Across the nation, teachers learning about CLASS are asked to narrate their actions and sportscast their children’s experiences in order to support and encourage healthy language development. Hearing this, many teachers may wonder, “Will people think I’m crazy if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for teachers to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.
In self-talk the teacher intentionally describes what he or she is thinking, seeing, hearing, touching or doing. The teacher links words to actions: “I’m giving each of you a handful of animal crackers. I am placing the crackers in a pile in the center of your napkins.” These words are said while the teacher actively passes out the snack, making words like, “handful,” “placing,” and “pile” come alive for the children.
Self-talk is NOT simply using “I” statements, such as, “I am going to tour the zoo tomorrow and I will feed a giraffe! I love giraffes.’” Why would statements like this be less effective? In this example, a child may not know know the word “tour” or "giraffe.” These words are said in an abstract way and not made concrete by mapping them to what the child can currently see or experience.
In parallel talk, the teacher links words directly to children’s current actions or experiences. For example, “You are holding the zipper and zipping your jacket all the way up to your chin.” The teacher becomes a sportscaster, narrating a play-by-play account of what the child is seeing, feeling, or doing, making words personalized and meaningful.
Parallel talk is NOT simply using a “you” statement, such as, “You did a good job painting your picture.” Why? Because this comment refers to something that happened in the past and does not promote the more powerful connection between a child’s real-time experiences and the language that describes these moments in rich, memorable detail.
Take the first step by selecting one part of your daily routine when you can begin to narrate what you and your children are doing during an activity. Try modeling their behavior while describing your actions and pausing for their response, whether it be verbal or non-verbal, and then continuing on with this cycle of communication.
Build relationships! Engage shy, quiet, or non-verbal children by joining them in play and describing both of your actions in a conversational way, focusing on the child’s interests, without adding the stress of asking questions or expecting verbal responses. The child will be exposed to personalized language in a relaxed setting and your relationship will be strengthened by sharing an enjoyable activity together.
Teachers should use these strategies in a back-and-forth, conversational way, being careful not to bombard children with details. While maintaining the flow of communication, teachers should frequently pause so that children may join in, either verbally or non-verbally.
The purpose of these strategies is to expose children to meaningful language and enhance language development. To increase effectiveness, there should be no requirement for children to respond to or to imitate what is being said when providing self- and parallel talk.
As you practice mapping actions with words, it will soon become a more natural part of your daily routine and both you and your children will enjoy the benefits of enhanced communication in your classroom.
This post was written by Mamie Morrow and Anne Tapaszi, two of Teachstone's professional development specialists.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.
Many teachers and leaders associate CLASS® with preschool. And we get it! It’s used in early childhood classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs, and it’s been more important than ever for young children as they begin to return to in-person learning.
But the principles of CLASS - Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, Instructional Support - are important for children well beyond Pre-K. The ever-increasing research base shows that interactions matter for children’s social-emotional and academic development. That’s why CLASS is organized to support children from infancy to high school with the developmentally appropriate interactions that drive learning - and why K-12 leaders are embracing CLASS in their schools.