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.
- The teacher smiles and says, with enthusiasm, “Okay, it’s time to get ready to go outside! Let’s all put on our coats, hats, and gloves.” (Instructional Learning Formats & Positive Climate).
- Most of the children go over to their cubbies to grab their winter apparel and begin to bundle up, but one boy continues to play with the toy trucks. The teacher places her hand on the boy’s shoulder and says, “Come on, James,” to subtly redirect him, and he joins the others (Behavior Management).
- The teacher then notices a child who’s having trouble zipping up her jacket and quickly goes over to help (Teacher Sensitivity).
- As the children are dressing, the teacher says, “There’s a nice dusting of snow out there guys . . . that means there’s just a little bit on top of the ground” (Language Modeling).
- She continues, saying, “Maybe there will be enough for you to make snow angels. Has anyone ever made those before? Why do you think we call them snow angels?” (Concept Development).
- The children call out answers, such as, “Yeah, I’ve made them with my sister before!” and “Because there are wings in the snow.” The teacher responds, “That’s right Kendra. Because there are wings in the snow. (Language Modeling)
- So, moving your arms up and down in the snow makes an imprint that resembles angels’ wings.” (Quality of Feedback).
- As the children quickly get dressed and get in line to go outside (Productivity), the teacher asks, “Who would like to be our line leader today?” and says, “Ok, Josh, you’re up! Pick someone to be your caboose” (Regard for Student Perspectives).
- Josh smiles and picks Clara who’s enthusiastically raising her hand (Positive Climate) and the class follows Josh outside.
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.