A. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the assessment of children’s development and learning is essential for teachers and programs in order to plan, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of the classroom experiences.
B. For this assignment, you will create an informal assessment presentation that you could share with prospective employers, your administrator, or other teachers and colleagues.
C. Since you will be presenting to others in the field, there is no need to explain the basics of the assessment; rather, use this assignment to dive deeper with your explanation.
D. This presentation should be a showcase of the knowledge you have regarding three specific informal assessments that are developmentally appropriate for children as well as your critical reflection of how you view the assessment adding to the quality of your program for your children.
E. Choose three specific assessments from the list below:
· Anecdotal Records
· Event Sampling
· Rating Scales
· Running Record
· Teacher and Child Self-Assessments
· Time Sampling
For each assessment:
1. Describe how the assessment will be used to support the following areas:
o Planning and Adapting Curriculum
o Improving Teacher and Program Effectiveness
o Tracking Children’s Progress for Teachers and Families
o Screening for Special Needs.
2. Discuss the advantages of using the assessment.
3. Explain the potential obstacles of using the assessment.
4. Develop a plan of action to attempt to overcome obstacles.
5. While the required content will stay the same, you may be creative with how you will present your work. Some ideas include:
· Visual/Text. You can create a text-based reflection using Word, PowerPoint, or PDF format. it is suggested that you save your work as a PDF
6. For this assignment, be sure you have addressed the four requirements with careful thought and college-level writing.
7. Please integrate your own insights and reflections, as well as research, as you complete this assignment. Additionally, refer to the textbook as well as at least one additional scholarly source. Citations must be properly formatted in APA style.
Authentic Assessment Methods
In this chapter, you will encounter several alternative, or authentic, methods of assessment and will experience firsthand their teacher-friendly attributes. Before beginning, however, it is important to note that just as with standardized tests, there are precautions to take and shortcomings to guard against. Thus, when you engage in any of these authentic methods, you should keep the following points in mind:
Avoid making assumptions about the child or children you observe. Do your best to keep your mind neutral during observational and other methods.
Take care when using descriptive words. They can be biased, just when you should be neutral.
Do not label children, either in a positive or negative way. It is not helpful to think of a child as “the good one” or “the rowdy one.”
Take time to examine your own biases before, during, and after your observation. Avoid favoritism. Do you prefer some children over others? Again, stay neutral.
Do not let background information keep you from being objective. There is information you possibly need to know, but it may have little to do with the upcoming assessment.
Realize your own limitations as a beginning assessor, or even as a more experienced one evaluating a new child. If possible, get a second opinion from another professional to determine if you understand situations the same way (Clark and McDowel, n.d.).
Following are some of the major early childhood authentic assessment methods. They are presented in alphabetical order, beginning with anecdotal records.
Narrative descriptions, or what might be thought of as stories about children’s behaviors, are called anecdotal records. As with most stories, they are typically written in the past tense. Anecdotal records are usually fairly brief, but longer accounts can be useful as well. They are probably at their most accurate when written in the moment, but of course, teachers frequently do not find time to write the story until later. In such a case, it is most helpful to write a few quick reminder notes to be used when sufficient time becomes available.
Anecdotal records are especially helpful for teachers when descriptions of children’s behaviors can be better understood by knowing exactly where and when they happened. Anecdotal records are useful when a child engages in a behavior previously unobserved, such as taking first steps or speaking in a complete sentence; they are equally useful for recording behaviors that set a child apart from others, whether the experience demonstrates giftedness or is a cause for concern. Communication with children’s families about their children’s behaviors can be helped through anecdotal records, particularly if they are well done. What constitutes a high-quality anecdotal record has itself been the subject of much research and commentary. The following observations and suggestions are adapted from Fleege (1997), Gullo (2005), and Wortham (2006):
Anecdotes should be records of direct observation only, not hearsay from someone else.
Anything written should be accurate and specific. No essays or journal-style writing.
Anecdotes should be recorded as soon as possible after an observation.
Behaviors should be written in objective, non-judgmental language. Interpretations are written later, either in a separate column or in a different document.
The description includes information about what happened both where and when, as either or both of these might offer clues to a child’s behavior.
