Module D4

Attending to Initiative, Cooperation, and Perseverance

We define these concepts first, then create a Learning Story about initiative directed toward either cooperation with other children or perseverance through a difficulty.

In the final module participants co-construct a shared understanding of what these three concepts mean. They examine children to find examples of initiative and define it. They examine cooperative acts and define cooperation, which is often different than the literature defines it. They examine how children react when they face difficult challenges. In the culminating project, the participants create a Learning Story of a child on the topic of cooperation or perseverance. Like all Learning Stories, it begins with a child’s initiative.


1. Initiative

Assignment: The Guide reads the first investigation on initiative. Participants select one child to observe for 15 minutes writing down each action a child begins without a cue from others. Then on another day the task is to do the same with a second child. To practice the Guide shows a short movie available at Vimeo.

Reflection: After 20 minutes of sharing these two observations, the Guide asks, “What did you notice about initiative?” One group made these comments. I noticed a quiet child always waited for someone else to initiate things. I saw many different kinds of initiative; children approached things in different ways. It seems like the more active, highly initiating children expand and energize the play of others. I have a child who turns away, says no to others, and refuses to do what others suggest.

2. Initiative Study

Assignment: The task begins by making a list of each time of the day with children and label sheets of paper with those names. Then record examples of initiative that happen in each of those times on sticky notes. Record only desirable kinds of initiative. Collect items until you have filled the page. Before the next meeting take the notes off of all the pages, put them together and sort them into categories of initiative that make sense to you.

Reflection: After sharing with each other, the Guide compiles a list of the kinds of initiative categories. One group had these categories. Unique/inventive use; divergence from the norm; self-monitoring; celebration; incredible imagination. The Guide then asks, “What did you learn from doing this initiative study?” One group said this. I got a different perspective on what the children are doing. Now I look at children more positively. I see adults actually stopping kinds of initiative that I value now. I see, too, how I have created dependence in children before.

3. Cooperation

Assignment: Participants consider a list of examples of what children did when washing their hands deciding which actions were cooperative. The task is to collect short descriptions of cooperative acts you observe to bring to the next session.

Reflection: Participants share their lists. Then the Guide asks, “When we use the word ‘cooperation’ what do we mean?” One group said it this way. We describe something as ‘cooperative’ when children work together towards a common goal; when children talk together to decide what to do; when children act out of concern for others; when they adjust their own actions to accomodate the actions of others; and when we see obvious enjoyment from the presence of others.

4. Cooperation Study

Assignment: Create a chart that lists the children’s names on the left side and the next 10 school days across the top. Make a tally mark each time a child acts cooperatively according to our definition.

Reflection: Participants show each other the first 5 days of data on their cooperative record and talk about the unchecked boxes. The Guide records their thoughts about what the data means. One group said this. The data showed me who can really cooperate and who I need to work with more. Some children cooperate with only one friend. Children who do not get marked placed themselves away from situations where cooperation could occur, possibly to avoid situations that could require them to cooperate. School is a place that honors all cultures and is a place for us all to come together to work as a team to benefit our lives and each person’s future.

5. Perseverance

Assignment: Perseverance is defined as the amount of time a person stays with a task. Pick a child that you think changes activities more often than anyone else. Then watch this child for exactly 20 minutes. Using a stopwatch or your cell phone timer record the exact start time of purposeful, focused engagement and then the time that segment stopped. Compute the average engagement time and the percent of the 20 minutes that the child was engaged.

Reflection: Participants have time to discuss the second five days of their chart of cooperation and then the engagement times of their active child. The Guide then asks, “What can we do to extend the time of engagement?” One group said this. We can provide materials based upon the child’s interests. We can limit distractions. We can make sure we have enough materials. We can take time to observe closely. We can model excitement and enthusiasm. We can be flexible with the schedule to make sure children have enough time to be engaged.

6. Perseverance Study

Assignment: Present a possibly frustrating task to one child, such as a puzzle that is too difficult  You have to find a challenge that the child will try, but cannot succeed. Then watch the child carefully without helping at all. The task is to observe what happens when the child experiences frustration. Simply remain quiet. If you have to say something, say, “I am watching you.”

Reflection: Participants share what they did and what happened to the child experiencing difficulties. Then the Guide asks, “What can we generalize about children’s struggles?” One group said this. Children need latitude and options to look for other solutions; the adult has only one answer. We have to stand back and recognize that the process has as much value as the outcome. Children have different standards about when something is done.

Performance of Understanding

7. Project of Understanding

Assignment: Create a Learning Story following the guides for writing Learning Stories that starts with a child’s initiative and shows change in cooperation or perseverance. After presenting this to this group, where we ensure it meets criteria, share the story with the child and the child’s family and add their thoughts on a final page.

8. Expression of Understanding

Assignment: Your task is to communicate the deep significance of the work on all the modules — Expressing Warmth, Playing Responsively, Talking Informatively, and Attending to Initiative, Cooperation, and Perseverance — in any way you wish. You can use any expressive medium to convey, in your unique way, your understanding of your transformation in Connecting to Children.

Next D4 Projects