In our previous "Real World Examples" post, we explored Instructional Learning Formats with a little cookie baking fun! For this post, we will move from the kitchen to the great outdoors and study the art of planting to kick-off our final domain, Instructional Support! Instructional Support looks at how we help children learn to solve problems, reason, and think; how teachers use feedback to expand and deepen skills and knowledge; and finally, how teachers help children develop more complex language skills.
We start our domain journey with the Concept Development dimension. Concept Development focuses on strategies the teacher uses to promote children's higher-order thinking skills and cognition. It is not rote teaching. Instead, it is the method a teacher uses to get children to think about the how and why of learning. For adults, Concept Development may look and sound more like talking ourselves through the learning process. Here is one example that many can relate to during the springtime months; planting! We will explore how two adult siblings learn more about planting by beautifying their neighborhood park.
Analysis and Reasoning
The story begins when siblings decide to take a walk to their neighborhood park. As they approach the park, conversation ensues. “Wow, look at all the dead plants and bushes. I wonder what happened? They were all alive last year.” (Evaluation). “Look, the plants on the other side of the park they have survived and had the same structure and leaves. According to the internet, they are a type of rose-bush. See the picture”? (Classification/Comparison). “I wonder what we can do to keep the park looking nice and the plants alive?” (Problem Solving). “I think that a partial-sun bush might work better over on this side of the park.” (Prediction).
The conversation continues. “Well, what kind of bushes might be partial sun bushes? I think that boxwood, azalea, and gardenia plants might work.” (Brainstorming). “Okay, it looks like Boxwood would be a good fit for this space. Now, where exactly should it go and what equipment might we need?” “It looks like we will need a shovel, tape measure, scissors, stakes, soil conditioner or compost, hammer, and work gloves.” (Planning). Fast forward a couple of days; “Now that we have all of the equipment let’s begin digging and planting!” (Producing).
As the siblings prepare the ground and begin digging one says, “I read an article about how neighborhood parks increase a sense of community and when there is greenery it can help reduce stress, especially living in the city as we do. I am excited to be planting more green plants in our park!” (Connecting Concepts). “I agree, it feels good to give back to our community. Do you remember in school, we would learn how to plant a tree in the spring? This project reminds me of planting the tree. They told us that the roots should be covered but not all of the tree trunk. The directions say something similar for this hedge and its root ball.” (Integrates with Previous Knowledge).
Connections to the Real World
“I wonder how we might be able to do this at home even though we do not have a yard. I bet we can plant a partial shade bush in a planter using the same equipment!” (Real world application) “I remember when grandma would plant her azaleas in a planter and keep them on her balcony, the butterflies loved the flowers and I think that having the same kind of bush would enhance our own balconies!” (Related to adult lives).
Through the process of planning and planting, they learned a new concept about plants and bushes. This process is similar to the methods educators use when promoting Concept Development in the classroom. By the siblings using higher order thinking skills instead of someone telling them what to do they were able to analyze, create and make connections to their lives while also integrating the knowledge they already learned about planting. Remember to rely on your curiosities to help develop questions. If you are curious about something, your students will be too!
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.
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.
Every state, every district, every school, every teacher faced decisions that they had never anticipated in the last academic year. As the end of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, it’s time to reflect on those decisions, learn from others, and prepare for the fall ahead.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.