We recognize, that for many, the use of publicly displayed systems is grounded in the desire to give feedback (i.e., to immediately notify children about how they are doing).
We also recognize and promote the delivery of effective feedback as a critical element of quality instruction.
And while behavioral charts and cards can provide immediate information, they don’t always provide effective feedback.
In fact, there are a few things we need to remember when considering the use of behavioral charts and cards:
- First, children, especially those who are young and/or who have delays or disabilities, may not have the cognitive skills to understand the symbolic representation used in the charting system.
- Second, children may not connect their action with the change in the behavioral chart, rendering the system is useless in actually giving feedback.
- Third, children may be confused about what they should have done to avoid their clip from having been moved to another color or their card having been flipped.
- Fourth, there are a number of unintended (and harmful) consequences for using charts and cards that are publicly displayed.
In today’s post, ideas for giving children effective feedback, without using publicly displayed cards and charts, are provided.
Feedback is most effective, when it is targeted, specific, and timely.
Targeted is synonymous with being intentional. It means that we’ve considered the desired result, the mediating factors, and selected a type of feedback that is a good match for the child, the situation, and the eventual outcome.
Specific is closely related to targeted in the sense of a match; however, it also has to do with being personalized, descriptive, and relevant to the child and the situation. Specific feedback provides clear and detailed information about how the child can respond to the situation differently next time.
Timely has to do with when the feedback is delivered; and for young children, this often translates into “right now,” not in 15 minutes, later in the day, and certainly not later in the week. To deliver timely feedback, consider that a child in the middle of a tantrum or meltdown, may need to regain a more neutral, emotional state before the child is receptive.
Speaking of meltdowns, even in the middle of one, you can give children feedback that you are listening and ready to support.
Adapting from the work of Siegel and Payne Bryson (see “No Drama Discipline” and “Whole-Brain Child”), when we find a child escalating or in a full-blown meltdown, we need to give more subtle feedback by connecting, validating, listening, and restating.
Let’s explore the four steps a little further…
Step 1: Connect
- Get within physical reach
- Get a little below the child’s eye level
- Take a few breaths
Step 2: Validate
- Make a simple, reflective statement (e.g., “You are frustrated that___, It seems like___, I wonder if ___”)
- Remember, this is not a time to teach, just validate
- Validation doesn’t mean you approve or that the child’s behavior was “okay”
Step 3: Listen
- Hear how the child feels; gather information and know what is going on
- Try not to talk; do however, maintain proximity and touch if it is acceptable to the child
- Show that you are understanding of the situation; you don’t have to agree with it to acknowledge it
Step 4: Restate
- Say back to the child, what you heard from them
- Keep your restatement brief
- Your restatement just affirms that you “heard” them, not that you agree
The key to giving effective feedback, particularly in the middle of a meltdown, is to remember that during times like these, it isn’t helpful to remind children of the classroom rules, or to try and give them feedback in terms of more pro-social behaviors. Rather, we need to give children feedback that shows they are safe, that the strong emotion they are feeling is temporary, and that we are here to help.
P.S. Download a Practice Point, which offers more solutions for giving effective feedback.
P.P.S. Click here to read an informative article on the differences between a tantrums and a sensory meltdowns.