I’d like you to take a minute and think about the answers to the following questions:
Chances are, you know the answers to these questions, and have very good reasons for why you do the things that you do. Unless you are a very rare breed that enjoys doing laundry, you probably rush to get the laundry done so that you will have clean clothes to wear. We all have a purpose or a reason for doing the things that we do, and we know why we do them.
Now, picture this classroom activity: some children are working with unifix cubes at a table. They are putting them together to make different types of patterns. The teacher walks up to one of the children and asks, “what are you doing?” and “Why are you doing that?” Would the children in the classroom be able to answer those questions?
Most of the time, teachers have very good reasons for why they are doing certain activities in a classroom. They know that if they want the children to learn about different types of weather, they might read books about weather. The children might create a weather graph in the classroom to graph the number of sunny, cloudy, rainy, and windy days. Or walk outside to observe what the weather is like, and paint pictures to show different types of weather. The teacher knows the purpose, or the objective, of the lesson. But do the children know why they are doing these types of activities and what they will learn by doing them?
In the Instructional Learning Formats dimension in the Pre-K CLASS tool, one of the indicators is Clarity of Learning Objectives. I often get asked about this particular indicator and to further explain what it is. Basically, this indicator means that the teacher effectively focuses students’ attention toward the learning objectives and/or the purpose of the lesson. Students in the classroom appear aware of the point of the lessons or how they should be focusing their attention during activities.
Let's talk about how a teacher might implement Clarity of Learning Objectives in their classroom:
This seems easy enough when the teacher has determined the learning objective and the activity. But how do they do this during centers when the child has chosen the activity? During centers, they should focus their questions on the activity in which the student is involved.
For example, when students are using different-size squeeze bottles and scoops at the water table, they can ask them how they are going to fill the bottles or which bottles will get filled faster. In addition, they may ask them questions about what lives in the water.
The next time you are in a classroom, take a minute to reflect upon this statement: “Do my students know why we are doing this activity or lesson, and what will they learn by doing it?”
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
The majority of early childhood classrooms have at least one child who is a dual language learner (DLL) and this population is growing. One in three children from birth to age six speak a language besides English at home. Consequently, the majority of teachers need strategies on how to best support this group of students. We reached out to Veronica Fernandez, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Miami for strategies she’s found most successful.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.