Why OWLing creates great early years practice, and how dance can build on it.
This week nursery manager Caroline was listening and contributing to an evalution meeting after a dance session at her nursery. She picked up on a 'tuning in' tool I use in my practice a lot. I developed the skills working with children on the autistic spectrum, who had many challenges in communicating. Having loved this work I then began to apply 'tuning in' to all my practice.
I was intersted to find that Early Years practice has a similar tool called OWLing, where practitioners follow the child’s lead. OWL stands for Observe, Wait and Listen.
Observe what the child is interested in - this is really key but how often are we so busy that we miss the vital clues children are giving us? Sometimes if I remind my self to breathe deeply, I'm better at observing. I'd also encourage you to observe on the same level as the child.
Wait to give the child a chance to show you what they are doing, they may not even notice you are there. I often find coming alongside a child instead of face to face is much better. This I also learnt from working with children with ASD. Sometimes face to face can be too intimidating.
The third part of the OWL sequence is where dance and movement can make a big difference. In OWLing the the L is for Listen where you pay attention to what your child is saying or attempting to say.
In dance we're looking at what the child is telling us through their body.
All children speak through their bodies.
'Listening' to bodies means that we can tunes in to any child, whether they have English as an additional language or have additional needs, or in the case of my students with Autism - have severe communication difficulties.
Waiting when dancing can be really hard to do, especially when you have a group of children in a session and the energy is really high. It's also difficult when you have lots of children responding differently to a prop that you have introduced. During my sessions I create mini duets (a dance for two) that are about tuning in to the individual movements of one child at a time. (In working with parents I encourage the parents to 'tune in' which has it's own challenges and will probably be the topic of another blog post!)
So my version of OWling would be
Which doesn't make such a good acronym! Perhaps I need to rethink those words. What would you say?