The CLASS® tool’s Instructional Learning Format (ILF) dimension refers to the ways educators enhance engagement. We all know students who are engaged in school regardless of who their teacher is just simply because that is who they are. But, this dimension examines the ways in which educators expand involvement by using a variety of modalities, strategies, and providing hands-on opportunities. This dimension is not about the actual learning that may or may not take place, but rather the “hooks” and methods an educator uses to “set the stage” for learning.
Why is the Instructional Learning Formats dimension so important? To put it simply, if students are not engaged and participating in the learning experiences that educators plan for them, then they are not learning. The more interesting and interactive the lessons are, the more students will participate, which increases the likelihood that students will gain something from the experience. If they are actively participating, they are open and ready to learn, opposed to if they are disengaged they are less likely to learn.
If students are not engaged and participating in the learning experiences that educators plan for them, then they are not learning
Below are three ways educators can boost student engagement:
When facilitating involvement, educators intentionally create meaningful moments for students to wrestle with complex tasks, ask questions, and connect with each other. They circulate around the room making sure students are getting the most out of the materials or activities and modeling or assisting when necessary.
To gain students’ interest, educators use a variety of approaches. They plan activities that use multiple materials, strategies, and learning modalities. When educators are effective in capturing students’ attention, they allow them to explore and gather the information in a variety of formats or groupings such as whole group, small group, or pairs.
As an educator, it’s important to know the focus of the lesson. Once educators have a clear idea of the purpose of their lesson or activity and what they want students to take away from the educational experience, then they need to communicate this to their students.
Educators can increase student engagement by helping their students understand “the why” behind what they are learning. By asking questions and making statements that focus the attention on the purpose, core intent, or learning objectives of the lesson or activity, students will know and understand where to focus their attention (as they relate to the goals) throughout the lesson.
Use the activity below to help you reflect on your own methods of incorporating Instructional Learning Formats in lessons. You can also download the reflection guide as a PDF.
Reflect on a recent lesson. Choose a lesson or activity that you taught recently and reflect on the ways in which you cultivated engagement. Consider how the students were engaged because of your efforts.
1. What were you doing to facilitate students’ involvement?
2. How were you enhancing their engagement as they worked, participated with the activities, and interacted with each other?
Variation in Approach
1. How did you vary your strategies as a way to capture students’ attention and maintain engagement?
2. What hands-on opportunities did you offer your students?
1. In what ways did students demonstrate that they were interested in the activities that you planned for them?
2. Did they: listen, ask questions, initiate involvement, and actively participate?
Clarity of Learning Objectives
1. Did your materials, and activities support your learning goals?
2. Were the questions you asked focused on your learning goals?
3. Did you provide previews, reorientation statements, or summary statements that were focused on the purpose of the lesson or activity?
Now that you have reflected. Take a moment to examine the patterns.
As you continue to use the Instructional Learning Formats dimension as your guide, consider creating a goal based on what you discovered during this reflection. Perhaps you might even record your next lesson or activity. Reflect again using the above questions.
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Originally published October 18, 2021
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
Originally September 15, 2021
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.
Originally published March 21, 2022
In recent years, mindfulness has gained popularity in our society, including in the early childhood education field. In fact, recent research has shown that mindfulness has many benefits for young children, including supporting their self-regulation skills.
In this blog, we explore the importance of supporting self-regulation during the early years. We discuss self-regulation and its impact on children, not only during their first years of life but the benefits that stay with them in their adult life.
In addition, we define and explore mindfulness focusing on two developmentally appropriate mindful activities to support self-regulation in young children, which are mindful breathing & mindful yoga.
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS® entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including state and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural, which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.