I’d like you to take a minute and think about the answers to the following questions:
Chances are, you know the answers to these questions, and have very good reasons for why you do the things that you do. Unless you are a very rare breed that enjoys doing laundry, you probably rush to get the laundry done so that you will have clean clothes to wear. We all have a purpose or a reason for doing the things that we do, and we know why we do them.
Now, picture this classroom activity: some children are working with unifix cubes at a table. They are putting them together to make different types of patterns. The teacher walks up to one of the children and asks, “what are you doing?” and “Why are you doing that?” Would the children in the classroom be able to answer those questions?
Most of the time, teachers have very good reasons for why they are doing certain activities in a classroom. They know that if they want the children to learn about different types of weather, they might read books about weather. The children might create a weather graph in the classroom to graph the number of sunny, cloudy, rainy, and windy days. Or walk outside to observe what the weather is like, and paint pictures to show different types of weather. The teacher knows the purpose, or the objective, of the lesson. But do the children know why they are doing these types of activities and what they will learn by doing them?
In the Instructional Learning Formats dimension in the Pre-K CLASS tool, one of the indicators is Clarity of Learning Objectives. I often get asked about this particular indicator and to further explain what it is. Basically, this indicator means that the teacher effectively focuses students’ attention toward the learning objectives and/or the purpose of the lesson. Students in the classroom appear aware of the point of the lessons or how they should be focusing their attention during activities.
Let's talk about how a teacher might implement Clarity of Learning Objectives in their classroom:
This seems easy enough when the teacher has determined the learning objective and the activity. But how do they do this during centers when the child has chosen the activity? During centers, they should focus their questions on the activity in which the student is involved.
For example, when students are using different-size squeeze bottles and scoops at the water table, they can ask them how they are going to fill the bottles or which bottles will get filled faster. In addition, they may ask them questions about what lives in the water.
The next time you are in a classroom, take a minute to reflect upon this statement: “Do my students know why we are doing this activity or lesson, and what will they learn by doing it?”
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
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!
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. We know that 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.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.