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.”
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!
Last week we hosted Back to School with Meaningful Interactions, our first week-long free Teacher Series for nearly 4,000 early childhood educators. Each day attendees could choose from three 45-minute sessions that focused on what matters the most—meaningful classroom interactions.
At Teachstone, we sometimes hear from educators that they aren’t sure how to help facilitate exploration in their learning environments. The CLASS® Manual gives some specific examples, like asking the children to predict which ball will roll further, or making faces back and forth with an infant. But, in this blog post, I want to talk about how the learning environment space itself. The set-up and materials you use can support stronger interactions with children as well.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
In this vlog, you'll hear an overview of Teacher Sensitivity and Facilitated Exploration at the Infant level. Mary-Margaret introduces Responsive Caregiving and how to improve interactions by looking at an infant's cues that the child may be trying to communicate a need as well as ways to support an infant's exploration.
Facilitating a brand new training can come with a mix of emotions like anxiety, nerves, and excitement. I recently experienced every one of those emotions and then some as I prepared to deliver a new training. I wanted to ensure that I learned the new content to fidelity, so I spent hours reviewing and studying. I viewed the training videos. I prepared some awesome reflective questions to ask my participants. I brainstormed activities to engage the group, and I rehearsed my PowerPoint slides. My facilitator binder and manuals have never seen so many highlighter marks!
With preparation complete, it was go-time! I put on my “CLASSes” and knew that if I focused on the importance of interactions, it would all come together. And it did.
A few months ago, I gave a training to a group of early childhood professionals over the Infant CLASS. As I was going over one of the indicators titled, Awareness and Cue Detection, I read the high range description on the face-page:
“Teachers consistently physically orient toward the majority of the infants and regularly look around the room. Teachers continuously acknowledge infants whether or not they are making bids for attention, by talking to them or giving them a nod or smile.”