DEAR MISS MATTERS OF CLASS:
Is it appropriate to observe during meal times and transitions (i.e., washing hands after using the bathroom, lining up to go outside, etc)? It just doesn’t seem like there’s much going on during those times.
A most excellent question! And, one that many other observers like you have pondered. These times are indeed observable using the CLASS tool. Recall that one of the goals of CLASS data collection is to capture the experience of an average child in a classroom on a typical day. Since meals and transitions are activities in which children engage on a daily basis, they can and should be observed. Capturing these times helps us paint a full and complete picture of the classroom and the experiences of the children within it.
While meal times and transitions are different types of activities than, say, circle time or small group time, due to the fact that they are a bit more routine in nature, they can still be characterized by the same types of effective interactions.
For instance, let’s imagine a scenario where a preschool class is getting ready to go play outside on a winter day.
As the scenario above demonstrates, transitions can be chock-full of effective CLASS interactions. In fact, every Pre-K dimension, save Negative Climate, is represented in the picture we painted above at least once, if not twice! Although not every real-life observation period featuring mealtime or a transition matches this one, there are certainly some that rival it or even surpass it in terms of effectiveness.
Remember to carefully evaluate the presence and absence of each indicator within each dimension for all activities, even routine ones—sometimes, you might be surprised at what you’ll find.
Have you ever wished for a magical power that helped you take notes super effectively while conducting CLASS observations? The kind of magical power that would allow you to capture everything you see and hear without missing a beat? The kind of magical power that paints an exact picture of what happened in the classroom without actually being there? Yeah, me too!
As I sat in on an Infant Train-the-Trainer session, participants reflected on their previous experiences with CLASS: learning about it, using it to observe classrooms, supporting teachers, and training others to observe. One participant spoke up:
“CLASS is a measure you have to get wrong to get right.”