Feelings, attitudes toward learning, emotional development, physical problems, cognitive disabilities, and exceptional capabilities can all be discovered through the use of anecdotal records, especially if the items on this list are attended to.
Figure 6.1 shows how an anecdotal record might be used on a day when a child has entered the classroom unusually upset and without explanation. Note that in this example, three columns have been drawn. The one on the left provides information about where and when the behavior took place, as well as which children were involved; the middle column is used for the anecdote, or story; and the column on the right is used for the writing of comments, or interpretations, about the story.
Figure 6.1: Anecdotal Record Example #1
Note in Figure 6.1 that physical descriptions are given, but that judgmental words such as angrily, pouting, or sadly were not used. Even in the comments section, conclusions are put on hold until the upcoming parent conference. This anecdote describes a brief moment of the day. It is possible that the teacher will make more notations as the day progresses, though an anecdote is typically a record of a single observation and so a new record form may be used.
In the next example of an anecdotal record, there is no space for commentary. Comments can be added in a separate document later, the anecdote can be filed with other similar observations for a group analysis at a future point, or discussion might take place first with other teachers or the children’s families. The story in Figure 6.2 includes four kindergarten children, but its focus is on Bjorn, who is new today.
Figure 6.2: Anecdotal Record Example #2
Being able to observe and document a child’s first day provides helpful information that can be combined with other observations in the near future. Such documentation will be useful to teacher and family alike as they evaluate Bjorn’s acclimation to his new surroundings. In a case such as this one, the teacher might well decide not to write anything evaluative until after a first conference with Bjorn’s family members. Then, comments will no doubt be decided upon jointly, with all parties having access to the result.
A checklist is a list of items tied to a single concept or set of skills, with the purpose of determining which items have been achieved. Checklists are straightforward and both quick and simple to use. All that is necessary is to observe the presence or absence of a listed criterion or behavior and mark those present with a check or an x. Checklists help observers document all areas of children’s development—cognitive, social, emotional, and physical—as well as specific areas of academic progress. They are especially useful when there is a long list of criteria or behaviors to be observed. Checklists can be used to observe a single child or a group. Some are available commercially, while others are created by teachers, schools, or centers as needed.
Checklists do have some disadvantages. Commercial versions may not accurately reflect the needs of a particular group of children. If programmatic changes are made based on the findings of a commercial checklist, they may well be inappropriate (Gullo, 2005). Yet teachers may feel too insecure in their knowledge about developmental expectations to be at home in the creation of a list. In addition, checklists give no information about how well established a behavior is; it may be here today and gone tomorrow, or vice versa (Fleege, 1997). There is no information provided by a checklist about the quality of something that has been checked. For example, a checklist devoted to a teacher’s behavior might report that the teacher reads stories to the children every day before recess, but it will not tell if the stories are read well. Finally, checklists usually lack information about context (Fleege, 1997). How children behave is always influenced by the environment in which they live, work, and play. This includes the people around them. How a child performs may relate to what they ate for breakfast, whether the night before provided enough sleep, or whether he or she would rather be playing somewhere else and with different friends. For all these reasons, checklists might be said to work best when they are combined with other methods of assessment, possibly as a final check to provide an overall view of a child’s strengths and needs.
Figure 6.3 demonstrates what a school- or center-made checklist might look like. It might be given in late spring to children who will soon attend kindergarten, and would most likely be a final follow-up to previous assessments. It would be helpful to share with parents who are, no doubt, wondering if their child is ready for the next important educational step.
Figure 6.3: End of preschool checklist
Note that in this checklist, a space for comments is provided. This is one way to handle the disadvantages attached to the simplicity of checklists. Look back at the checklist now and see if there are any items you think would be checked differently depending on the child’s environment as defined in the previous paragraph. Are there any items that would not provide sufficient information just by being checked off? Or will this checklist do a good job of telling the teacher and family everything they need to know about the listed items?
No doubt you use or have at some time used checklists to organize your own life. The satisfaction felt by completing tasks or achieving goals can be felt by children too, and checklists provide one way to accomplish this through self-assessment. One busy second grade teacher decided to create a checklist for memorization of subtraction facts. She placed it in the math center for children to use, along with flash cards for practice and testing. The students were totally on their own for assessing each other. All of them enjoyed being teacher, and they especially liked celebrating the completion of the challenge with an oversized gold star.
