With the increased presence of virtual schooling, parents and educators of young children, including myself, are finding themselves stressed. Are children getting the content they need? How do I engage children in learning virtually? How do we help children develop essential skills such as curiosity, attention, and emotion regulation in a virtual setting? In a recent New York Times op-ed, entitled “Kids Can Learn to Love Learning, Even Over Zoom”, psychologist Adam Grant shared ways that teachers can promote curiosity in a virtual classroom. He discussed the importance of including “mystery, exploration, and meaning.”
I appreciate Grant’s insight and his reminders. However, I think there are two key ingredients missing to this equation that are highlighted in the CLASS framework: Regard for Student Perspectives and Teacher Sensitivity. In order to create mystery, allow exploration, and find meaning, teachers and parents need to be in tune with children’s needs and readiness levels and try to understand their motivations and interests.
Here is an example from my family:
Back in April, when we realized that schools were not going back for the semester, my kindergartener was supposed to be learning about fractions (specifically ½.) Her teacher sent two options for work that week: cutting playdough shapes or a worksheet. Even with a hands-on option, my six year-old was having none of it. After several attempts at engaging, providing alternative activities, and honestly, cajoling, I gave up and let her play. She simply was not ready.
I did check with her teacher before giving up; she emphasized that the objective was understanding the idea of parts and a whole. After that conversation, I made more of an intention to talk about halves and parts in our daily lives (I’m cutting the apple in half. When you put these two smaller blocks together, they are the same size as the one bigger block), but I didn’t make her sit down for a specific fractions lesson.
In CLASS terms, I was sensitive to the idea that she wasn’t ready, found ways to individualize support, and showed regard for her perspective by letting her lead her own exploration. I then embedded content information and application where I could.
Fast forward to September. My daughter spent the whole morning of Labor Day creating a house for her dolphin with boxes, paper, markers, tape, and stickers. Here she is in the middle of the process and her finished product.
To create this masterpiece (yes, I’m biased), she used lots of skills related to parts, whole, and measurement, including identifying and cutting pieces of cardboard in half. She identified the halfway points for the “hooks” on the paintings and for the panes on the window. She made a blueprint for the fireplace and then created it. She used the concept of half in a real-world application of design. Additionally, she demonstrated other important skills. She described her thinking to me as I helped make sure the lamp would stand up. Her attention was sustained and she showed pride for her accomplishment at the end. Through child-directed play and supportive interactions, she utilized tangible skills that are important in the classroom and beyond.
I know this school year is tough for everyone involved. My hope is that teachers and parents can find more ways to be aware of and responsive to children’s needs and remember to take time to see the world from a child’s perspective. Remember that there are lots of possibilities for how children could learn about and demonstrate a particular skill or concept. Work to get on the same page for the learning objective and be open to the amazing ways that kids could get there.
If you need help, Teachstone has created guidance for teachers to support these kinds of interactions with children in virtual and socially-distanced settings, including ways to work with families. Good luck this year!
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Can we talk about structure? When CLASS® entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including state and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural, which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
State policymakers have an exciting opportunity to level the playing field for early childhood education with thoughtful system design using the newly released Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, also known as PDG B-5. This grant provides funding to State early childhood agencies’ to strengthen early childhood systems. In particular, a portion of PDG B-5 funding is targeted for Renewal Grants—24 out of 25 eligible states are expected to be awarded funding for PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. These Renewal Grants will provide three consecutive years of funding to support activities and implementation in each state.
Moving towards a post-pandemic world, early childhood education is still in a fractured state of recovery. Numerous headlines define the inequitable foundation early childhood system is built on that limits educators’ capacity to thrive and impact children’s lives. Yet demand for early learning remains steadfast as families get back to routines in communities everywhere. How do policymakers start to level the playing field for early childhood programs with equitable policies while increasing access for families in need of high-quality care?
Originally published December 22, 2016
Regard for Student Perspectives as defined by CLASS® is“the degree to which the teacher’s interactions with students and classroom activities place an emphasis on students’ interests, motivations, and points of view and encourage student responsibility and autonomy.” This often looks like following children's lead so that you can anticipate their needs during an activity.
Understanding how to effectively employ CLASS's Regard for Student Perspectives while maintaining a constructive learning environment can be challenging. In the following paragraphs the fictional preschool professional, Mrs. Jones, will illustrate the indicators of Regard for Student Perspectives at circle time. I’ll then discuss her exemplary examples: