"What is contingent responding?" one of our affiliate trainers asked me recently. In case you didn't know, contingent responding is one of the behavioral markers for the frequent conversation indicator in the Language Modeling CLASS dimension. We know this is a question that many have asked, so we thought that it would be a good question to address today.
Webster’s Dictionary defines contingent as something “dependent on or conditioned by something else.” For example, a contract for the purchase of a house may be contingent upon the outcomes of the inspection. If the house has a leaky roof, the contract may become null and void.
So what does this have with conversations teachers have with children? It’s actually quite simple.
A teacher who responds contingently to a child follows the child’s conversational lead. What the teacher says is dependent upon what the child says. The Pre-K CLASS Manual describes contingent responding by noting, “The conversation is engaging for students because the teacher actively listens, contributes relevant responses, and asked related questions” (pg. 79).
Let's take a look at one conversation between a teacher and a child:
Child: “I helped Daddy cook dinner last night.”
Teacher: “ That’s nice. Do you want to know what we are having for lunch today?”
Child: “ I guess so.”
Teacher: “ We are having tacos, corn, and salad. You like tacos, don’t you?”
While we see a brief back-and-forth exchange (a part of frequent conversation), we do not see contingent responding because the teacher does not build on the child’s statement about helping his dad cook dinner. In essence, the conversation becomes null and void because the child has no interest in what they are having for lunch. He wanted to talk about helping his dad cook dinner and the teacher ignored his interest.
Let’s look at a second example:
Child: “I helped Daddy cook dinner last night.”
Teacher: “ You did? That’s great! What did you have?”
Child: “We had spaghetti.”
Teacher: “ Spaghetti. That’s one of your favorites! What did you do to help Daddy?”
Child: “First I helped put the flour and salt in a bowl and then stirred them together with some egg.”
Teacher: “Wow! You made homemade noodles.”
Child: ”Yep. It was fun. I got to squish the dough around with my hands and then I helped Daddy roll the dough flat.”
Teacher: “Oh. You kneaded the dough – that’s the cooking word for squishing dough around. What happened after you and daddy rolled it flat?”
Child: (excitedly) “Daddy got out the machine and he let me turn the handle while the machine cut the dough into noodles!”
Teacher: “That sounds like a lot of fun. I bet your dinner was extra special. I’m so glad you got to do that. I can’t wait to hear what else you and daddy cook for dinner!”
In this example, not only do we see the back-and-forth exchanges that are the hallmark of frequent conversations, but we also see true contingent responding. Each one of the teacher’s responses to the child builds upon what the child said.
Contingent responding is important because it lets the child know that he or she is a valued conversational partner. A child who feels like a valued conversational partner is more likely to both initiate conversations with others, as well as respond to other people’s conversational bids, which will only lead to greater exposure to language.
Contingent responding is one of the three behavioral markers for Language Modeling. As a reminder, each of the behavioral markers is meant to illustrate the types of interactions that an observer might see related to each indicator. An observer may not see all of the behavioral markers for an indicator and that’s perfectly okay. However, if you were curious to know what contingent responding looks like, now you do!
Have more questions about improving your Language Modeling in the classroom? Join the new CLASS Learning Community to share strategies that you can implement today.
Teachers everywhere have yet another new challenge—supporting students and their families from home. We know that high-quality interactions, including interesting, hands-on experiences that are facilitated and supported with feedback, scaffolding, and higher-order thinking questions, best support young students' learning. So how do you help your students' caregivers offer the same high-quality interactions while at home? Well, Rachel Giannini has some super fun ideas to share! The following are ideas she shared during her session at our recent InterAct CLASS Summit.
It’s Dual Language Learner Celebration Week! Every year in the U.S., the amount of young children who live in a household where a language other than English is spoken has been steadily increasing. As of 2016, about one-third of children under age 8 – over 11 million children – are dual language learners (DLLs).
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?