Rubrics provide a highly organized structure for assessment and evaluation. They can be used for anyone from infancy to adulthood. They can be as simple as a checklist or as complex as a multi-part rating scale (a rubric with degrees of competence indicated). Definitions of rubrics vary, but here are three useful ones:
“A guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests” (Merriam-Webster, 2012).
“Behavioral indicators that describe different levels of performance in a range of curricular activities. Each level of performance marks a developmental step toward mastery of specific skills or concepts” (Chen & McNamee, 2007, p. 8).
“[A] printed set of guidelines that distinguishes performances or products of different quality. . . . A rubric has descriptors that define what to look for at each level of performance” (Wiggins, 1996, p. vi, 5).
There are different types of rubrics, depending on an evaluator’s reason for creating one. Here are two that are useful for early childhood educators:
Performance rubrics: These provide a way to assess a child’s performance “on a continuum that measures key concepts and skills” (Chen & McNamee, 2007, p. 22). As an example, a first grade teacher might wish to evaluate student performance during child-choice reading time. Ratings could range from “no participation” to “initial attending to print” all the way to “independent reader.” Once the criteria are chosen and entered in the rubric, all the teacher must do is make check marks next to each child’s performance level.
Developmental rubrics: These rubrics acknowledge that children’s development is on a continuum that occurs over time, perhaps months or even years. Developmental rubrics may well deal with performance, but attention is paid to the long term. For example, the teacher might want to assess children’s ability to use logical thinking in problem solving, something that begins to emerge in the primary years. A developmental rubric might include assessments on such skills as classifying and ordering objects, organizing information, forming concepts, analyzing concepts, and estimating (Gullo, 2005).
Rubrics provide an organized and efficient way for teachers to assess children’s progress, but they can also be used for self-evaluation, both for the children and for the teacher. For children, such an experience provides scaffolding on their way to self-regulation and understanding school expectations. For teachers, self-evaluation can lead to more competent and satisfying teaching experiences.
Other advantages of rubrics include their flexibility and adaptability to new situations. If a teacher finds that one is not working well, the rubric can be amended quickly and easily. A disadvantage can sometimes be that an individual student’s performance does not fall within the structure of the rubric. This does not happen often, but it generally emerges as a problem with a student who is unusually creative or academically gifted. One aspect of rubrics that can be seen as either an advantage or a disadvantage is the fact that they require much thoughtfulness, planning, and development up front, but once created, they are generally quick and easy to use.
Following are some examples of rubrics that may be encountered in an early childhood setting. All except the child-created version contain rating scales. Figure 6.5, for example, shows a developmental rubric for assessing infant motor skills. It would be particularly useful in a room with babies between 4 and 7 months old. The teacher records the date on which the infant performed or became proficient at each skill in the appropriate box. You will want to make sure that the boxes are large enough for inserting comments.
Figure 6.5: Rubric Example #1
Figure 6.6 shows another example of a rubric; this one appropriate for determining whether kindergarten students have met state performance standards.
Figure 6.7 shows an example of a rubric that might be used for assessing education students such as yourself. It is adapted and condensed froma university model and evaluates students in a school setting.
Our final example shows a rubric that could be created jointly between a teacher and his or her grade 1 class. The teacher might first ask the children to discuss their goals and to choose the two that they consider most important. The teacher could then create a document from an agreed-upon model, probably drawn on the class whiteboard, or the children could write in the criteria and faces themselves from a teacher-made template. Figure 6.8 presents two criteria that a sample group of first graders thought were important. Note that while the teacher may have a separate set of goals, he or she may decide that the self-evaluation process takes precedence over his or her assessment choices.
Figure 6.8: First grade math rubric
A running record tells what a specific child is doing as the event takes place. It details everything that is observed over a predetermined period of time. It is written in the present tense, rather than in the past tense as anecdotal records are. In addition, the running record tends to include more minutiae, often requiring the use of abbreviations to keep up with everything that is going on.
