There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
What distinguishes an interaction as a high-quality, effective interaction that promotes learning and development? Intentionality! When I hear “intention,” I think “purpose.” To teach with intention means to teach with purpose. Think about the language used in the CLASS® manual for the dimensions: Facilitation of Learning and Development (FLD) and Facilitated Exploration (FE). Expansion. Engagement. Encouragement. These terms provide a picture of an experience that is dynamic, energetic, pleasant, and full of growth! And, full of purpose.
“That’s great, Megin...but what does this even look like? What do I DO?” Ok, let’s get down to good stuff; three often underrated opportunities for FLD and FE:
Diaper Changes and Potty Breaks
Many of the teachers in my CDA with CLASS courses often describe “everyday” acts that are actually amazing strategies to promote learning and development. Here are a few examples:
A lot can happen in a 5 minute diaper change or potty break!
Transitions can feel tense or chaotic at times. Or, because we try to keep transitions brief, it can feel like there isn’t enough time to squeeze in any learning. Use transition times to your benefit as fun, lighthearted learning opportunities:
The beautiful thing about expanding children’s cognition is that the focus is on the expanding, not necessarily an activity itself.
How many times have you cut food for a toddler? Or watched a one year old use their fingers to try and pick up the food on their tray? Filled a bottle for an infant? My guess is… a lot! During these times, there is often some conversation. But, there is also an opportunity to move from being “involved” to being “intentional.” Here are a few more of my favorite strategies from teachers in the CDA with CLASS program:
By intentionally ceasing these moments of an infant’s or toddler’s day, teachers can facilitate exploration, learning, and development. Sometimes, these learning moments may not look all that “academic.” Infants and toddlers may not be able to respond in full sentences, but that’s ok! That doesn’t mean there is no cognition happening. Remember, infants’ and toddlers’ receptive language far exceeds their expressive language.
Play = learning. The longer a child plays or engages, the more learning that is taking place. The longer you engage with them, the longer they will stay engaged.
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On November 9, 2021, Teachstone hosted the Building Confidence and Consistency in Your Head Start Program webinar with Sara Diamond, Director of Partnership Development at Teachstone, and Michelle Crawford, CLASS® Specialist.
Together, Sara and Michelle provided tips for helping educators dig deeper in their interactions and feel more confident in their teaching practice. Before diving into the tips for building confidence and consistency, Michelle shared a powerful quote from Lori Archer, a Head Start teacher:
November is National Family Engagement Month. As educators, we’re often focused on supporting children’s academic, social, and emotional growth in the classroom. But, it’s important to remember that families are a child’s first teacher. This month, we’re celebrating how to take learning home and support families’ opportunities to impact their child’s development and learning through the power of interactions.
As part of your family engagement initiatives this month (and beyond!), consider how you can help families understand and leverage their interactions at home. To help, check out these tips and tricks below that you can share with the families in your early childhood program!