How we spent class time this week

With the flipped classroom model, the goal is to free up time during class sessions in order to provide active support to students when they need it. I like the idea of active support because this is how it feels to me during the class sessions.

Before our class, I had already sent out two video clips about the Teacher Research Project (data collection, Teacher Research Showcase) and a Prezi for this week’s lesson. During class time,  students began working on their quizzes, and I spent some of that time typing feedback on their quizzes from last week in Blackboard. As students transitioned from the quiz to their work, I began moving around the room and these are some of the things we worked on:

  • A small group of students were concerned that they were not writing their field notes appropriately. I was able to talk with them about how the notes should look and what is most important to include.
  • I talked with one student about her concern that the ECE setting would not allow her to take photographs. She was worried that this may negatively impact her grade so it was a good opportunity to reassure her that this is not the case and to talk about alternative approaches to collecting the data she needs.
  • We looked at examples from previous Observation and Interpretation papers, and talked about their strengths and weaknesses. Students also paired up to discuss with each other how they might interpret each other’s observations. This was an effective exercise as students were giving each other good advice – I know this because I was listening!
  • I also walked around to each computer and offered to read student narratives and provide my direct feedback – several students took me up on this offer.
  • I helped students with various computer issues including signing up for an e-newsletter, saving documents to dropbox, and navigating the Prezi. Some students viewed my videos during class and others explored the various additional resources posted.

It was very busy during the entire 3.5 hour class session. Each student was busy with work the whole time. In fact, I had to urge them to take a break!

students working together 2

One student told me that while watching my video her young child was waving to me and asking why I wasn’t waving back!

It’s interesting to think of my students working on the lecture part of the class at times that are most convenient to them. So far, they are telling me that this model is working well.

Next week, I hope to make even more of an effort to actively support their work during the class session.

Students working together and with my support

Students working together and with my support

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Observation and Interpretation paper – the final draft

This week during class we will spend a good deal of time reviewing your narrative section and talking about how to do the interpretation. I also wanted you to start thinking about the rest of the paper which includes the analysis section and the reflection section.The goal is that you will revise your narrative and interpretation as needed based on feedback you receive in class this week and then you will write the analysis and reflection sections, review and revise the whole paper on your own and then turn in the final completed paper the following week.

Please take a look at this video clip for explanation of the analysis and reflection sections of the paper.

Happy Writing!

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The Flipped Classroom: an experiment

I have been moving in this direction for the past year, but after a discussion with my Saturday students this week, I’ve finally decided to more formally adopt a flipped classroom. For an overview of the flipped model, check out “The Flipped Classroom Infographic”.

The following definition is from Michigan State University’s Office of Faculty and Organizational Development:

In “flipped classes” students use technology at home to watch online video lectures, demonstrations, and explanations of assignments.  Class time is spent doing what is traditionally called “homework.”  The teacher in a flipped classroom is a learning facilitator, able to work one-to-one with students, clarify assignments, and offer help as needed.  Classmates can work together on in-class assignments, engage in discussions, or collaborate on projects.

A major benefit is that teachers spend more time working directly with students instead of lecturing to them.  The downside is the need for access to technology and the student’s own motivation to watch the videos.

On the MSU page cited above, you can find several resources about the flipped classroom with specific reference to higher education.

I started the process last year by developing in-depth, weekly quizzes that varied each week. The goal was to engage students more in the reading process (see previous post from the ACCESS blog). Sometimes the weekly quizzes included a collaborative project, sometimes they included a small group discussion or team work. In each case, individual students had to write their own answers to the quiz questions. I found this to be tremendously engaging. Students worked very hard on these quizzes and spent extended periods of time deeply engaged with course material.

I’ve presented this idea at various conferences and the usual questions that come from fellow instructors include:

  1. Are you concerned about spending so much class time on quizzes?
  2. How do you create and grade all those quizzes in addition to all the other assignments?

These questions are valid and I’ve spent the last year or so thinking about them. What I have found is that students really focus during that quiz time – more so than any lecture I’ve done, and more so than any other collaborative project I’ve designed. I think the combination of the active component to the quiz as well as the individual quiz score per student seems to motivate each student to participate in the activity and try their best to write it up for the quiz answers. In terms of planning, the time I used to spend in planning my lecture and class activities goes in to designing an active quiz with the sole purpose of engaging students in the material. So far, I have not seen a huge increase in the amount of time I spend in planning.

