Teaching as a social enterprise

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The very nature of teaching is a social enterprise. As teachers, we establish an implicit contract with the children we teach which includes a promise to pay attention to what the child wants and needs and to assess tolerances and sensitivities on moment to moment basis. We promise to not go beyond them and to move along in teaching  with the child's consent...as indicated by their participation in learning.. and to make the necessary adjustments and accommodations along the way in order to maintain a child's enjoyment in learning.


A significant part of our work is to see that children become more fully engaged with us...in this social enterprise. To do so, we can arrange things so that children come to regard US, so that WE become more relevant, so that children follow our point, seek US out for things they need or want, or want to say, or ask, or share, or learn or that that children come to us for direction...so that they develop greater social awareness. We can arrange things so that children have to attend to us, so that we use a point, or gaze or some other gesture in order to provide children information they require to satisfy some desire or need (and not simply to only/always rely on specific verbal referents). It is possible to design exercises with these considerations in mind while also addressing specific 'content'.


Thus, one thing to consider for increasing social awareness is the use of demonstratives "this", "that", "here" "there" and other pronouns, "his", "hers", "him", "her" etc. when designing intervention. When we do so, children are required to attend to US and not simply our words...a computer can also produce words but can't point to something in the room. (Of course....This is not suggested at the exclusion of the use of specific referents). Other strategies such as 'contrived errors' or 'positional' considerations, orientational arrangements can also be considered.


Common exercises can be appropriated for different purposes, including the development of social awareness. Thus, matching exercises can be used teach children to track someone’s index finger, eye-gaze, to scan large arrays of stimuli, and search for objects that are not immediately available (retrieving objects from a distance).


In the example below, matching is used as a vehicle for fostering social awareness:


Shifting between instruction modalities (this is a modified version of an exercise found in Lund and Schnee, 2018)


Set up: Pictures are placed on a wall(s). Matching pictures are placed on the child’s desk and corresponding items are distributed around the room. Child is seated at the desk, instructor is standing by the wall.


Procedure 1: Point to a picture on a wall. Present random instructions:


“What’s this?” (Pointing to picture on the wall)


“Touch same” (Pointing to picture on the wall child touches matching item on their desk)


“Touch this and this” (Point to two pictures on the wall consecutively, child touches matching items on their desk);


“Bring me this” (Point to picture on the wall, child retrieves it)


“Bring me the (ball)” (No point)


“What color is the car” (Pointing to car on wall)


“What color is this?” (Pointing to item on wall)


Procedure 2: Same set-up as in procedure 1 except pictures are now placed on two different walls and items are also placed inside and outside of the room.


The exercise above includes layered demands on attention (to task and to others), working visual memory, executive function and serves to fortify social awareness. Children are required to attend to the instructor; to that which the instructor attends and to is required to track the instructor as they move about the room. By mixing instructions, children learn to switch flexibly between different kinds of instructions.


Common exercises also serve as vehicles to address many other things  i.e., concept development, attention dexterity, social acuity, perspective taking, memory, executive function, specific social skills and social pragmatics. 


Additional sample exercises can be found on this website by clicking the TOC and Sample Exercise tab or clicking below.


​The better we are able to engage children in these ways, the better we prepare children for participating in these many practice forms which most often elude them and which are mostly overlooked during intervention. A nice article by Lund, S.K., (2004) on the use of selection based imitation is a good start for getting things moving in this direction. This is also addressed in Lund and Schnee (2018) (sample exercises can be viewed on the 'sample exercise' page www.nexusais.com).