The ideal conversation, of course, prompts children to both think and respond:
Teacher: Why did you decide to put the triangle-shaped block on top?
Child: So it can be the roof.
Teacher: What might happen if you didn’t have a block on top?
Child: Then the rain might come in.
Teacher: How else could you keep the rain out?
Child: With an umbrella.
Teacher: How would that work?
Unfortunately, I notice when I’m with children that while I tend to ask a lot of questions, they’re not always open-ended. I really have to work to broaden my repertoire of questions and be quite intentional about asking questions that encourage children to come up with their own ideas and put those ideas into words (and not just answer yes/no or with a “correct” response such as “yellow” or “pig”).
So, how can we remember to ask these kinds of broad, thought-provoking questions?
Many thanks to MMCI instructors Kathy McKechnie and Nancy Walsh for sharing their wonderful ideas! Any errors or misinterpretations in them are my own (not theirs), as I modified them to fit the format.
For more teacher tips, you can read my previous blog post Teacher Tips: Engaging Children in Conversations.
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.