Most parents, teachers, and children would agree—there is something special about story time. I can recall the thrill I felt at seven years old, sitting on the primary-colored carpet of my elementary school’s library, listening intently as the school librarian read us The Widow’s Broom or Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Some of my fondest memories include my mom reading me passages from The Secret Garden before bedtime, or my dad curling up on the couch with me to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, or my absolute favorite, Curious George.
For me, the best part about reading books was being able to relate to the characters—and it still is to this day! When my parent or teacher made a direct connection between the book and my own life, the conflicts in the stories became real to me. I felt deeper empathy for the characters and imagined what I might do in similar circumstances. Now that I have been studying the CLASS tool for several years, I’ve realized that what I loved about reading as a child was aligned with interactions related to the Concept Development dimension—connections to the real world.
Concept Development can be a tough dimension for teachers to build in to their day; it involves providing children opportunities for higher-order thinking. It may sound daunting, but the good news is that reading stories to children almost consistently affords teachers opportunities to help children connect concepts from books to their own lives. To make learning come alive for children, teachers can plan questions that encourage children to connect concepts from the story to their world. Almost every book contains a central conflict or concept for children to consider in their own lives.
Here are some questions you can ask to get children to make these important connections:
Making real-world connections is important. Not just because it is an indicator of Concept Development, but also because it can help foster a love of learning for years to come. I’m living proof of it!
How do you make learning come alive for children? Share your experiences and tips below!
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.
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.