So, you’re dual-certified on the Infant and Toddler CLASS® tools. Congrats! Not only can you observe in Infant classrooms (birth to 18 months) and Toddler classrooms (15 to 36 months), but you can also observe in classrooms that contain a mix of the two age levels. If you are observing in a classroom with three age levels, as there often are in Family Day Homes, check out this guidance.
Observing in mixed age classrooms may seem daunting, but it’s completely doable. If you’re preparing to do Infant/Toddler CLASS observations, read on to get solutions to three of the most common challenges when observing in a mixed-age setting.
Generally speaking, Teachstone recommends that you alternate between two age levels in a mixed-age setting, observing several cycles of each. This way, you can capture the experiences of all the children in the classroom while still producing independent scores for the two age levels.
When you’re observing with the Infant CLASS tool, you should be focused on only the infant-aged children, and when you’re observing with the Toddler CLASS tool, you should be focused on—you guessed it!—only the toddler-aged children. Don't worry! You won’t need to watch infant and toddler interactions simultaneously.
It can be difficult to focus on just one age level. You may be observing the infants and happen to see a fabulous Facilitation of Learning and Development interaction happening with a toddler out of the corner of your eye. Or, maybe you’re observing the toddlers and can’t help but be distracted by a fussy infant lying under a mobile nearby. As much as possible, try to ignore what’s going on with the other children (I know, this goes against all your CLASS observer instincts) and hone in on what’s happening with the target age level.
The only time that interactions with children outside of the target age level count, is when they enhance or detract from the target children's experiences. For instance, let’s imagine that a teacher is working with a group of toddlers at a sensory table and an infant wakes up from a nap. The teacher goes over to the infant, changes his diaper, and then washes her hands. In the meantime, the toddlers start to squabble and throw toys. In this case, the teacher’s interaction with the infant has detracted from the experience of the toddlers.
While the Infant and Toddler CLASS tools are similar in some respects, they also differ in many ways as well. They’re distinct tools that capture the specific behaviors and interactions that matter for the particular age group with which they are meant to be used. When observing in mixed infant/toddler settings and switching back and forth between the Infant and Toddler tools, it’s crucial to keep the tools straight in your mind. Always use the score sheet that corresponds to the correct age level for note taking and coding. And refer to your manual throughout the observation process to help keep the tools straight.
Some say that nap time is public enemy number one for the CLASS observer. With some planning and flexibility, you can use nap time to your advantage. Talk to the teacher about the schedule or agenda ahead of time to plan out your observation.
Of course, we all know that things don’t always go as planned, and that’s why it’s important to adapt if necessary. It’s perfectly okay to break the cycles up if you need to. For example, if you start with Infant and the infants go down for a nap after your first cycle, go ahead and switch to Toddler for a few cycles and come back to finish up your Infant cycles when the infants are awake again. Remember that most other times besides nap time (i.e., outside play, diaper changes, etc.) can and should be coded when using the Infant and Toddler tools.
Are there other challenges you’re facing? Join the CLASS Learning Community to connect with other observers and get their advice on tricky situations when scoring and observing.
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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.
Educators 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 may wonder, “Will people think I’m weird if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for educators to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.
The idea of being observed while performing a job can make anyone feel a little nervous. But understanding what CLASS observations are really about can help teachers relax and approach their classrooms with the same skill and attention they normally do.
Marnetta Larrimer, host of Impacting the Classroom, is today’s guest. She’s an early education professional and trainer who is currently a Professional Services Manager for Teachstone. In her conversation with Kate, she’s going to talk about what a CLASS observation is all about. Listen to the episode to hear what she has to say about what she would be doing while observing a classroom, who she’s paying attention to, and what happens after an observation. The answers you hear will help you feel more confident the next time you’re being observed.