When teachers hear CLASS tool, often the first thought that comes to their mind is asking children open-ended questions. And while asking “how” and “why” questions is extremely important in helping to foster and support language and concept development, we cannot have effective interactions with these questions alone. There is so much more to the CLASS tool!
Let’s think of the CLASS tool like the elements of a beautiful birthday cake. First, we need a recipe to help guide us towards a desired outcome—whether we are talking about a cake or effective interactions between teachers and children. Our recipe for effective interactions is the CLASS Dimension Guide. It gives us the ingredients we need to plan and take advantage of everyday exchanges with children.
Now, let’s think about the specific parts of the CLASS tool. A cake is more than ingredients tossed into a bowl. Throwing flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, butter, and milk together in a haphazard ratio will not reliably produce a cake any more than believing that asking open-ended questions alone will result in desired academic and social outcomes for children. We need all of the various CLASS dimensions just like we need all ingredients to bake a cake.
Understanding exactly what each of the dimensions means is as fundamental as knowing the difference between flour and baking soda. A good teacher reviews and researches these “ingredients” and creates a classroom environment that children enjoy while providing them with the emotional and educational nourishment that supports their growth into healthy, happy individuals.
Just as cooking times vary based on the type of oven, so do classroom dynamics. We need to take into account that what works for one group of children, may need to be altered slightly for different personalities, needs, and backgrounds. A skilled teacher, like a baker, understands when and how each of these dimensions is best implemented and combined with the others.
So there you have it: combining the Dimensions Guide recipe with all the CLASS ingredients is the only way to have high-quality interactions in your classroom. And remember, it takes time to figure out how to incorporate each of the dimensions. Before you know it, your CLASS-cake will be complete.
Time to celebrate!
As a CDA with CLASS facilitator, I now recognize that CLASS also helps us think about how we can be present and responsive in supporting the curiosity, engagement, and persistence of adult learners.
I am blessed to be able to support CDA learners, many of whom are returning to formal education for the first time in many years. Some of these learners come from previous educational experiences that were not supportive, that left them feeling that they weren’t good at school or weren’t competent students. But with the right support, these learners can grow their persistence as well as their sense of competence and confidence.
Data from the National Survey of Students’ Health (NSCH) indicates that almost half of the students in the United States have experienced one or more forms of serious trauma, such as poverty, homelessness, or abuse and neglect. This means that an estimated 35,000,00 students, from infancy through age 17 are at risk for not only school failure, but for a number of social-emotional and physical complications (e.g., PTSD, heart disease, etc.) that may have life-long consequences to their health and well-being. The effect of COVID-19 has surely increased the percentage of young people who are experiencing trauma. And while people of all races and socioeconomic statuses have been affected by COVID-19, poor communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, adding an additional level of trauma to a population already traumatized by systemic racism.
Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us:
Jess Pablo is an early childhood coach and grade level chair at The Primary School, a non-profit school in East Palo Alto, California, that serves children aged pre-K through grade 3, bringing together education, health, and family support services to support children’s holistic growth. Below are some of the ideas, concerns, and suggestions she shared as her program resumes this year in a mostly virtual learning environment.