One of the more difficult CLASS™ indicators to identify and measure is integration—connecting concepts together and connecting them to previously learned concepts. When assessing this indicator, I ask myself, "Did the teacher ask or state explicitly how two ideas are related?" Two examples of this are:
Concept Development is all about helping children think about the how and the why of things. Understanding how and why always involves integrating concepts. One simple way to think about analysis and reasoning is "examining the facts to find reasons for things." A concept may be an idea, a bit of factual information, or even an action that when logically connected with other concepts becomes reasoning. If the teacher asked, "Why do you think the caterpillar was so hungry?" the children would have to piece together information. This would most likely involve an in-depth conversation about what happened in the story, in which the teacher scaffolds with questions like:
All of these ideas can make up connections that lead to children's ultimate understanding of why the caterpillar was so hungry. More difficult questions like this do require sustained back-and-forth exchanges and numerous connections.
At the high end of Concept Development, we see frequent examples of analysis and reasoning, and the teacher's questions lead to sustained instructional discussions. Concepts must be identified (analysis) and then explicitly and logically linked together (integration) through the higher-order process of reasoning, leading to new understanding.
What we see when this happens is a teacher who is intentionally guiding children through a series of logical connections; together they are "thinking out loud." In this way, integration at high levels is not only frequent throughout the observation (taking place within several different conversations), but it’s also very explicit. When scaffolding and other attempts do not lead children to uncover connections for themselves, the teacher clearly points them out. When the children do make their own connections, the teacher repeats them so that everything is broken down explicitly.
When assessing the level of integration in an observation, helpful questions are:
We can certainly understand why the indicator of integration can be difficult to assess, let alone to engage in, with young children frequently during the course of a lesson or activity. However, knowing the context and the purpose of pursuing explicit connections (pushing for understanding) helps us better analyze our observations and strive to think up new ways of explaining and exemplifying the indicator to teachers.
Obviously, I love talking about the intricacies and nuances of Concept Development and the entire Instructional Support domain. Through our new Instructional Support Strategies training, I’m able to do this on a regular basis and continue to learn from each of you. Let me know what you think in the comments, or better yet, join us at one of our upcoming Instructional Support Strategies trainings to learn more.
Sara Beach is a former Teachstone Staff Trainer. She has frequently presented on topics such as Helping Teachers with the Instructional Supports, through active, adult-learning approaches. She has been an Infant-toddler teacher, center director, education specialist, coach-mentor, and early childhood college instructor, and her highest honor has been supporting teachers.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.