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!
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
As an educator, you’re busy. Your time is being split by competing priorities, from managing students’ needs, meeting your program’s goals, and communicating with parents. While you’re juggling your work, it can be difficult to keep learning about important ways to improve your daily teaching practice. Teachstone is here to help!