Spinning the right narrative
That's the key to enable children to find their voice and confidence in group discussions
Excitement was rising as the session opened last afternoon. We at the young executives club have just begun a new activity. Every activity is a real life scenario setting that is inspired by real events. In the current activity we are facing a pressing problem - a massive mice infestation that has disrupted every store's plan to contribute in an upcoming carnival in the city. As per the narrative in the last afternoon’s session, we were meeting as storeowners yesterday to describe the impact on each of our stores, how we felt and to find ways to remedy the problem. Adding to our woes was the fact that the mayor of the town was not accessible. The mayor's decision to get rid of predators such as coyotes and hawks coupled with overflowing of the lake due to good rainfall, drove the mice out of their homes right into stores and homes in the town.
Giving individual voices due credit
Set in a real life scenario, every individual has the opportunity to come up with original ideas, take opinions from the others but ultimately doing what they think is right. After the mice infestation, each one of us had to think in the lines of three aspects:
imagine the devastation in one's store.
express one's feelings
think of possible solutions.
We took the time to think of what we can say with respect to each of these aspects before the meeting commenced. Having the time and space to ponder about how one can contribute makes the quieter children feel more prepared as they don't have to worry about coming up with contributions on the spot. As for the children who are a lot more comfortable, it gives them a chance to organise their thoughts, leaving time during the discussion to actively listen to others and slowly begin to notice if someone is have difficulty and needs help.
Having the time and space to ponder about how one can contribute makes the quieter children feel more prepared as they don't have to worry about coming up with contributions on the spot.
Making support of the peers possible
Before we began, the question, "How do we make sure everyone gets heard and gets a chance to speak during the discussion?" was posed. The idea of using reaction buttons came up. Soon, reaction buttons were getting used to show emotions of anger or support and even volunteering to contribute. Giggles made their way as every member engaged in role play as a store owner whose store was attacked by mice. The children on the quieter side feeling armed with their preparation made the initiative to contribute in multiple ways - raising hands, sending notes to everyone on Zoom chat and sometimes even finding right moments to speak up thus productively adding to the conversation.
Contributing ideas that could completely shift the direction of a discussion leading to least anticipated solutions
Listening to others expressing their distraught over their preparations being eaten away, the child playing the role of the owner of the cheese store, decided to give the story a twist by openly stating that he knew about the mice being spotted earlier and how he had decided to save his store by leaving a cheese trail leading to the other stores! What followed was a cacophony of voices and reaction buttons were completely forgotten.
Everyone forgot their inhibitions
They were so caught up in the narrative and letting their imagination run wild, they completely forgot their inhibitions. Some decided to stand for the Mayor's post and kept asking to be elected while the others chose to demand money back from the owner who led the mice to their stores.
There was tremendous energy in the air which hit the pause button when they were reminded that the mice problem still exists and needs to be resolved before matters of a mayor's election or money issues and compensations due were sorted out.
"The mice are still there?"
"I am terrified of mice!"
"Make sure you have a broom in your store. That's how I scared them away from my store!" "Let's just call the pest control department and get rid of them once and for all!"
The last solution seemed to settle the immediate problem and the group went back to talking about replacing the current mayor! Never knew that politics and community elections could be so exciting for a young group of teenagers. Nevertheless the session ended on a joyful note with almost everyone of them feeling happy that their voices had been heard and even better, they weren't nervous when they spoke during the group discussion. First step forward to making confident contributions in a group discussion setting.