Running records have their origin in the work of Marie Clay of New Zealand, most famous for her success in teaching Maori children to read as no one before had been able to. Running records were created to track the progress of low-achieving first grade readers who were participating in Clay’s Reading Recovery program (Clay, 1994). Reading Recovery as an early intervention for children who do not easily succeed at grade level reading skills has been adopted by English-speaking countries worldwide and is also available in Spanish. A Reading Recovery teacher is specially trained and is often someone who will enter a classroom temporarily to work one-on-one with a child, thus freeing the regular teacher to focus on the class as a whole.
It is not expected that readers of this chapter are, or will become, trained Reading Recovery teachers. Running records, however, can be used for any number of subjects and behaviors. They can provide a minute-by-minute description of what a child does, thus leading to a better overall understanding of that child. Without having a second supervising adult available, however, trying to focus on a single child for even a few minutes may be close to impossible. Because the results of learning more about individual children can contribute powerful clues to foster their development, running records are worth attempting. A few ways to make them happen might include the following:
If there is no extra adult in the classroom, try teaming with a teacher in a neighboring classroom. It may be possible for one person to supervise both groups for a while as the other teacher does running records.
If a few children come early or stay late so that supervision of the larger group is not necessary, grab those few minutes.
During a class time that is split into centers of interest or free play, create a running record center that consists of only teacher and child. It should be placed in such a way that supervision of the entire class is possible.
Figure 6.9 provides an example of a running record with a group of 12 2-year-olds. There are three adults present, making such observation possible. The focus is on Orville, whose behaviors in the past two weeks have been troubling. He seems to initiate every social interaction, with child or adult, by ramming himself or a toy into the other person.
Figure 6.9: Running Record Example #1
Note the difference between what is written in “Observed Behaviors” and in “Comments.” The former simply and briefly describes Orville’s behaviors. The latter allows for speculation and considerations for what to do next. If you were Angela, how would you approach Orville’s mother this afternoon? How could you talk with her about this potentially delicate topic so that she will see herself as an ally rather than feeling defensive?
- Krogh, S. (2013). A Bridge to the Classroom and Early Care: ECE Capstone[Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
7.1 Important Terminology Related to Behavior Management
In this section, we discuss terms used to explain and describe those approaches that promote children’s best behavior. Keep in mind that definitions of terms may vary from place to place and time to time. A word may have a slightly different meaning, for example, depending on the theoretical orientation of the person or group using the definition.
Guidance versus Discipline
Classroom management can be considered an umbrella term for creating an environment that encourages positive interactions among children, caregivers, and teachers. An effective manager has a good overall view of the environment—physical, social, emotional, cognitive—and takes measures to guarantee it is supportive of everyone. As related to children’s behavior, management includes applying best practices to ensure that children understand what behavior is expected of them. What constitutes best practices, however, may not always be agreed upon, as will be seen. Guidance may be the most popular term for defining what is expected of those who care for and teach younger children. When caregivers and teachers guide children, they show them how to behave appropriately through direction, suggestions for improvement, and modeling:
Guidance is effective when teachers help children learn how to make better decisions the next time. Excellent early childhood teachers recognize children’s conflicts and “misbehavior” as learning opportunities. Hence, they listen carefully to what children say, model problem solving, and give patient reminders of rules (and reasons for them)[.] (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, pp. 35–36)
Discipline is a term that is less often used in early childhood settings, most likely because it connotes the enforcement of positive behavior through strict guidelines and control, often accompanied by punishments and rewards. It is based on the assumption that young children should have prior knowledge of proper behavior and that punishment should result if they fail to “follow the rules.” It is worth repeating a point that was made in Chapter 1: Just as a teacher would not punish a child for not remembering academic knowledge but would instead try to figure out a better way to teach the material, so should a teacher avoid punishing a child for not remembering behavioral knowledge: “In both the academic and the behavior cases, making assumptions about what students should know . . . will result in academic and behavioral struggles. Continued academic and behavioral struggles across those critical early years of development often result in the development of lifelong learning and behavioral challenges” (Stormont, Lewis, Beckner, & Johnson, 2008, p. 4).
The term discipline can also be used in a different sense, with a meaning that is more closely related to that of positive discipline. In this case, it is useful to know that the word comes from “disciple, that is, one who learns and conforms to a healthy and positive way of life, taught or promoted by a more experienced and wiser individual” (Mah, 2007, p. 14). In this view, the stricter version of discipline that involves intensive monitoring and regulation does nothing to help young children’s self-discipline or self-regulation: “We can help children make good behavioral choices by helping them develop their self-control, not by controlling them to make the choices we prefer” (Mah, 2007, p. 15).
