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?”
Knowing that approximately 25% of children under 5 come from homes where Spanish is the predominant language spoken, we were pleased that Lisa White, a researcher at American Institutes for Research, was willing to speak with us about her study that compared the CLASS with the CASEBA, a tool designed to assess quality in classrooms serving dual language learners. To learn more, read on!
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
We’re still soaking up the wisdom shared by our many, many excellent speakers at the spring 2021 InterAct Summit. From its inception, Teachstone has been an organization based in research. Because the CLASS is reliable and valid, teachers and programs trust it to give meaningful, accurate, and actionable information. To learn more about the current work being done in the field, we invited co-founder Bob Pianta to give an update on new research findings.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.