Grading does take time and this is always a challenge for me! However, I am using a rubric that focuses on the strength of the writing (more on that later). This has helped me to concentrate my feedback on students’ ability to communicate their thoughts rather than on testing them for specific content criteria. The students have described this as:

This kind of quiz is more of a learning experience.

It doesn’t feel like a regular test. It feels more like learning.

The quotes above were taken from reflection papers written by students last semester (fall 2012).

At this point, based on encouragement from my students, I am now experimenting with using short, informational videos about specific assignments and course content and posting them each week to our Blackboard site and perhaps to this blog. The idea is that students can watch these videos at home, or on campus and review them as needed in order to fully understand the content as well as the expectations for each assignment. I just posted my first 2-minute video on Saturday and it didn’t take that much time. It was a re-play of what I had just discussed that day but it is typically something I need to repeat many times until the assignment is due.

What I hope is that students will look at it as needed and perhaps it will cut down on the number of times I say the same thing about a specific assignment during class. The theory is that this will free our time together and allow me to work more closely, one-on-one with students on anything they need at the time including explanations of content and targeted feedback on their writing. We will see if this pans out.

After discussing the flipped classroom model with the students Saturday morning, they encouraged me to give it a try. I am always amazed at how willing Child Development students are to try something new especially if they think it will help them to learn and grow. I’m very proud of them for that kind of attitude. Becoming a teacher means deciding to be a lifelong learner and these students are already demonstrating their willingness to keep learning.

The least I can do is keep learning new things too, so here we go!

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Observation & Interpretation Paper – the first draft

This week, students proposed the following:

They want to work on the first part of the paper and bring the draft with them to class next week so we can talk about the observation narrative and I can provide feedback before they go on to finish the paper and submit it for a grade.

We agreed that the students would select an episode from their observation journal (observations about play in an ECE setting) and type it up for the narrative section of the “Observation and Interpretation Paper”. I also encouraged them to read the instructions for the interpretation section and jot down some ideas for how they think they will interpret the narrative. The Assignment description is found in the Assignments tab and I’ll also include it here: Assignment Description – Observation and Interpretation paper.

The interpretation = the connection between what you described in the narrative section, and what you have learned about in readings and discussions for class.

I’ve recorded a video that describes these two sections. To watch the video, click here.

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Dusting off my blog to start using it with students!

I have decided to start using this blog as a way to communicate with my students in addition to its original purpose which was for my personal reflections about my own teaching. I think I can do both! We shall see.

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Spring Reflections

As I wrap up the Spring semester, I keep thinking about the learning process and how personal this is for each student. This semester, I asked students to write the following reflection:

  1. What are the top 3 things you learned this semester?
  2. How do you plan to make use of this learning in the future?
  3. What is your advice to the students who will take this course next semester?

I usually assign something like this at the end of each semester. Sometimes it is a longer paper. This was assigned as an in-class, short answer assignment. Students are not necessarily fond of reflection papers, but they do seem to enjoy giving advice to future students! Many students wrote about transformation this semester. We spend a good deal of time talking about “Becoming a Professional” in the field, and what that process means to all of us, myself included. This year, students did a fine job of describing how they had changed over the semester.

One theme that emerged, is that many students expressed regret that they started taking classes later in their career rather than earlier. I want to honor that feeling for a moment because I think it is a natural part of the transformational process. Don’t we all wish, at some point, that we knew then what we know now? What I hope for students is that they never give up on the learning process. As we learn, we realize there is so much more to learn! This is part of the process and I hope to convey to students that I am in the same boat with them – this is a lifelong journey we are on.

It’s never too late to be who you might have been. 

– George Eliot


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the Art of Helping Others

We are in the midst of severe weather conditions here in Chicago. School systems and businesses are closed and have remained closed for two days – pretty unusual for a city that is used to intense winters. I’ve noticed that when the weather is especially bad, people tend to reach out to each other. We look at each other more when walking down the street. People will say things to each other like, “be careful out there”, and “stay warm”.

