be added for the interaction not to be plain echo.
Example: Student: My favorite is Play-Doh.
                    Teacher: Your favorite is Play-Doh. I like it too

·      Imitation happens when the teacher does similar things to what the student is doing, such as in their posture, language, and actions. It’s amazing how this works and how they feel valued when we copy something they are doing. This builds a path for them to copy us later.

·      Description happens when the teacher narrates what the child is doing without making any value judgement.
Example: Teacher: You are feeding the chickens.
                                     The cat is walking around the house.

        ·  Enthusiasm should be present in all interactions to show children that they are being accepted. It
          should be conveyed through intonation, volume, eye contact, and gestures. The tone of voice 
           should be normal, without any type of patronizing.

I believe that these interactions can be of use to language teachers in the first moments of classes and in situations in which rapport has been broken. These child-led interactions can be balanced with silence and laughter.

PCIT suggests that during the child-led interactions the following should be avoided:

Making any questions as these guide the play or can have embedded value judgements or hidden commands.
Example: What do you think we should do now?
                    Why did you do this?

Giving direct or indirect commands as these might be rejected by the children or imply that the child is doing something “wrong”.  
Example: Let’s color now.
                   You do the house and I will do the garden.
                   I think we should finish now.

Criticism does not nurture rapport, as it does not value how children do things.
Example: You know that isn’t right.
                   Look how you can do it right.

Here I have selected a video that shows a PCIT session taking place. Check how the imitation builds amazing rapport!

Let me know how you liked it and how it can be applied to your classes.
I'd love to hear from you, as it motivates me to write more often and to interact with other educators.

I send you a big hug from Toronto,


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