Understanding how to effectively employ Regard for Student Perspectives while maintaining a constructive learning environment can be challenging. In the following paragraphs the fictional preschool professional, Mrs. Jones, will illustrate the indicators of Regard for Student Perspectives at circle time. I’ll then discuss her exemplary examples:
At 9:02, Mrs. Jones calls all 22 of her preschool students over for circle time. “Choose a place to sit,” she says as she points to the different colored carpet shapes already laid out on the floor.
The children excitedly exclaim, “Oh! I get the pink circle. I want the blue square!”
Mrs. Jones states, “Ok children once you find your spot, find a comfortable way to sit so everyone can see. I see Jessica and Brad are sitting on their bottom.” As Mrs. Jones looks around her circle she notices Johnny is sitting on his knees, “Johnny it looks like you are comfortable sitting on your knees, but others can’t see, can you sit behind Suzie so others can see?”
Although teachers should have clear behavioral expectations for children, teachers high in this indicator set behavioral expectations that are appropriate for the activity at hand. In this scenario, the children were able to chose where to sit on the carpet, as well as how they wanted to sit. The children were allowed to move freely as long as it didn’t interfere with the other children viewing the activity.Circle time continues:
“Now that we are settled let’s sing our Good morning song,” says Mrs. Jones.
“Mrs. Jones can we sing a different song?” asks Marco.
Mrs. Jones looks at the clock and knows she is already running late and needs to still get through the days of the week, the weather, read the story, and introduce the activity for the day. She takes a deep breath and says “Sure, Marco we can sing a different song today, what song would you like to sing?”
“Wheels on the Bus!”
Mrs. Jones thinks to herself about how many verses this song has and that she’ll never get to all the activities that took her so long to plan. She asks, “Would everyone like to sing Wheels on the Bus?”
“Yes! Yes!” exclaim the children.
In this indicator being flexible and going along with student’s ideas does not distract from the lesson but allows the teacher to incorporate the student's interest and ideas into the planned lesson. In this scenario Mrs. Jones’ original plan was to sing the regular welcome song, however upon hearing Marco’s request she instead was flexible in those plans. She changed the song to follow the children’s interests, and incorporated that interest into her circle time activities, even though the length of the song may take away from previously planned activities.
Circle time continues:
“Marco why don’t you come up and lead us in singing Wheels on the Bus?” After five verses Mrs. Jones says, “That was a great idea Marco! Can you tell us why you wanted to sing wheels on the bus today?”
Marco replies, “I saw a big blue bus on the way to school today!”
“You did! Tell me more about that bus, what did you like about it?”
“The big wheels and the horn!”
“Does anyone else want to tell me why they like buses?”
“Well because they are so big!” says Connor.
“I like the driver. Honk, honk!” yells Sophie.
Mrs. Jones thinks about what’s left on her lesson plan to accomplish during circle time including the weather and storytime. “I was going to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom today, but since everyone is so excited about buses today, let’s read Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.”
“Julian, I know you love that book, can you please walk over to the library and get it for us?”
In this indicator the teacher enables children to be as independent as possible within a given activity. In this scenario Marco was able to choose the song and lead the activity of singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’, and Julian was given a responsibility to get the new book from the library.
In this indicator the teacher is genuinely interested in understanding how the students see the world and in getting them to express these thoughts. In our scenario the students were encouraged to talk about why they liked buses, eliciting their ideas.
Once again Mrs. Jones demonstrates her flexibility by changing her originally planned book of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus, inviting the students to be more autonomous.
Circle time goes on:
When Mrs. Jones finishes the story, she thinks about her initial lesson plan on letters. "How can I incorporate the children’s interests of buses into my planned lesson of focusing on the alphabet?"
Thinking on her feet she says, “We have talked a lot today about buses, what letter do you think bus starts with? Ba ba ba…“
“Balloon! Button!” exclaim the children.
“Yes! And on the bus there are windows, what words do you think start with the letter W?”
This continued for a few more letters as long as the children were interested, “D for driver, H for horn..”
As circle time draws to an end, Mrs. Jones says, “While we walk outside why don’t we pretend to be a bus driver? How can we do that?” And off they drove to the playground.
During this part of circle time Mrs. Jones is highly flexible by following the students’ interests of buses and incorporating her lesson of the alphabet to match their interests.
In this scenario Mrs. Jones listens closely to what the children are saying, and the lesson is not dominated by teacher talk. Children have many opportunities to talk and express their ideas including how they can drive the bus.
Looking deeper into this scenario, notice how the children responded. They were excited, eager to take part in the activities, and they showed genuine enthusiasm for continuing the discussion and play around the bus.
Imagine what the outcome might have been if this teacher was rigid and stuck to her lesson plans, despite what the children wanted to do. Would there have been as much excitement and enjoyment from the activities? Would children be as motivated to sing the song or listen to the story that was selected by the teacher? Most likely not. Although the teacher strayed from her plans and allowed the children to influence how the lesson would proceed, she still managed to incorporate the concept from her original lesson plans in a way that was much more meaningful for the children.
It is also important to note that this teacher had a predetermined plan and desired outcome for the activity. Including Regard for Student Perspectives doesn’t mean that we have to throw out all plans or structure, but it does allow for flexibility when a child’s interest sparks a new conversation or direction to the lesson. Taking students’ interests into account will lead to further engagement which, in turn, leads to happier, more motivated children.
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.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.