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How to Show Regard for the Wiggle-Worms

28 Sep 2015 by Anne Tapaszi
A boy wiggles while listening to a story in circle time.

While spending time doing CLASS observations around the country, I am particularly interested in how programs, directors, and teachers interpret the Regard for Student Perspectives dimension, with particular attention to the restriction of movement indicator. What does restricting movement have to do with showing regard for a child’s perspective? Wouldn’t it fit better with Behavior Management? And how does “allows movement” and “is not rigid” play out in the classroom without wreaking havoc and creating chaos?

Leaving Room for the Wiggles

First, let’s consider where this indicator is positioned within the CLASS framework. It falls under Regard rather than under Behavior Management, even though it can be a connection between the two. The final statement on page 42 of the Pre-K CLASS manual states it clearly: “The teacher who scores high on this scale (Regard for Student Perspectives) should have clear expectations for student behavior and not rigidly adhere to behavioral guidelines when it is not necessary.” I often witness teachers who set clear expectations for their children while showing regard. The teacher who says, “Everyone needs to be on her letter for storytime” is stating a clear rule, but he is not dictating the manner in which the children are on their letter (some may be on their knees, others with their legs out straight ahead of them, etc). The expectation that all children be in a “space” is there; the expectation that they sit in a particular manner, or without movement, is not. Redirection should take place if/when children leave their activity and/or distract or annoy others—but there is no need to redirect if that isn’t the case.  

What's Too Restrictive?

On the other hand, some teachers I observe insist upon “criss-cross applesauce” and expect children to sit in that position for many minutes, without ANY movement, which causes real issues for the “wiggle-worms” in the classroom. It also doesn’t take into consideration those children who may not be able to see or hear the teacher well, may not be comfortable in that position, or may not be developmentally ready to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. These children are not “misbehaving” and the teacher’s efforts to “redirect” them is usually more of a distraction to children’s learning than the movement is itself. Also, when children are not permitted to move for a period of time, behavioral issues tend to develop and escalate as a direct result.

Circle time isn’t the only time when restriction of movement can be honored. It’s great to witness teachers who set clear expectations for meal times in their classrooms: children are asked to sit at the table to eat, to serve and pass food as needed and often to pour their own beverages. These expectations do NOT require children to sit quietly, position themselves in a very specific way in their chairs, stay seated when they need to get another straw or napkin, and/or only move to feed themselves. The outcome is a mealtime where children take care of their own needs and feel respected for their decisions within a framework that maintains behavioral expectations while building independence.

Here's to the Movers!

We know that preschool children are active and movement is essential to children’s healthy development and the CLASS tool takes this into account. When teachers thoughtfully incorporate movement into their lessons and routines, children are provided with many safe and appropriate opportunities throughout the school day to move their bodies and refocus their minds. In this way, children learn to regulate their own personal movement needs within developmentally appropriate behavioral guidelines, which in turn supports and improves behavioral management in the classroom.

Here’s to the wiggle-worms of the world and to the teachers who show regard for them!


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