These days, there is the added piece that allows folks to send warm wishes across wide geographical locations via text messaging and Facebook. Friends, family, and colleagues from Washington State to Cape Cod, Massachusetts have been texting and leaving wall posts and e-mails expressing concern; reaching out.

And it is a help, just to know people care.

A colleague of mine, in social work, recommended a book which I am now in the middle of reading called “The Art of Helping Others: Being around, being there, being wise” by Heather Smith and Mark K. Smith. It’s been interesting to read something that is not specifically targeting an early childhood audience; rather refreshing actually. It has brought a new perspective to the way I think of my own role as a teacher of adult students and perhaps how I think of my students’ role as they prepare to work with young children and their families.

I’ve never really thought about it in these terms before, but aren’t we a “helping” field? Don’t we try to teach young children to help each other? Don’t we try to instill in adult students the need to work together and help each other? I feel like the strongest groups I have in class are the groups that take on the role of helping their colleagues. To me, this is a good sign for their future as professionals in the field.

I’ll share one piece with you from the book. In the passage below, the author is describing what he observed in a Native American elementary school in Minneapolis that had a resident wise woman who was available to talk with the children each day.

“…her ability to reflect as she listens and talks is one of the reasons why she was able to be with the children in the way she was. This giving of respect to the thoughts, feelings, and words of others both meant they experienced being valued, and gave space to entertaining and exploring concerns” (p. 63).

If I can create such a learning environment that fosters respect for people’s thoughts, feelings, and words, perhaps it would model the level of caring I hope my students will bring to their work with young children and their families.

Thanks Mike for the book recommendation! It’s been a treat.

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CARE and care alike


C = Curious

A = Articulate

R = Respectful

E = Ethical

Many instructors are using this model in a variety of ways through their courses this semester. Here are some of the ideas I’ve heard of so far:

1) Use the CARE model and it’s corresponding Do You CARE rubric 12-22-10 as a self-assessment tool for students. Students will write reflections about their own development as ECE professionals and how they see themselves using the 4 characteristics of CARE in their daily lives.

2) Examine each characteristic of CARE as they come up in the course content. For example, in describing how to do observations, we always emphasize that students write objectively. Perhaps by being curious about what the child is doing and saying the student is more likely to write the observation using objective language. To be articulate means that a student must work to write and speak clearly to articulate complex concepts about child development to a wide audience. In developing communication skills, students and instructors can explore ways of speaking and writing clearly by focusing on the audience and reading things out loud to each other.

3) A simple CARE quiz – do students know the four characteristics and can they give examples of each?

4) Watch a video clip and use the CARE rubric to determine if the teacher onscreen is exhibiting characteristics of CARE. I have found that allowing students to use rubrics on a neutral person from a vignette or video, helps them to hone their critical thinking skills without the pressure of evaluating a classmate. As a group, students can talk together about what they see in the teacher and how it is linked to the CARE characteristics.

Lab Center teachers and directors can use the CARE model in a variety of ways as well. Hang a Do you CARE poster in your classrooms and teacher break areas. Talk about it with each other in meetings. When working with CCC students, mention the various characteristics of CARE that are involved in a particular situation. In many ways, it’s the centers that will help put these characteristics into real-life settings for our students. It’s easy to talk about being respectful, but it can be another thing entirely to be respectful during a challenging interaction with a child or parent. It’s one thing to learn about ethics and it’s another thing entirely to use the Code of Ethical conduct to guide your decision making process in real life.

The CARE model might be a good way for the academic programs and the lab centers to come together to talk about how to provide opportunities for both pre-service and in-service teachers as they develop the ECE dispositions that are most important to all of us.

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Arleen Prairie writes about the CLASS Measures

The following article was written by retired HWC Professor, Arleen Prairie

The CLASS Measures and Enhances Qualities that Matter in Preschool Education                                                                                                    

 The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is an observation tool that focuses on the effectiveness of classroom interactions among teachers and children and classroom organization. From the CLASS research we know children thrive when teachers create nurturing, well-managed settings and engage children in ongoing thoughtful conversations and meaningful activities.

With the overarching goal to improve outcomes for young children, the CLASS provides valuable individual feedback to programs and teachers. This system is successful in

  • Program monitoring
  • Professional development
  • Teacher preparation and education
  • Research and evaluation

I am involved in both classroom monitoring and professional development of preschool teachers. Within Chicago Head Start I have assessed preschool classrooms using CLASS, and will continue using CLASS in Head Start Reviews around the country. I find this tool very successful in measuring qualities that matter most in early education: the quality and type of interactions between teachers and children.  

