Thursday, February 25, 2010

Decisions Decisions

Did you know that decision making is a skill, one you can teach and learn?

In its list, Wikipedia states that decision making “might be regarded as a problem solving activity which is terminated when a satisfactory solution is found.” In myexperience - with kids, and with adults, its reaching that satisfactory solution that is the challenge. For many of us, deciding anything... what to eat for lunch, where to go on vacation, what we want to do with our lives, is a problem to solve.

In our increasingly complicated world, all of us need to be able to make good decisions. The good news is that decision-making is a skill; it can be taught. The process can be surprisingly easy, lots of fun, will teach and build on an array of thinking skills, and be integrated into almost any subject or project going on in your classroom, program or family.

Criteria: A standard, rule or test on which a decision can be based


To begin to make good decisions, we must be able to:
  • Recognize situations in which we make decisions and choices (ACTIVITY TIP: Have kids brainstorm lists of the kinds of decisions they need to make every day - what to eat, how to spend time, which book or movies to choose, friends, etc.)Identify conditions, constraints and criteria that are important to the decision
  • Identify our options
  • Evaluate the information we are considering as the basis for the decision
  • Predict effects or outcomes of a particular decision or choice
  • Evaluate our options as they relate to all criteria
  • Generate or revise decisions in response to new information (e.g., compromise)
  • State the information and values on which your decision was based
The following three activities teach how to identify and frame criteria... essential skills we all need to make good decisions. These are fun, and can stimulate lively and interesting conversations on a variety of topics. Because it is one of my favorite topics, I decided to start with an art based activity. Then, I've added two more things to do, but you decide where you want to begin :-)

Gallery Stroll - this activity not only builds decision making skills but is an opportunity to develop language for discussion art. Expect to hear words that describe color, shape, motion, emotion, and much more.

  • Arrange ten to fifteen pictures (magazines, photos, paintings) around your room to create a gallery
  • Have kids walk around the gallery and study the images on the walls
  • When they have completed inspecting each picture, have kids rank the pictures numerically, from their favorite to their least favorite. (Note: Suggest that kids write or sketch a brief “memo” of each image in a notebook.)
  • After they’ve made their choices, have kids write out their reasons (criteria) for choosing their three favorites and their least favorite. Then, in small groups, or all together ...
  • DISCUSS: What attracted you to the pictures you liked best? Why did you choose the one you did as your least favorite.
  • Remind kids that the reasons for their choices are their CRITERIA.
2. Where Should We Go?
  • Imagine: You are planning a family vacation (or a class trip) for next summer
  • Discuss: Where you might go and the things you might do when you get there
  • List: the criteria you will need to consider so that you can make the best choice (these include money, time, interests, transportation, family members, physical limitations, interests, etc.)
  • Discuss: How did the criteria you determine affect your vacation planning?
3. Pick a Pet

  • Imagine: You are about to select a new pet
  • List: Potential pet choices. Everyone can choose their particular favorite.
  • Brainstorm: Take five minutes to list all the criteria you can think of that will affect your choice of pet. (Pets you already own, allergies, cost, yard, house size, etc.)
  • Discuss: Has considering the criteria about pet selection affected your decision about your choice of pet? Based on what you have considered, which pet would work best for your family.