How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
Effective toddler teachers spread the foundation for young children to begin to understand what behaviors are acceptable. This foundation is the indicator "proactive." They do this work in a co-regulation relationship model, one steeped in a continuous circle of acknowledging and labeling emotions, responding to toddler's needs, and providing lots of comfort!
Let's set ourselves and the children up for success.
Toddler teachers sometimes feel like they are running around all day putting out behavior "fires." But, with a little bit of advanced planning, toddler teachers can move from reactive (putting out fires) to proactive guidance. Does your daily schedule look a little too much like a Pre-K classroom's routine? Consider a daily schedule that reduces waiting times, long group times, and those really big full-group transitions. Do children lose interest in activities quickly? Provide lots of choices, be ready to switch it up, and always have novel items at the ready to hold interest. And finally, think through some toddler-appropriate behavior expectations.
Okay, we know toddlers are in the process of learning how to self-regulate and manage their behavior. They are taking their cues from adults. Toddlers still need adults to co-regulate with them; adults help children manage and recover from emotionally charged experiences. And toddlers are learning all about appropriate behavior when adults intentionally point out those well-behaved moments over and over again!
Spreading the jelly on the peanut butter is not for the faint at heart! It takes a lot of watching, talking, and tending to toddler's behavior every day!
I hope you are excited to use the peanut butter and jelly analogy as you guide children's behavior in your toddler or family childcare setting. How we manage the transition from infancy to preschool sets a child up for success as they move towards self-regulation. The reward, of course, is watching the older toddlers and young preschoolers manage rules and routines, all resulting from the adult's hard and diligent work in those tender toddler months!
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
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!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.