Regard for Child Perspectives, as defined by CLASS®, is “the degree to which the educator’s interactions with children and classroom activities place an emphasis on children’s interests, motivations, and points of view and encourage 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 Child 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 Child Perspectives at circle time. I’ll then discuss her exemplary examples:
At 9:02, Mrs. Jones calls all 22 of her preschool children over for circle time. “Choose a place to sit,” she says as she points to the different colored carpet shapes on the floor.
The children excitedly exclaim, “Oh! I got the pink circle. I want the blue square!”
Mrs. Jones states, “OK, children, once you find your spot, find a comfortable way to sit so everyone can see. I see Jessica and Brad are sitting on their bottom.” As Mrs. Jones looks around her circle, she notices Johnny is sitting on his knees, “Johnny, it looks like you are comfortable sitting on your knees, but others can’t see. Can you sit behind Suzie so others can see?”
Restriction of Movement
Although educators should have clear behavioral expectations for children, educators high in this indicator set behavioral expectations that are appropriate for the activity. In this scenario, the children were able to choose where to sit on the carpet, as well as how they wanted to sit. The children were allowed to move freely if it didn’t interfere with the other children viewing the activity.Circle time continues:
“Now that we are settled, let’s sing our Good morning song,” says Mrs. Jones.
“Mrs. Jones, can we sing a different song?” asks Marco.
Mrs. Jones looks at the clock and knows she is already running late and needs to get through the days of the week, the weather, read the story, and introduce the activity for the day. She takes a deep breath and says, “Sure, Marco, we can sing a different song today. What song would you like to sing?”
“Wheels on the Bus!”
Mrs. Jones thinks about how many verses this song has and that she’ll never get to all the activities that took her so long to plan. She asks, “Would everyone like to sing Wheels on the Bus?”
“Yes! Yes!” exclaimed the children.
Flexibility and Student Focus
In this indicator, being flexible and following children’s ideas does not distract from the lesson but allows the educator to incorporate the children's interests and ideas into the planned lesson. In this scenario, Mrs. Jones’ original plan was to sing the regular welcome song; however, upon hearing Marco’s request, she was instead flexible in those plans. She changed the song to follow the children’s interests. She incorporated that interest into her circle time activities, even though the length of the song may take away from previously planned activities.
Circle time continues:
“Marco, why don’t you come up and lead us in singing Wheels on the Bus?” After five verses, Mrs. Jones says, “That was a great idea, Marco! Can you tell us why you wanted to sing Wheels on the Bus today?”
Marco replies, “I saw a big blue bus on the way to school today!”
“You did! Tell me more about that bus; what did you like about it?”
“The big wheels and the horn!”
“Does anyone else want to tell me why they like buses?”
“Well, because they are so big!” says Connor.
“I like the driver. Honk, honk!” yells Sophie.
Mrs. Jones thinks about what’s left on her lesson plan to accomplish during circle time, including the weather and story time. “I was going to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom today, but since everyone is so excited about buses today, let’s read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.”
“Julian, I know you love that book. Can you please walk over to the library and get it for us?
Support for Autonomy and Leadership
In this indicator, the educator enables children to be independent within a given activity. In this scenario, Marco was able to choose the song and lead the activity of singing ‘Wheels on the Bus.' Julian was given the responsibility of getting the new book from the library.
In this indicator, the educators are genuinely interested in understanding how the children see the world and getting them to express these thoughts. In our scenario, the children were encouraged to discuss why they liked buses, eliciting their ideas.
Flexibility and Student Focus
Once again, Mrs. Jones demonstrates her flexibility by changing her originally planned book of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus, inviting the children to be more autonomous.
Circle time goes on:
When Mrs. Jones finishes the story, she thinks about her initial lesson plan on letters. "How can I incorporate the children’s interests in buses into my planned lesson of focusing on the alphabet?"
Thinking on her feet, she says, “We have talked a lot today about buses. What letter do you think bus starts with? Ba ba ba…“
“Balloon! Button!” exclaims the children.
“Yes! And on the bus, there are windows. What words do you think start with the letter W?”
This continued for a few more letters as long as the children were interested, “D for driver, H for horn..”
As circle time draws to an end, Mrs. Jones says, “While we walk outside, why don’t we pretend to be a bus driver? How can we do that?” And off they drove to the playground.
Flexibility and Student Focus
During this part of circle time, Mrs. Jones is highly flexible by following the children's interests in buses and incorporating her lesson on the alphabet to match their interests.
In this scenario, Mrs. Jones listens closely to what the children are saying, and the lesson is not dominated by educator talk. Children have many opportunities to talk and express their ideas, including how to drive the bus.
Looking deeper into this scenario, notice how the children responded. They were excited and eager to participate in the activities and showed genuine enthusiasm for continuing the discussion and playing around the bus.
Imagine the outcome if this educator was rigid and stuck to her lesson plans despite what the children wanted to do. Would there have been as much excitement and enjoyment from the activities? Would children be as motivated to sing the song or listen to the story selected by the educator? Most likely not. Although the educator strayed from her plans and allowed the children to influence how the lesson would proceed, she still managed to incorporate the concept from her original lesson plans in a way that was much more meaningful for the children.
It is also important to note that this educator had a predetermined plan and desired outcome for the activity. Including Regard for Child Perspectives doesn’t mean that we have to throw out all plans or structure, but it does allow for flexibility when a child’s interest sparks a new conversation or direction to the lesson. Taking students’ interests into account will lead to further engagement, which, in turn, leads to happier, more motivated children.
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Originally published December 22, 2016