It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. Intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Defining Regard for Student Perspectives (RSP)
RSP as defined by CLASS is: “the degree to which the teacher’s interactions with students and classroom activities place an emphasis on students’ interests, motivations, and points of view and encourage student responsibility and autonomy.” There are keywords within this definition that can help us understand the importance of RSP in all types of interactions—degree, student, and classroom activities.
We know that joining children’s play during free choice provides easy opportunities to follow their lead and add to the depth of the activity through questions and participation. The same can be said for teacher-directed activities. By knowing your students, walking through the activity, and anticipating student responses and engagement, you can increase your flexibility within the activity and increase opportunities for student expression.
The degree to which this occurs in teacher-directed activities may look different than in child-directed activities, depending on perspective. Defining perspective as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view: true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion (New Oxford American Dictionary), demonstrates that perspective involves attitude and regard.
So you may be wondering, “What does this look like?”
Let’s take a look at a typical teacher-directed activity. During small group, the teacher has planned to use pictures of animals to have students classify whether the animal is from a farm or zoo. The teacher holds up a picture of a lion and the students identify it as a zoo animal. The teacher holds up a picture of a horse and the students identify it as a farm animal. The teacher continues until all the animals have been identified. Some children start making animal sounds and the teacher immediately asks the children to stop with a statement such as, “We are only deciding where the animals live, not making noises!” The children comply and continue. Leading the activity in this way, the teacher sticks to her agenda, accomplishing her goal of classification of the animal types.
However, she shows little flexibility and student focus, one of the indicators for this dimension.
Taking this same activity, a teacher can increase the degree of RSP, while still meeting the goal.
This time, the teacher tells the children they are going to look at some pictures of animals and decide whether they live on the farm or in the zoo. The teacher passes out a picture to each child, asks them to look at the picture and think about where it lives. She tells the children they will be going to the dramatic play area if they think their animal lives on the farm and to the block area if they think their animal lives in the zoo. As the teacher calls on the children to identify their animal, she asks them why they think it is a farm or zoo animal (flexibility and student focus and student expression), and the children go to the designated areas some making animal noises and moving like their animal (restriction of movement).
At another point during the exercise, one child has a picture of a duck and says, “Zoo.” The teacher asks why he thinks the duck should go to the zoo. The child responds that he went to the zoo and there were ducks. The teacher tells the child he can decide (support for autonomy and leadership) if his duck is a zoo duck or a farm duck (flexibility and student focus). The child quacks and waddles to the block area (restriction of movement). The goal of classification is achieved when there are two groups of children at the end of the activity.
The degree of RSP is increased due to this teacher’s attitude toward and regard for the importance of child input within the activity.
The second scenario provides evidence of all the indicators included in the RSP Dimension!
What does this mean?
Remembering to focus on Regard for Student Perspectives may mean letting go of pre-planned expectations to incorporate ideas offered by students. But, it can also level the playing field when teachers take cues from their student’s ideas. It sets the stage for student engagement and learning, positive relationships, and increases opportunities for effective interactions.
What other examples of RSP in teacher-directed activities have you incorporated in your lesson plans? I'd love to hear them! Please share them in the comments below.
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.
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.