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.”
When I had a child with selective mutism in my classroom, the key was to act casual and not bring attention to the fact that she didn't talk much. It was important to pick up on her nonverbal cues and make her feel comfortable and supported. We needed to provide her with opportunities for input in a way that didn't call attention to her selective mutism.
I had the pleasure of having this wonderful student in my classroom for two years. I am happy to report that by the end of the first year she would talk to me constantly when we were alone out on the playground. By the end of the second year, she would speak out loud in complete sentences in the classroom in front of her peers. I mention this for two reasons. First, it’s proof that progress and good outcomes are possible for less verbal children. And second, it’s a reminder that there are no quick fixes. It takes time and patience and ongoing, high-quality interactions to help a less verbal student develop to her full potential.
So what kinds of feedback interactions can a teacher offer to support a less verbal child, like my student, in reaching that potential?
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But no matter the reason a child is less verbal, you can still engage with that child just as you do with all of your students. Quality of Feedback is about teachers helping students expand their learning and understanding, as well as encouraging continued participation. Teachers can provide high-quality feedback in response to what a child is doing, just as much as what a child is saying.
Here is one example of an interaction:
A child is playing with teddy bear manipulatives. The teacher notices that she has stacked them according to color.
Teacher: Sandy, I see you are sorting together all the same colors. The red, the green, the yellow, the blue. [the teacher points to each color as she says it]
Teacher: Can you show me which color you like best?
Sandy: [points to the red group]
Teacher: Oh, I see you like the color red the best. I like red too. Remember yesterday we made playdough and we made it red?
Teacher: Let’s count how many red teddy bears there are. Can you help?
[Teacher and Sandy point to each one as they count up to six. As the teacher says each number, Sandy repeats it quietly.]
Teacher: There are six red teddy bears. Which group has more? The red or the blue?
Sandy: [points at the blue group]
Teacher: You are right, there are more blue ones! Can we count those too?
[Together they count ten blue bears.]
Teacher: Sandy, ten is more than six. I like counting with you. So what do we know about bears?
Sandy: [picks up a bear and makes a growling sound.]
Teacher: [picks another up and growls too]
Teacher: You're right. Real bears do growl. And they live in the forest.
Sandy: [Gets up and goes to the library and brings back a book they read the day before.]
Teacher: Oh, you are right, that is a book about bears. We read it yesterday at storytime after we ate our snack.
Teacher: We did have oranges, they were cut up into segments.
Teacher: Should we read the bear book together?
They read the book together, which provides more opportunities for Quality Feedback.
This type of interaction hits all the Quality of Feedback indicators. It provides the student with feedback that expands learning and encourages ongoing participation, while adding the language component that all students need. This kind of complex engagement is essential in exposing a less verbal child to the quality classroom experience that all students deserve.
Keep in mind that interactions like these may include indicators for more than one dimension, and that having rich, complex interactions with a student (all students!) will help your scores in several areas. Of course, it’s not all about getting a high score. But high scores equal classroom environments where students have the best outcomes!
And my husband wondered why I so often had a hoarse throat when I got home from work … I had 16 students, and I loved talking and engaging with them all!
For more information on selective mutism, visit https://childmind.org/guide/teachers-guide-to-selective-mutism/
Jennifer Haessly, M.A.Ed. is a Program Coordinator and trainer for the Consortium for Early Learning Services in Riverside County, California. She has worked in the Early Childhood Education field for over 25 years. She has a passion for working with young children. She lives on a farm with her husband, dogs, horses, goats, pigs, and sheep, because “animals teach children about empathy and responsibility.” You can find our website at http://consortiumels.org/
Knowing that approximately 25% of children under 5 come from homes where Spanish is the predominant language spoken, we were pleased that Lisa White, a researcher at American Institutes for Research, was willing to speak with us about her study that compared the CLASS with the CASEBA, a tool designed to assess quality in classrooms serving dual language learners. To learn more, read on!
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.
We’re still soaking up the wisdom shared by our many, many excellent speakers at the spring 2021 InterAct Summit. From its inception, Teachstone has been an organization based in research. Because the CLASS is reliable and valid, teachers and programs trust it to give meaningful, accurate, and actionable information. To learn more about the current work being done in the field, we invited co-founder Bob Pianta to give an update on new research findings.
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.