At a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) Training in Florida, an instructor told a story about finding a coconut on the beach with her granddaughter. She asked her, “How do you think we can open it up?” Before her grandchild could respond, her husband chimed in with exact instructions. She laughed because of course she had been trying to get her granddaughter problem solving—not her husband! It’s so easy and natural for us to jump in with an answer. As teachers, we have to remind ourselves why we stand back—to give children the opportunity to build those higher-order thinking skills that are so important to school and life success.
Too frequently we confuse providing information with promoting higher-order thinking. Providing information tells a child facts and knowledge about a subject. It’s not wrong—children do need to know their colors, shapes, and numbers—but it doesn’t challenge a child to do anything more than memorize, especially when those facts are isolated from anything the child is doing. To build thinking skills, children need to use that information to make sense of the world around them, or, even better, learn those facts within the context of exploring the world.
Appropriate opportunities to promote higher-order thinking include:
I’m always surprised by how children answer; they show me so much about how they see the world. For example, they might sort the foods into “yummy” “icky” and “weird” baskets or say that their tower is strong because they used the blue blocks. This provides plenty of opportunities for me to respond in ways that help them understand concepts a little better (“Why are blue blocks stronger? Could you make a strong tower with the red blocks, too? How?”). Just think, if I’d told them how to sort the food—they would have done so, and done fine, but neither of us would have learned anything about how to think. Now that I know they see food in those categories, I might ask them to subdivide their categories or challenge their choices (“Hmmmm. I see you put tomatoes in your “icky” basket, but I know you like pizza and spaghetti. Those are made with tomatoes. I wonder why you like those tomatoes and not these?”).
For me, it’s endlessly fascinating to see how children think and help them understand how to make sense of the world. Does this engage you in your work with children? I’d love to hear your stories!
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
The majority of early childhood classrooms have at least one child who is a dual language learner (DLL) and this population is growing. One in three children from birth to age six speak a language besides English at home. Consequently, the majority of teachers need strategies on how to best support this group of students. We reached out to Veronica Fernandez, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Miami for strategies she’s found most successful.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.