Prosocial Behavior versus Antisocial Behavior
Humans are social beings, and the quality of their interactions with each other affects the common welfare. This is as true in a child care center or school as it is in the broader community or workplace. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interests to promote prosocial behaviors. This term, first used in psychology, now appears in educational literature as well. One definition of prosocial behavior is “voluntary actions that are intended to help or benefit another individual or group of individuals” (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989, p. 3). When applied to young children in a center or school, prosocial behavior may involve
being friendly toward another child, giving or sharing a toy, helping someone complete a task, waiting for a turn, treating materials with respect, showing concern for others, complying with behavior limits set by the teacher, using words rather than actions to express strong feelings, picking up toys or blocks when asked, taking on a classroom chore, and allowing another child to join your play. (Beaty, 1999, p. 17)
At the opposite end of the behavioral spectrum we find the more commonly known term antisocial. When children are antisocial, they refuse to help others, disparage one another, engage in angry or aggressive acts, or treat classroom materials with disrespect. Case Study: Two Girls Want to Play: What Works, What Does Not demonstrates the difference between prosocial and antisocial behavior in a preschool classroom.
Self-regulation was defined in Chapter 1 as the capacity to manage one’s strong emotions, ignore distractions as necessary, and keep one’s attention focused. This is an important behavioral ability by the primary grades, but it can begin to develop in infancy, a point for caregivers to remember:
Self-regulation has an impact on social development, influencing how babies and toddlers get along with others. Through self-regulation, babies and toddlers learn to pay attention, concentrate, and connect with others. Children learn how and when to inhibit impulses, channel emotional energy, and solve problems as they discover how to change their actions to get what they want. (Elliot & Gonzalez-Mena, 2011, pp. 28–29)
In the upcoming sections, we will use the term guidance to indicate the ways in which caregivers and teachers promote prosocial behaviors in their classrooms.
7.2 Developmentally Appropriate Expectations
In the previous section, we discussed the idea that children can forget behavioral expectations just as they forget academic subject matter, and that in either case, patience and a positive approach are important. A similar attitude should be taken concerning expectations of behavior that are developmentally appropriate. A 2-year-old will understand the purpose of a classroom rule much differently than will a 6-year-old. Ask a 2-year-old why it is important to line up when coming in from the playground, and the answer might be simply, “So we can go inside.” The 6-year-old is capable of realizing that “it’s so we don’t bump each other if we hurry.”
The next few sections provide an overview of four basic periods in young children’s emotional and social development and the appropriate developmental expectations at each of these stages. Of course, children do not suddenly drop the characteristics of one period and adopt the next, and individuals develop at different rates. Thus, even in a classroom of same-age youngsters, there will be differences that the caregiver or teacher must deal with. We will refer back to the theorists you met in Chapter 2 as appropriate.
Behavior in Infants
In Erik Erikson’s (1963) theory, an infant’s primary need is to feel trust in the people who surround him. If there is trust that others will provide food, warmth, and secure physical contact, then the infant is free to develop social interactions and happy attachments. This sequence of development in an infant’s life is especially important if life is to include days spent in a center with other infants and caregivers.
One group of infant care professionals offers a definition of prosocial behavior that will work for the very youngest, those who are not yet capable of intentional prosocial thinking: “the communications and behaviors on the part of a baby that help create a positive emotional climate in the group and that involve reaching out—positive, discernible, outward social expression on the part of one baby toward one or more other individuals, whether infant or adult” (McMullen et al., 2011, p. 21). To help the infants in their care achieve a high level of prosocial behavior, these teachers say, “Regardless of which babies come to us in our classrooms, we need to give them countless opportunities to experience the reciprocal, reflexive nature of being in a caring relationship, so they can learn the give-and-take, back-and-forth of being part of such relationships” (p. 22). To help create a sense of belonging to their community, the teachers make sure that the infants engage in activities together, such as stroller rides, short circle times, and “highly social” mealtimes.
