This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.
In order for children to learn, they need to feel safe and supported. It is important for teachers to create learning environments where children respect one another and have opportunities to connect with their peers. This past year has been challenging for all. As teachers and children re-enter the classroom setting this fall, some for the first time in a year, it will be particularly critical for teachers to make space for children to connect (or re-connect) with their peers, build relationships, and learn (or relearn) how to respectfully interact in face-to-face settings. Creating this supportive environment is the critical first step in supporting children’s development and learning.
Modeling language and providing time for children to practice using language is particularly critical in the early years of school as they are developing their language proficiency. In many cases, this past year has meant interrupted, hybrid, or virtual schooling--all of which, despite everyone’s best efforts, is not ideal for practicing and developing language. As a result, it will be particularly important for teachers to increase their students’ exposure to verbal language.
Encourage children to make connections and think beyond rote memorization of isolated facts. Make the most of your time with children, and design lessons that challenge them to think more abstractly and activate their higher-order thinking. Due to the disruptions in schooling this past year for many children, a narrow focus on promoting analysis and reasoning would be highly beneficial.
Throughout the course of the day, there are a multitude of opportunities to engage children in effective interactions that further promote their development and learning. For even more strategies and teacher tips, download the resource guide below.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.
Shared physical presence is a large part of how we’re used to connecting with each other. Strong connections and relationships are important for children who may have recently experienced loss, high stress, or trauma. As teachers connect with children in a virtual setting, it can be more challenging to think about how to create a safe space for learning, sharing experiences, and taking risks.