Learning Communication with Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn how the book teaches kids communication below

The child is able to express thoughts and feelings to others. He or she can listen to what others are saying and be aware of what they are feeling. The child can reconcile differences and is able to understand and act on the results of the communication.

The ability of children to communicate effectively is considered an important construct of resilience according to the GRP. When children are able to establish help-seeking behaviours by communicating their thoughts, feeling and actions, they can gain support, clarify their perspective and learn to be comfortable with intimacy. Communication is an important element of analysis of information through questioning, with the aim of finding a solution. Effective communication can often require an individual to utilise skills of critical thinking in order to work through mental, emotional and physical processes. The capability for Game ON to achieve this process is supported by the teacher’s comments below. 

Game ON identifies and gets children to express a range of feelings, gives the children a pathway to explore how they feel and why. Then children can learn more positive ways of responding to situations. In this way Game ON provides the children with a strategy that they can take out to the playground. The book promotes identification of emotions and reflection for example, the feeling of being left out. As you could see the children have had this experience and could relate and talk about it. It gave the children a strategy of teamwork, for example how to pick a team and how someone might feel if they were the last child being chosen. We have since done this in class and it required the children to understand others perspective and talk through the issues. It was great. The children were able to express their needs, wants, ideas and their opinions. It helps the children to be able to responds appropriately particularly with conflict, and have the tools to solve their problem. (Year 2 teacher, Round 1)

Reflection facilitates communication and enables individuals to explore how they think, feel and may act in certain situations. This notion is supported by the positive psychology literature that encourages children to use effective communication skills, with the aim of solving simple and complex problems. Several examples of positive communication and poor communication strategies are provided through Game ON, as role modelled by the characters. Not only in respect of how Alex feels and acts, but also how his actions affect others in the book. The characters were able to evaluate and communicate how they were feeling.

Often on the playground when we encourage children to say how they feel, they will often just say that they are sad. In this resource the children are encouraged to explore their emotions and go deeper, i.e., I feel scared etc., disappointed or let down. The book identifies and gets children to express a range of feelings, gives the children more positive ways of responding to situations, i.e., provides the children with a strategy that they can take out to the playground. It’s great that the characters can show children how to do this. It was also good that yes, we recognised how Alex was feeling, but we also heard from the friends how they were feeling, you know scared, worried, upset. (Year 2 teacher, Round 1)

It was evident in the study that a handful of children were very shy and, therefore, reluctant to put up their hand to talk. What was interesting, though, was as the story moved on some of the children found the confidence to speak about their feelings in reference to the book. In one instance the Kindergarten teacher made special mention of a child who had been incredibly shy since transitioning into school, but noted his active involvement throughout story time. 

It was great to see this child connect and talk about some aspect of the book. Somehow he has found the confidence to speak about how this situation would make him feel. It’s the most involved I’ve seen him since the start of school, it’s wonderful. (Kindergarten teacher, Round 1) 

The capability for children to feel comfortable or confident is an important aspect and skill of communication. Game ON enabled all children to have a voice and express how they felt watching Alex and his behaviour. It was interesting to observe the children’s reaction to Alex’s poor behaviour. Many of them were very vocal about how mean he was being. They found it very frustrating that he lacked the self-awareness regarding the impact he was having on his friends. There was an opportunity to explain to the class that Alex was ignoring the process of effective communication and reflection by pretending nothing was wrong, even though his non-verbal communication through body language represented anger. He wasn’t listening to his friends or his body, even when he went really red and the smoke was coming out of his nose. It was a great opportunity to explain to the children that communication is not just about what we say; it is also about how we think and how we act. Several examples were provided in Game ON, however, one of the most evident ones was when Alex threw his first temper tantrum by stomping on the ground and used poor verbal communication when blaming his friends. When he isolates his friends, his ego deludes him into thinking that he is big enough and strong enough to win on his own. When a similar scenario unfolds yet again, Alex becomes blinded by his emotions and can no longer help-seek or gain help-seeking behaviour from his friends. His eyes and his ears have shut down and his body is now in flight or fight response, which will impede the executive process and shut down effective communication. When the body is in a fight or flight response, it is strategising for pure survival. This does not allow access to the executive functions of the brain. When the mind and body are calm, the executive functions facilitate communication through critical appraisal, which enables the brain to strategise a solution-focused outcome. 

Alex’s friends try to help him access these executive functions by encouraging him to recognise and acknowledge his anger through the colour of his body and the evidence of smoke coming from his snout. Whilst Alex is denying his anger, his non-verbal communication through his body language is telling a different story. Body behaviour and expression can send a powerful message or tell a story through attitude, symbols, signs and posture. Our stances can reflect the way we feel, even if there is no exchange of verbal conversation. Until Alex gains insight through self-awareness, in regard to how he is expressing himself, then the situation cannot change and Alex will most likely stay in a defensive pattern, continuing to communicate through this framework. Eventually, through peer-mediated assistance, Alex is finally unable to deny his anger and the inappropriate response through acknowledging his actions and by listening to his friends. Game ON uses this technique to help children identify their feelings through colour and visible prompts by exploring body language. In this way, children can review how their thoughts are informing their feelings then their actions. Observing behaviours in the forms of storytelling allows the children to gain the knowledge required to facilitate learning.

Effective communication is a part of this book. Dusty [a character in the book] demonstrates effective communication by talking through the scenario with Alex and the other characters and suggesting some strategies of how to positively communicate. They also ask Alex to look at his body language; you know how red he was turning and the smoke coming out of his snout.  (Year 2 deployment officer, Round 1) 

According to McGrath and Noble, seeking help and talking to others encourages young people to disclose their thoughts, feelings, past experiences and future plans. In this way they can gain support, get a reality check, clarify their thoughts and feelings, and learn to be comfortable with intimacy. This aspect is facilitated through Game ON when Alex is able to listen to his friends and the advice they have on observing his reaction to his feelings. In this way, Game ON can help children to use the skill of communication as part of a process of checking in with peers and cross-checking their thoughts and feelings (clarifying perspective using a cognitive appraisal process) with reliable resources, which can facilitate a path forward for the child. One of the preferred methods of facilitating this process is using appropriate pedagogy in the form of storytelling, puppetry, literature or play. 

Children through this book can identify with feelings both their own and others, you can hear the children reading the body language and reflecting the characters mood, this is all part of building resilience skills in children. (Year 1 teacher, Round 1)

It is imperative that children and young people who disclose their feelings to peers and friends learn skills in relation to evaluation of feelings and cross-checking techniques regarding perception, so as to promote a constructive, solution-focused pathway to resolving issues. There is also an opportunity for children to advocate for their peers in this space. 

In summary, effective communication is a process of both talking and listening, which incorporates reflective practices to clarify clear perspectives. As provided by the evidence from the participants’ responses, Game ON facilitates the ability for children to express how they feel by examining their thoughts, feelings and actions and communicating them. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal; Game ON provides learning opportunities for children to understand the different facets of communication. The characters role model how individuals may think, feel and respond to personal emotions can affect our environment. It also provides children with the opportunity to safely express emotions and talk about some effective ways to communicate in regard to resolving issues with their peers through active play, which can build confidence.