During the 2010-2011 school year, I, along with nine other mentors, have the opportunity to coach individual teachers in the Chicago Head Start programs assessed last year.  Developed by CLASS, My Teaching Partner involves a positive individualized approach based on recognizing and enhancing the skills of teachers seen through the lens of CLASS.

The CLASS has a definite place in teacher preparation such as at CCCECE. Students in teacher preparation programs can better prepare for teaching with the knowledge of teaching components that really matter for their young students.  Some uses of CLASS appear in teacher education courses and training of pre-service teachers. Two institutions are currently implementing these at 1) the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia (the home of research and ongoing development of CLASS) and 2) the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Look for reports of implementing CLASS in teacher education soon in early childhood journals.       

The extensive research on CLASS in the United Sates shows astounding differences in child outcomes. (see Link to article) The CLASS is but a tool, yet one that can effectively enhance the abilities of early childhood educators because of our heightened understanding of what benefits the present and future of our young children.

The Basis for CLASS: Effectively Improving Teacher-Student Interactions

                                                                                            By Arleen Prairie

We have the potential to make a difference in our young children’s lives by investing in this research-based tool to help teachers and schools to improve the quality of their instruction. When we identify and measure effective interactions we can create opportunities to promote them through teacher education and professional development.


In Pre-K through 3rd grade, children in classrooms with higher CLASS ratings realize greater gains in achievement and social skill development. The link between effective interaction and improved social and academic outcomes for children has been replicated in numerous studies. Furthermore, higher levels of instructional support are related to preschoolers’ gains in pre-reading and math skills.1 The effective teacher student interactions that most impact young children’s learning shows up in the extensive literature review, research and extensive piloting used to develop and define CLASS at the University of Virginia.1

As teachers increase their competencies, they become more effective teachers, experience greater job satisfaction and remain in the teaching field. Most importantly, more effective teacher-student interactions and improved outcomes lead to enhanced outcomes for children—children lean more and develop the skills necessary for future achievement.1

Unfortunately, too few children are exposed to the types of effective interactions in the preschool and early grades. In a study of 700 preschool classrooms across 11 states, less the 15 % of classrooms were observed to display moderately to highly effective teacher-student interactions across all three categories. Moreover, effective interactions are highly variable form year to year. In a study that followed 800 students from the first to the fifth grade, less than 10% of children were consistently enrolled in classrooms that scored in the mid- to upper range for effective interactions.2 Significantly, children from low income families are less likely to experience effective teacher-student interactions, relative to middle-income peers.

For children at risk for school failure, the component of emotional support can carry significant importance.  For example, among a group of students who displayed significant behavior and emotional problems in kindergarten, those who were placed in first-grade classrooms offering high levels of emotional support made academic progress at levels similar to the low-risk peers, whereas high-risk students placed in classroom offering lower levels of emotional support fell further behind their low-risk peers.3

CLASS Domains, Dimensions and Teachers’ Learning

The CLASS focuses on three broad domains of interaction known to contribute to children’s success in school:

Emotional support: Positive relationships among teachers and children

Classroom Organization: Well-managed classrooms that provide children with frequent engaging learning activities

Instructional Support: Interactions that teach children to think, provide ongoing feedback and support, and facilitate language and literacy development.1  

Each of these broad categories is further defined in multiple dimensions which highlight significant characteristics of the domain.

          Within the domain of Instructional Support, the two dimensions of Concept Development and Quality of Feedback statistically score low across all the results. Out of a 7 point scale, these two dimensions each have a mean of 1.6.  In comparison, the other dimensions score a mean of 4 (or slightly lower).4 In gaining an understanding of these two dimensions we can use their descriptors to inform us ways to enhance these in teacher education and professional development.

          First, Concept Development involves the discussion around the ideas and activities that promote higher-order thinking skills which leads to understanding concepts rather than rote learning. These skills include analysis and reasoning, problem solving, creating and generating children’s ideas. Also, children can link new understanding to previous learning and real life situations. The discussions encompass how children can approach a problem or relate what they know to a new concept. For example, as the classroom teacher prepares to cut an avocado with a small group of children, he says, “I remember when we cut the apple in two. I wonder what we will find inside the avocado.”

