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!
You’ve heard it said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I would propose this addition: “Except in teaching!” Of course, we know the first moments of the first day of school are critical to establishing a tone for the year ahead, and we put a lot of energy into those first moments. It’s always fun to prepare our classrooms for the new school year because we are full of renewed hopes and dreams.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve interacted with teachers, coaches, and administrators as the “new” year begins for the adults and children in their care. What I am hearing has a common theme—frustration, disappointment, hope. What is going on? Well, maybe we can use the CLASS to think this through.
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.