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Matching CLASS Interactions with Learning Objectives: Concept Development

13 Jul 2015 by Vicki Kintner-Duffy

We all know that Concept Development captures how teachers promote children’s higher-order thinking skills. We can define the indicators and give examples of the behavioral markers. We can identify when teachers are using types of interactions. We can even help teachers take an engaging lesson plan and find some ways to incorporate effective Concept Development into the activity.

But what happens when a teacher is trying to match CLASS interactions with rote learning objectives? What do we do when the objective is identifying the letter Q? Or recalling the events in “The Three Little Pigs”? How do we help teachers find learning objectives that better align with CLASS strategies?

Lately, the MTP coaches that I support have been exploring this exact challenge. We discuss that teachers can often identify a single learning objective, but have a harder time linking that objective to the bigger picture or identifying how children’s thinking is developed by that objective.

After several conversations, we came up with the following process:  


  1. Help the teacher identify the content of the lesson.
    • What is the theme or activity?
  2. Help the teacher identify the larger concept.
    • What should the child know or be able to do at the end of the activity?
  3. Help the teacher identify the cognitive skill the children would need to use to understand the concept or complete the task.
    • What critical or higher-order thinking skill will the children use?
  4. Help the teacher link this skill to the CLASS strategy.
    • What Concept Development behavioral marker will the teacher use to promote the cognitive skill?

From there, you can brainstorm and plan more specifically what they might do in a particular lesson including materials, steps, and facilitation questions. This also provides them a planning strategy with which they can approach future activities.

So, what does this look like in action? Let’s go back to the original objectives named above and brainstorm some possibilities.

Original Objective





Identify the letter "Q"

(What letter is this?)

Words that begin with Q

Understand and use words that begin with Q in context

Identify the similarities and differences in the words or objects they represent

Understand, Apply

Classify, Compare

Brainstorming questions:

What other words start with Q?


Producing questions:

How can we make a quilt? What materials do we need? What steps will we take? How do we know when we are done?

Comparison and Classification questions:

Both "quilt" and "quail" start with Q. What is the same about these words? What is different?

Recall events in “The Three Little Pigs”

(What did the wolf say? What happened to the straw house?)

“The Three Little Pigs”

Physics, building construction: What is needed to make a sturdy building? How does the wolf blow the house down? How does wind work?

Demonstrate, predict, experiment, problem solve, evaluate

Prediction and Experimentation questions:

Why did the straw house fall down? Why did the brick house stay up? What would happen if the wolf tried to push the house down instead of blow it down?

Problem solving questions:

The stick house isn’t sturdy. How could we make it stay up better? What could we add? What kinds of sticks could we use?

Evaluation questions:

We added a foundation to the stick house. What happened when we tried to blow it down? How did our solution work?

Using this strategy we can help teachers move away from rote learning objectives towards engaging activities and lessons that employ Concept Development strategies and push children’s (and teachers’) thinking. This strategy can be especially helpful for teachers who have a set curriculum to follow, but are having trouble aligning the curriculum with CLASS interactions.

What about your work with teachers? How have you helped teachers link content, concepts, skills, and strategies? How might this strategy fit into the curricula your teachers are using? 

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