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Parenting with CLASS—Is It Possible?

30 Jul 2015 by Betsy Murry

Parenting a young child using CLASS concepts

When I went to my first CLASS training, I was so impressed that someone had found a way to quantify the behaviors and things that I had been doing in my classroom that I thought made me a good teacher. Never before had I been able to put words to what I was doing and the types of interactions I was having. I felt invigorated!

After the training, I couldn’t stop thinking about the different behavioral markers and indicators in my other relationships.  How was I interacting with my co-workers? My husband? When I was nannying, I found myself specifically trying to ask more open-ended questions, trying to follow the little one’s lead, and building concepts with each conversation. I realized that the interactions that are important to the CLASS tool don’t just apply in the classroom. They apply in all of our relationships—including parent/child relationships.

My sister lives in California so I don’t get to see her or her little one very often (thank goodness for video calls!). She makes sure to send pictures regularly and videos so we can see how quickly my nephew is growing and changing. One recent video she sent was of a storytime between her and my nephew.  

This video brought such a big smile to my face. My nephew is clearly into rules “NO GATE!” and pulling carrots “PULL!”.  

I showed the video to a coworker of mine and she said “your sister would get awesome CLASS scores during this story time!” and it got me thinking—while we probably don’t want to score interactions between parents and children, it doesn’t mean they don’t apply at home. Parenting is incredibly difficult and exhausting but the relationships you have at home are just as important, if not more so, than the relationships your child is building during the day at child care.  

While I didn’t score the video (it’s too short to score!), here are some of the effective interactions in the video that fit the Engaged Support for Learning domain of the Toddler CLASS tool:

  • Supported Language Use

    • back-and-forth exchanges

    • open-ended questioning

    • contingent responding

  • Repetition and Extension

    • repeats

    • extends/elaborates

  • Advanced Language

    • variety of words and/or vocabulary

    • labeling

  • Scaffolding

    • hints

    • verbal assistance

    • prompting thought processes

  • Providing Information

    • clarification of concepts

    • expansion and elaboration

  • Encouragement and Affirmation

    • recognition of effort

(FYI: An easy place to start learning about the Toddler CLASS dimensions is our Toddler CLASS Dimensions Guide.)

My sister hasn’t been to a CLASS training and doesn’t know the domains and dimensions, but by being more intentional with her interactions during this time, you can tell my nephew is learning and thinking and that they have a deep connection. We often say that a lot of what’s included in the CLASS is stuff you might already be doing, but so much of it is about being more intentional in your interactions. As a parent, knowing about the CLASS dimensions could transform not just the way you’re interacting at home but could help you connect with your child’s teacher. What do her interactions look like during the day? How can you build on those at home? As a teacher, you can share the importance of these interactions with your parents using our What is CLASS? info sheet to help explain the tool.

So, what’s next? Start small. During your next storytime with your little one, think about how you can make that interaction more rich and engaging for both you and your child.

No one can be "on" 24/7, but being more intentional about the interactions you are having can really make an impact.  


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