When teachers hear CLASS tool, often the first thought that comes to their mind is asking children open-ended questions. And while asking “how” and “why” questions is extremely important in helping to foster and support language and concept development, we cannot have effective interactions with these questions alone. There is so much more to the CLASS tool!
Let’s think of the CLASS tool like the elements of a beautiful birthday cake. First, we need a recipe to help guide us towards a desired outcome—whether we are talking about a cake or effective interactions between teachers and children. Our recipe for effective interactions is the CLASS Dimension Guide. It gives us the ingredients we need to plan and take advantage of everyday exchanges with children.
Now, let’s think about the specific parts of the CLASS tool. A cake is more than ingredients tossed into a bowl. Throwing flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, butter, and milk together in a haphazard ratio will not reliably produce a cake any more than believing that asking open-ended questions alone will result in desired academic and social outcomes for children. We need all of the various CLASS dimensions just like we need all ingredients to bake a cake.
Understanding exactly what each of the dimensions means is as fundamental as knowing the difference between flour and baking soda. A good teacher reviews and researches these “ingredients” and creates a classroom environment that children enjoy while providing them with the emotional and educational nourishment that supports their growth into healthy, happy individuals.
Just as cooking times vary based on the type of oven, so do classroom dynamics. We need to take into account that what works for one group of children, may need to be altered slightly for different personalities, needs, and backgrounds. A skilled teacher, like a baker, understands when and how each of these dimensions is best implemented and combined with the others.
So there you have it: combining the Dimensions Guide recipe with all the CLASS ingredients is the only way to have high-quality interactions in your classroom. And remember, it takes time to figure out how to incorporate each of the dimensions. Before you know it, your CLASS-cake will be complete.
Time to celebrate!
It’s Dual Language Learner Celebration Week! Every year in the U.S., the amount of young children who live in a household where a language other than English is spoken has been steadily increasing. As of 2016, about one-third of children under age 8 – over 11 million children – are dual language learners (DLLs).
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.