Module D1

Expressing Warmth to Children

We make sure the good things children do are recognized and appreciated in an authentic way.

Participants begin by taking a careful look at children they work with and noting what they like to see children do. Based upon what they observe and record over a few days, participants create their own categories of desirable actions. Then over several further investigations they come to define how they want to respond to children and explore new ways to convey their positive regard. Once new positive responses to children are in place, they articulate the guidelines for how to communicate that warmth to all the children, not just the ones they normally see. Finally, in a Project of Understanding they demonstrate new, enhanced effectiveness in teaching young children.


Each of the 6 investigations invites the participants to closely observe an aspect of their experience with young children, as parents, caregivers, or teachers. They observe children’s actions or the adult’s actions and draw conclusions from what they find out. Participants bring these representations of events in their lives with children back to the weekly discussion group, where they share their own experience and listen to similar experiences of others.

1. Values

Assignment: Record examples of positive things you see children do that you value inside, outside and at group/meal times. Write each example on a sticky note. At the end of the week sort the notes into categories of your own choosing and give that category a name.

Reflection: When the participants meet, they share their lists. At the end of the discussion period, the Guide asks, “What are your categories?” and lists them on chart paper or types them on a computer. Then the Guide asks, “What did you discover?” Here are thoughts of one group. The sharing of categories was helpful. Our emphases were different. It’s nice to see we are noting the same kinds of things. Doing this helps me focus on the positive things. I like taking the time to focus on what is right. I saw children solving problems on their own. As an observer I was less likely to jump in and more likely to let them work it out.

2. Responses of Adults

Assignment: Collect examples of how you see other adults respond to children, approving or disapproving of what they do. Compare your own behavior with a handout of approving messages and disapproving messages collected by watching elementary school teachers. Mark any disapproving messages you have sent to children recently.

Reflection: When the participants meet again they share their work for 20 minutes. Then the Guide takes them through a process of writing a personal declaration for being the ideal person you want to be with children. Each person writes a personal declaration in the form of  “Who I am is the possibility of _____________ . That is who I am.” One at a time, each stands and reads the declaration to the group. The group applauds twice: when they stand and after they make their declaration.

3. Habits

Assignment: Record the number of times you say “no” and “don’t” to children and adults all day for five days.

Reflection: At the next meeting they share their experiences. The Guide leads the group through four reflection questions. When hurting or danger is at stake, what can we say? How do children react to our saying no and don’t? Where do our habits come from? How can we change our habits?

4. Non-verbal Recognition

Assignment: Intensively practice responding positively to children without using words — by facial expressions, body movements, and sounds of pleasure and surprise. Keep track of what happens to the children and to yourself as you do this.

Reflection: After sharing and discussion time, the Guide asks, “What did you notice?” The Guide records what they say. Here is one group’s response. When you give non-verbal positives, it seems like the children are searching inwardly for their own goodness rather than having that given to them. They look intently at me. Children are so conditioned to look for praise, but they really are looking for recognition, not praise. This is a way to show more genuine enthusiasm. The children see that it is genuine. The children totally blossomed in front of me.

5. Descriptions

Assignment: Intensively practice making objective, factual statements about the actions you value without inserting any opinions or judgments.

Reflection: The participants share their week’s investigation. The Guide compiles their answers to this question: “What was the effect of descriptions as positive recognition?” Here are examples of what one group said. It is hard not to put my opinions in it. I want to add a positive judgment to the statement. I felt more honest. I noticed that the children did more positive actions immediately afterward. It kept my involvement with the children more appropriate. As a result we had more teamwork and willingness to follow through until the job was done. My day went better because I focused on what I valued. I find myself treating the children as friends. So this is what being a teacher is like: a positive enabler.

6. Distribution

Assignment: Make a chart with all the children’s names. Tally the number of times you express warmth through non-verbal recognition and descriptions to each and every child for two weeks.

Reflection: At the end of the first week they share their data. After that discussion time the Guide asks, “If you could establish a policy on how adults best respond to children, what would it be?” Here are the thoughts of one group. Get down on their level. Listen to what the children are saying. Make positive recognition equitable. Understand more and judge less. Recognize the distinction between misbehavior and a mistake. Share our adult experiences with them.

Performance of Understanding

7. Project of Understanding

The first part of the Performance of Understanding requires participants to prove they can use the knowledge, skills and dispositions they have gained in the module to make a change in a child or a group of children. This is documentation of the story of change. That story has a beginning, the way it was in the beginning, what you did along the way, and the final result. That documentation must meet four criteria: (1) it must be shared with the group in a formal presentation; (2) it must have a clear objective; (3) non-verbal responding and descriptions are used; (4) observable child change occurred.

8. Expression of Understanding

The second part of the Performance of Understanding requires participants to communicate the deep, personal significance of the work done in the investigations, the discussions, and the project. This is an Expression of Understanding. Participants formulate in any way they wish (poem, dance, story, letter, chart, image, song, etc.) the effect of the study of this module has had on them personally.

Click here for examples of Projects of Understanding for Module D1

Click here for examples of Expressions of Understanding for Module D1

Next D1 Projects