Just as babies begin to learn prosocial behaviors if they have their basic trust-related needs met, so they can begin the development of self-regulation. According to Elliott and Gonzalez-Mena (2011), there are a number of things that child care professionals can do to help infants on their way. For example, providing predictability that includes not only a clear routine but also a calm, peaceful environment is helpful. So is helping infants accept their emotions by calmly interacting with them when they are upset. Learning to focus and pay attention is important to self-regulation and can be encouraged during activities such as a diaper change if the caregiver involves the baby in the activity by explaining what is happening.
Allowing infants to learn that they are capable of solving their own problems unless they become too frustrated and upset is good as well. Picture a baby interacting with a typical wooden toy having holes of various sizes and shapes, along with solid objects that fit into them. At first, the baby is likely to bang an object against the sides of the holes until, perhaps, it fits in. At some point, this child will understand that objects go in the holes but become frustrated when muscle control does not match intentions. Now is when caregivers need to spend time observing, to see if intervention is necessary or if the child is able to handle the situation. An intervention might include redirecting the baby to another activity or gently helping guide the object into the hole. However, “Sometimes we adults are a little too helpful, and young ones learn to look to us instead of working to solve their own problems” (Elliot & Gonzalez-Mena, p. 31).
Finally, supporting infants as they learn to handle prohibitions by simply redirecting their attention creates another first step on the way to self-regulation.
Behavior in Toddlers
According to Erikson (1963), the chief challenge for children between about 18 months and 3 years is to gain autonomy and independence. Because this includes much use of the words no and mine, this time can be a challenge for caregivers as well. In Erikson’s view, much of the struggle for toddlers rests in the conflict between their individual need to be competent and their social need to accept limits and learn behavioral rules. For example, children of this age often decide they want a toy that someone else has and simply grab it away, barely registering the cries of protest coming from the current owner. Asking the perpetrator, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” will get no response because the child has no idea. Equally inappropriate is to insist on an apology, because really, the child is not the least bit sorry. A simple statement such as “We don’t take toys from our friends” is a reminder of social expectations in the classroom and can be followed by helping return the toy to the original owner and redirecting the child to another favored activity.
Placing toddlers in a supportive and safe environment, in Erikson’s view, would increase the chances of fostering healthy self-concepts. This would appear to indicate the need for caregivers with much patience and a well-developed sense of humor! Caregiving approaches that have negative effects on toddlers’ behavioral development include harsh punishment, ignoring disputes between children, humiliating them, becoming involved in power struggles, or constantly correcting youngsters without giving them alternatives (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009).
More positive approaches that give toddlers the support and safety that Erikson argued for include modeling appropriate behavior and stating explicitly what the behavior is, helping children resolve differences, patient redirection, avoiding saying no unless for important reasons, and recognizing that when toddlers themselves declare no, it is part of their healthy development toward autonomy (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Redirection or providing alternatives can work in most situations. Erikson averred that, although toddlers struggle for independence, they also need to know that the adults in their lives will rescue them when they go too far. Alert caregivers will learn to read their toddlers’ minds and come to their rescue even before an aversive behavior takes place. More than one teacher has stopped a flying missile as a child’s hand was raised to throw it or stepped between two children as they looked at each other in anger.
Suggestions for promoting the development of self-regulation given in the “Behavior in Infants” section can also often be applied to toddlers. For example, helping toddlers focus and pay attention includes letting children move throughout the day so that they learn to attend to the way their bodies work. Allowing toddlers to solve more of their own problems helps them move toward competent autonomy. First steps in understanding others’ perspectives are also possible, particularly when self-control is needed. For example, explaining that another child does not like it when a toy is grabbed “helps the child begin to understand the feelings of another person, an important part of self-regulation” (Elliot & Gonzalez-Mena, 2011, p. 31).
Behavior in Preschool-Age Children
Three-year-olds in Erikson’s (1963) theory retain much of their toddler social thinking and behavior. As they become closer to 4, however, they move into the next stage, in which initiative plays a major part. Explaining his view of initiative, Erikson said that a 4-year-old “is in free possession of a surplus of energy which permits him to forget failures quickly and to approach what seems desirable (even if it also seems uncertain and even dangerous)” (p. 255). Just as when they were toddlers, 4-year-olds need adults to provide a combination of encouragement and readiness to rescue.
