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?”
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.