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Teacher Tips: Being “In the Moment” with Children

05 Feb 2014 by Guest Blogger

Use this teaching method to help you stay present with children in the classroom.

We are excited to have Sara Beach guest blog for us today. As a former Teachstone Staff Trainer, she 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.

In order to be aware of and make the most of the interactions you have with your students, you have to be able to be to be “in the moment” with them in the classroom. A recent NAEYC-published book entitled Powerful Interactions suggests that in order for teachers to extend children’s learning, we must first “be present” with children. This means being aware enough of our own thoughts and emotions that we are able to adjust them and tune into the child’s immediate thoughts, needs, and emotions.

This is no easy task, especially during busy classroom activities. In order to stay in the moment, teachers have to purposefully set aside thoughts about a) what just happened; b) what happened yesterday or this morning; c) what we have to do next; d) how we need to prepare for later; and e) we they feel about XYZ.

Here are some strategies for helping you stay present.

1. Consciously identify your own state and that of the child.

  • I feel _____ right now.
    • anxious, worried, rushed, curious, angry, impatient, etc.
  • This child is _____ right now.
    • bored, busy, engaged, timid, etc.
  • This child feels _____ right now.
    • scared, anxious, confident, excited, etc.

2. Identify your goals and those of the child.

  • My goal or learning objective for this moment is: _____.
    • to get the child to use words to answer my question, to encourage the child to think and use reasoning to understand the story better, to maintain control of the classroom, etc.
  • The goal of the child at this moment is: _____.
    • to get attention, to expend energy, to connect with me, to have some fun, etc.

3. Recognize disparities between your own goals and those of the child or children to quickly adjust.

  • The conflict between the child’s goal and my goal is: _____.
    • I want children to sort the colored bears, they want to have a bears party—maybe I can infuse sorting into the party idea, etc.

4. Identify when children become disengaged and employ strategies to re-engage them.

  • How engaged is the child at this moment? _____.
    • excited to participate, bored, resistant, etc.
  • Why is the child disinterested at this moment? _____.
    • My lesson is too rote; I am doing too much talking; The child is having a hard time relating to what I am talking about; This is way over his head; This is way too easy, etc.
  • How can I make this more interesting? _____.
    • I could ask more questions; I could use real-life and relatable examples; I could incorporate some music or movement, etc.

5. Pay attention to what a child may be thinking and follow the child’s cues.

  • What does the child know about what I’m talking about right now? _____.
    • He’s seen this on T.V.; She has experienced this at home; I can tell she is connecting this idea to something she has seen before, etc.

6. Adjust your feedback as needed to help shape the child’s thinking and understanding:

  • We are discussing fall/Autumn, and he wants to tell me about a time he fell down. I need to clarify what I mean by “fall” in this context.
  • When I asked him why he thought the spider made that web, he said, “'Cuz he wants to fly really fast." Maybe he’s thinking about Spider Man? I need to ask him what he’s thinking of and why he said that. I could give him more information about arachnids vs. superheroes.

Reflecting on what other teachers are doing in the moment can help inspire you to reflect on your own practices. A great place to start for help with the observation and reflection process is the CLASS Video Library and the CLASS Discussion Toolkit. Utilizing video to capture, reflect on, and utilize your own moment-to-moment interactions is a key component of the highly successful MyTeachingPartner™ (MTP™) coaching model. We've found that if can watch yourself on tape and analyze your interactions using the lens of the CLASS, you start to become more intentional about engaging in the specific CLASS indicators and behavioral markers.

We invite you to share about your experiences with the CLASS Discussion Toolkit or MTP coaching, and any other methods you have found successful for becoming more “present” in teaching moments. For more tips to share with teachers, please join us at an upcoming ISS training. I'll be in Boston, MA, in March, and Scottsdale, AZ, in April and would love to see you there!

Powerful Interactions: How to Connect With Children to Extend Their Learning, by A.L. Dombro, J. Jablon, and C. Stetson, 160 pp. 2011. Copyright © National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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