NUMBER 940 • 10 APRIL • individualS and groups
Having then looked at some criteria for assessing activities, we mav turn to a discussion of individual and group variables to he considered when choosing an activity:
1. Skill. Skill here refers to the level of the child's competency in participating in activities and would include such things as physical dexterity and motor coordination, as well as specific athletic, mechanical, or crafts skills. Many children come to us with relatively few specific skills, though their interest might be keen in specific areas. Basically, a question focused on this variable asks, "What is this child capable of doing right now?"
2. Motivation. This refers to the child's willingness to participate in activities and obviously has a lot to do with the child's relationship with the child-care worker. It has many ramifications for the process of selecting an activity. For example, the more complex and difficult the activity, the higher the child's motivation will have to be in order to insure its successful completion. Conversely, children with relatively low motivation to join in activities may be lured into participation with activities whose rewards are both immediate and abundant.
3. On tap control. This refers to the amount of self control available to the child at a given time. One would not recommend a game of chess for a hyperactive child who has been struggling to control his behavior in school all day. With hyperactive aggressive children, we do not always wait for a child to be completely in control before attempting to engage him in an activity. Rather, we may engage him in an activity for the purpose of controlling his behavior.
In planning program one must keep in mind certain group phenomena that may influence the course of the activity. Some of the more important of these are group solidarity (cohesion), group composition, and group mood. If we are working with a loosely assembled group where there is little cohesion esprit and solidarity, we might better think in terms of parallel activities, rather than those that require a good deal of interaction and interdependence among the members (e.g., model building rather than soccer). As for group composition, obviously, the more heterogeneous the grouping, the more difficult it will be to find an activity all members can participate in and enjoy. Finally, the child-care worker must use his own sensitivities to assess the mood of the group: a spontaneous suggestion of an unplanned hike may be just the thing for the group of latency-age youngsters who have been using massive amounts of control completing a project in school and seem ready to "bust out."
In summation, the child-care worker does not go through all of the activity-setting dimensions, individual variables, and group variables every time he plans a program. To do this as an exercise may be useful (Vinter has analyzed two divergent activities, swimming and arts and crafts, in the program paper); but to try and control for all of the aforementioned variables before we made a program decision would be disastrous. Rather, we would use the dimensions and the individual and group variables to plan for particularly difficult activity times; finally, we may use them as guidelines to dissect and analyze our particular successes as well as our utter disasters (see Appendix 1).
JAMES K. WHITTAKER
Whittaker, J.K. (1969) The Other 23 Hours: Child Care Work with Emotionally Disturbed Children in a therapeutic milieu. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, pp.105-107