          Understanding concepts continue within the focus of Quality of Feedback through interactive participation of individual children and groups. As children conceptualize, instead of simply providing answers, the teacher assists the child through supportive prompts, such as in scaffolding, Sometimes the teacher supplements the child’s response, or requests an explanation to their thinking. For example, when the child answers a question, instead of saying, “Good job,” the teacher may ask,” How did you know that?” As these back and forth questions and explanations continue, this specific feedback elicits deeper understanding by helping children communicate their ideas and assisting others in processing the concepts under discussion.

          Teachers appreciate expanded outcomes of Concept Development and Quality of Feedback through using the invaluable feedback in My Teaching Partner, the CLASS approach to professional development, Teachers can value the effective interactions they implement, evaluate the skills they see changing in their training and grasp the importance of enhancing these skills even more in their work.

          Teachers hold to the high standards of CLASS when they experience the children’s eager engagement in learning as a result of the emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support. This realization strengthens their teaching.      

End Notes

1 Robert Pianta. (4/2009). “Effective Teacher-Student Interactions: Measuring and Improving Classroom Practice.”

2  Robert Pianta, Jay Belsky, Renee Houts, Fred Morrison, and NICHD-ECCRN, “Opportunities to Learn in America’s Elementary Classrooms,”

Science, 315, pages 1795-1796.

3 Bridget Hamre and Robert Pianta, “Can Instructional and Emotional Support in First Grade Classrooms Make a Difference for Children At

Risk of School Failure?” Child Development, 76, pages 949-967.

4 Notes from CLASS Training, September, 2009, Chicago.

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Do you CARE?

I’ve spent some time talking with individual faculty members, lab center directors, and teachers this past year within the District and across the country at various conferences. One of the questions I try to ask is, “what do you want to see in an Associate Degree Child Development graduate”? In other words, what should graduates know and be able to do?

The first thing people tend to say is that they want teacher candidates to be pleasant – to like young children and enjoy being around them. That seems to be the number one answer across the board. In the field, mainly from directors, I hear that they want teacher candidates to have stronger class management skills and skills in working with children who exhibit difficult behaviors. Another point that I hear from directors, but also from faculty is that students while attending our classes, and as graduates of the program, need to be more professional. They should be able to leave a respectful and practical voicemail message, write clear and professional e-mails, show up on time, dress appropriately, communicate clearly when they have questions about an assignment, communicate clearly when they are talking about child development, interact respectfully with each other and with instructors in the classroom and interact respectfully while out in the field – these kinds of things.

What I also hear from faculty and others is that students need to be aware that there is a certain Early Childhood disposition that is favorable for professionals in the field and that they should be able to assess themselves in terms of whether or not they are a good fit with the field.

At our HWC program meetings and Advisory Council meetings and also in some of the District-wide Curriculum Committee meetings I have been talking a bit with colleagues about the specific behaviors, attitudes, dispositions that we want to cultivate in our students. What should we talk about in terms of attitudes? What specific behaviors are we looking for in our students over time?

After looking at my notes from all of these meetings and after thinking about what it is we really want to see in our students and graduates, I put together the following:

Do you CARE?

Are you…

C urious

A rticulate

R espectful

E thical

We have been talking about making things simpler, clearer, more tangible. I think choosing specific attributes to focus on across the curriculum, something the students hear over and over again in different shapes and forms, can really be effective in helping them to recognize the kinds of attitudes and dispositions that are expected in an early childhood professional.

I showed this to my classes a couple of weeks ago and the students really liked it. One student said she would proudly wear something like that on a t-shirt! Others said it was easy to remember and so they could keep it in mind longer. Some instructors said they could really get behind something like this and build learning experiences in the classroom to support the development of these dispositions in students.

One Advisory Council member said she liked it, but that we would need to make it very clear to students what each piece looked like. For example, what does “being curious” look like in an early childhood professional?  I think this is good advice. If we, as a community, decide to emphasize something like this, we need to come up with images of what this looks life in real life.

What do you think about the “Do you CARE” model? Does it work for you? Is it something you could use?

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