I’m often asked how teachers can improve the quality of their interactions around Instructional Support. That’s good! What’s not “good” is that we can’t just focus on one thing. We should consider how ALL the CLASS dimensions need to be in place in order to really provide effective interactions for Instructional Support.
So, how can you improve Instructional Support in the classroom by focusing on HOW you interact with children?
Start with your children. Get to know them, inspire feelings of safety and trust. Show them you are interested in them, listen—focus on what they are saying to you with words or behavior.
Provide an organized classroom that allows plenty of time for you to interact with them. Use interesting materials or modalities to draw their interest in so you can capitalize on the teachable moments.
Every day, all day, children tell us what they need by their behavior, their responses to us–our job is to be good at noticing these messages. Highly effective teacher-child interactions are essentially Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Teachers just need to take a moment, observe, and respond.
Let’s think about a few dimensions that are the springboard for Instructional Support:
When teachers are aware of children’s understanding or challenges with a task, an idea, or a concept, they can provide scaffolding to help the child understand.
When teachers seek out the children’s ideas, points-of-view, or interests, they can shape their planning around the concepts that the children are ready to learn about.
When teachers actively facilitate children’s engagement they set the stage for focused learning.
Start by connecting with your kids. Learn about who they are and what they know or don’t know about how the world works. Be sensitive to their needs both emotionally and academically. Adjust your plan to meet their needs.
Provide a chaos free environment by having interesting materials, a clear flow to the day, and minimal waiting throughout the day. Notice what they play with, how they use materials, and what captures their imagination.
For example, here are three Instructional Support areas you can focus on, as well as an example for how to incorporate them into your classroom:
Instructional support interactions matter and you have many opportunities throughout the day to do just that! Interact, pay attention, respond to the children where they are, and take it to the next level with intentional responses. You will find your time with children will be more engaging and fun!
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.
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.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.