By Leah Zabari
Imagine you are reading a story to a group of toddlers. They are all engaged in the story you are reading except for one child who is rolling around on the floor behind the group. How do you react? Do you…
- Stop the story and yell at the child to stop rolling and come back to the group.
- Tell your assistant teacher to hold the child on his/her lap so the child will sit and listen while you continue with the story.
- Continue reading the story and ignore the child’s behavior.
- Continue reading the story, but you subtly redirect the child and try to engage the child in the story.
If you answered ‘D’ to the question above, great job! You answered the question correctly using a CLASS lens! When using a CLASS lens in a toddler classroom, you understand that toddlers are in the process of learning about appropriate behaviors, and they are not fully self-regulated. Toddlers need adults to teach them what to do and help them recognize when they are doing the right thing – this is called Behavior Guidance. There are several strategies (also known as dimensions) that the Toddler CLASS assessment tool uses to guide children’s behavior. These strategies/dimensions include being Proactive, Supporting Positive Behavior, and Problem Behavior. Let’s put those strategies to use as we re-create the scenario above.
You are reading to a group of toddlers and all the toddlers are engaged in the story except for one child. The child is rolling on the floor behind the rest of the group. You notice that the child is rolling on the floor and you subtly say to the child, “It looks like you’re having fun rolling on the floor, but we need you to sit over here while we’re reading our story” (Proactive). You then redirect the child by asking questions related to the story that might capture the child’s attention, such as, “Joey, do you have blue shoes on like Diego (character from story)?” You continue reading the story making a smooth, subtle transition between reading, redirecting, and engaging with the child that is rolling around. You then notice that the child almost kicked his peer while rolling around and you provide the child with an explanation, “It is unsafe for you to be rolling around right now because you almost kicked your friend.” After giving the child an explanation of why it is unsafe for him to be rolling, you then say, “Sit down on your bottom now” (Supporting Positive Behavior). Although the child doesn’t’ stop rolling around right away, your redirections stop the child from kicking his peer and the child starts answering your questions and becomes actively engaged in the book (Problem Behavior).
If you chose another solution from the list, could you see where your solution might not benefit the child (and other children in the classroom) and could have potentially created a different problem or outcome? As toddler teachers, it is important to understand that toddlers are likely to have more successful experiences in classrooms where there are clearly communicated expectations and an understanding of appropriate behaviors, along with consistent, proactive reinforcement and positive support. In classrooms that have those strategies, potential conflict and disruptions are minimal, and children are more engaged in activities.
If you want a more in-depth look at each of these strategies/dimensions, please consider going on the PA Key Registry and registering for an upcoming Toddler CLASS professional development session.