One of the more difficult CLASS™ indicators to identify and measure is integration—connecting concepts together and connecting them to previously learned concepts. When assessing this indicator, I ask myself, "Did the teacher ask or state explicitly how two ideas are related?" Two examples of this are:
Concept Development is all about helping children think about the how and the why of things. Understanding how and why always involves integrating concepts. One simple way to think about analysis and reasoning is "examining the facts to find reasons for things." A concept may be an idea, a bit of factual information, or even an action that when logically connected with other concepts becomes reasoning. If the teacher asked, "Why do you think the caterpillar was so hungry?" the children would have to piece together information. This would most likely involve an in-depth conversation about what happened in the story, in which the teacher scaffolds with questions like:
All of these ideas can make up connections that lead to children's ultimate understanding of why the caterpillar was so hungry. More difficult questions like this do require sustained back-and-forth exchanges and numerous connections.
At the high end of Concept Development, we see frequent examples of analysis and reasoning, and the teacher's questions lead to sustained instructional discussions. Concepts must be identified (analysis) and then explicitly and logically linked together (integration) through the higher-order process of reasoning, leading to new understanding.
What we see when this happens is a teacher who is intentionally guiding children through a series of logical connections; together they are "thinking out loud." In this way, integration at high levels is not only frequent throughout the observation (taking place within several different conversations), but it’s also very explicit. When scaffolding and other attempts do not lead children to uncover connections for themselves, the teacher clearly points them out. When the children do make their own connections, the teacher repeats them so that everything is broken down explicitly.
When assessing the level of integration in an observation, helpful questions are:
We can certainly understand why the indicator of integration can be difficult to assess, let alone to engage in, with young children frequently during the course of a lesson or activity. However, knowing the context and the purpose of pursuing explicit connections (pushing for understanding) helps us better analyze our observations and strive to think up new ways of explaining and exemplifying the indicator to teachers.
Obviously, I love talking about the intricacies and nuances of Concept Development and the entire Instructional Support domain. Through our new Instructional Support Strategies training, I’m able to do this on a regular basis and continue to learn from each of you. Let me know what you think in the comments, or better yet, join us at one of our upcoming Instructional Support Strategies trainings to learn more.
Sara Beach is a former Teachstone Staff Trainer. She has frequently presented on topics such as Helping Teachers with the Instructional Supports, through active, adult-learning approaches. She has been an Infant-toddler teacher, center director, education specialist, coach-mentor, and early childhood college instructor, and her highest honor has been supporting teachers.
Across the nation, teachers learning about CLASS are asked to narrate their actions and sportscast their children’s experiences in order to support and encourage healthy language development. Hearing this, many teachers may wonder, “Will people think I’m crazy if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for teachers to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.
I’m often asked how teachers can improve the quality of their interactions around Instructional Support. That’s good! What’s not “good” is that we can’t just focus on one thing. We should consider how ALL the CLASS dimensions need to be in place in order to really provide effective interactions for Instructional Support.
Hey, sports fans! Don’t you just love watching your favorite players on a big game day, scoring points and making it all look so easy and effortless?
Of course, we know nothing in sports is really effortless, even for gifted athletes with abundant natural talent. One of my favorite quotes comes from NBA All-Star Kevin Durant: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Intentional, consistent practice is key to any athlete’s success. But even top athletes rely on the support of a coach to improve their game. Players need coaches to help identify their unique strengths and grow their talents while increasing their skills in areas of challenge. To do all this, coaches spend lots of time observing athletes while they practice—giving real-time feedback based on current efforts, breaking skills down as needed to cultivate mastery, and encouraging players to keep trying in pursuit of their goals.
"I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom.