Let's talk today about the CLASS tool being used for infants and toddlers. You may be familiar with the fact that the Infant measure (birth to 18 months) has one domain—Responsive Caregiving— with four dimensions, while the Toddler measure (15-36 months) has two domains—Emotional and Behavioral Support and Engaged Support for Learning—with eight dimensions.
These tools share some similarities. Both tools are driven by the cues of the child—which can be subtle or quite apparent—though the meaning of the cues requires thoughtful response by the adult. They also both look at the connection between the child and caregiver, and how the adult's responses meet the developmental needs of the child. And of course, both consider the effectiveness of the interactions to build opportunities for growth and development.
Think about the similarities and the differences of the CLASS measures that I mention in my video below.
Did you pick up on what's so different from toddlers than infants? Why is there a need for two different tools?
Infants are driven by their need to connect with an adult to regulate their physiological state. They relay on their caregivers not only for warmth and nurturing, but also to provide safety and the ability to explore and process new experiences. In other words, infants become one with their provider.
Toddlers, on the other hand, still need that connection to their caregiver, but they are beginning to see themselves as an individual. This sense of individuality is key. Because of their new-found sense of self, toddlers love to test the limits and explore the world (as we all know!). So, the role of effective caregivers has now changed. Caregivers begin to help the toddler navigate their own expressions of strong feelings, beginnings of self-regulation, and exploration through supportive and sensitive responses.
Teachers everywhere have yet another new challenge—supporting students and their families from home. We know that high-quality interactions, including interesting, hands-on experiences that are facilitated and supported with feedback, scaffolding, and higher-order thinking questions, best support young students' learning. So how do you help your students' caregivers offer the same high-quality interactions while at home? Well, Rachel Giannini has some super fun ideas to share! The following are ideas she shared during her session at our recent InterAct CLASS Summit.
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?
We all know people are naturally social beings—we need interactions to survive. But just because we’re naturally social doesn’t mean we know how to be social. We have to learn social behaviors—from our families, caregivers, and peers. Teachers play a key role in promoting social development, which includes peer play and friendships.
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.