DEAR MISS MATTERS:
I was chatting with one of my colleagues about the subtleties of Language Modeling the other day. She heard a teacher in a class she was observing say, “I think we should play with blocks,” and counted this as self-talk. Is this correct? We’d love your expert opinion.
I’m so glad you asked about this. Self- and parallel talk is one of the most misunderstood and overlooked set of interactions the CLASS tool measures! Never fret, though; this indicator is not in the least bit complicated.
Self- and parallel talk captures two forms of mapping or narration.
Self-talk is defined as the teacher narrating her own actions. Actions is the key word here. Self- and parallel talk must involve an observable action. “I think we should play with blocks” would not be considered self-talk because thinking is not an action the children can observe. “I’m writing our letter of the day on the board” or “I’m getting the blocks out” are examples of self-talk, however. In addition to being actionable, self- and parallel talk need to occur simultaneously with the action. In other words, as the teacher says, “I’m writing our letter of the day on the board,” she should be performing this action.
Parallel talk occurs when the teacher narrates the actions of the children and resembles sportscasting (Yes, Miss Matters watches sports from time to time). “Gloria is painting a tree” or “You are singing along with me” would both count as parallel talk. Just like self-talk, parallel talk is actionable and occurs at the same exact time as the action, not before or after.
Although self-and parallel talk can seem a bit awkward at first for adults—Can you imagine the looks your friends would give you if you constantly narrated all of your actions around them?—they are an absolutely essential piece of Language Modeling for young children. Self- and parallel talk help children link words with actions, which expands their vocabulary and propagates language development. As observers, it is our duty to recognize these interactions and code them appropriately.
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.