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.
Engaging students in learning can be difficult, even in the best of times. Doing so when learning is online is even more challenging. We recently spoke with a principal of a K-8 school who was concerned that some students weren’t logging onto the computer, or if they were, they weren't paying attention during their online classes. In some cases, students logged on, but went off camera and weren’t actually in class at all). To gain some insight into this problem, the principal sat in on some virtual classes to see what was going on. He found that while there were a number of teachers who were doing a tremendous job engaging their students. Unfortunately, there were others who were not as successful.
As we spoke with the principal, we could not help but think about the important role of teacher-student interactions. In particular, we thought about four of the CLASS dimensions and the role they play in virtual learning.
The savvy CLASS observer may have noted that we are not providing suggestions for enhancing interactions in the Concept Development (Pre-K), Analysis and Inquiry (Upper Elementary), Quality of Feedback (Pre-K and Upper Elementary), or Instructional Dialogue (Upper Elementary). This should not be interpreted to suggest that teachers cannot effectively interact with students around these dimensions in the virtual classroom. Rather, we have suggested the types of interactions that have to be in place prior to addressing the more difficult CLASS dimensions. In short, we have to engage students before we can teach them, and we have to gain their trust if we want them to take academic risks and difficult cognitive challenges. In other words…..Show them you care and they will be there. Make it fun and they will come.
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.
We were really happy to receive an article examining the use of CLASS in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Programs. And we were equally happy when lead author, Jessica Barnes-Najor, a researcher at Michigan State University, agreed to speak with us. In conjunction with her work at MSU, Jessica is a co-investigator for The Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (TRC). Read below to learn more about this important research.