This stage of development also is explained by cognitive theorists such as Piaget (1932). From the post-toddler years to the beginning of the primary grades, children are in a heteronomous stage of development. This means they are socially and morally dependent on others to tell them what is right and what is wrong, and to determine appropriate punishments and rewards. At this age, one should not expect children to possess an accurate understanding of the appropriate consequences for inappropriate behavior; in fact, they might propose heavy punishment for a small error or no consequences for an (adult-defined) major error. For this reason, teachers can help preschoolers toward autonomy by creating classroom rules collaboratively without opening up the consequences of breaking the rules for discussion. (One preschool teacher who tried this noted that the children came close to suggesting that she “boil in oil” anyone who erred.)
William Damon (1977), a researcher who largely followed in Piaget’s footsteps, observed that preschool-aged children most frequently justify their social choices based simply on what they want. Their understanding of leadership is based on physical attributes, so that bigger people (teachers or older children) should be the ones in charge, simply because of their size. Because they are focused on the physical, children at this age have little understanding of psychological motives, emotions, or attitudes as the cause of behavior—theirs or others’. Because most children are becoming verbally skillful during the preschool years, caregivers and teachers may assume that youngsters understand social and behavioral issues in the same way that adults do. Often, however, this is not the case. For example, while an adult views crying as the result of feeling sad, a child might well believe that crying causes feelings of sadness. This lack of understanding of cause and effect may also reverse children’s understanding of consequences for inappropriate behavior. Because they combine the ideas of bad behavior and feeling bad, they may believe that feeling bad has caused bad behavior, when in actuality it was the other way around.
Working toward self-regulation becomes an important behavioral focus of the preschool years. To help children progress,
[t]eachers model and encourage calm, patient behavior and facilitate children’s development of self-regulation by supporting them in thinking ahead, planning their activities, and thinking about and using strategies to solve social problems. Teachers’ support and scaffolding move children toward more mature levels of dramatic play, which promotes their self-regulation. (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 158)
Redirecting behavior from inappropriateness, rather than focusing on what has been done wrong, is as effective in this period as it was in the toddler years. If expectations are stated very clearly and simply, 4-year-olds will more often than not follow an adult’s requests. At the same time, it is important for teachers to have reasonable expectations. Preschoolers understand the world with their whole bodies. Thus, songs with movement and interactive stories will help them keep focus. Staying seated at tables, no matter how interesting a project, can be too much of a challenge for small bodies. Alternating quiet activities with movement is always helpful. Teachers can also be alert to individual children’s attention spans, which may change depending on their interest in what they are doing. For example, one 4-year-old girl flitted from one outdoor activity to another, barely stopping to engage in each one. Suddenly though, she grabbed a small shovel and began digging a hole among some small rocks. “It’s for the slugs so they’ll have someplace to sleep at night,” she explained to the playground supervisor. Twenty minutes later, when it was time to go inside, she was still digging. Whenever possible, children should be permitted, even encouraged, to continue an activity that involves their complete attention.
Behavior in the Kindergarten and Primary Years
At the beginning of kindergarten, teachers can expect to see much of the self-focused energy of the preschool years. Soon, however, Erikson’s (1963) observation of a concentration on industry emerges. Throughout most of elementary school, children have an intense interest in bringing “a productive situation to completion” through “steady attention and persevering diligence” and “doing things beside and with others” (pp. 259–260). Because, according to Erikson, failure in these endeavors leads to feelings of inferiority, teachers (particularly by the primary grades) need to provide a supportive academic environment that promotes success and a social environment that includes much group work and team building. Teachers interested in trying out the project approach, described and explained in Chapter 4, will typically find that it is most effective beginning in the last half of kindergarten and continuing through the primary grades, as well as beyond. Projects require collaborative committee work, responsibilities related to collecting materials and doing clean-up, and engaging in final group presentations or similar wrap-up activities.
While children of this age are capable of all these things, teachers need to introduce each step with care because they are all new and, for some, might be somewhat daunting. Piaget (1932) saw this time of life as a transitional one between the heteronomy of the earlier years and the autonomy that emerges toward the end of elementary school. Autonomous children are those who are self-directed and able to make decisions on their own, but getting to that point is a slow developmental process.
Working together during this transitional period is a skill that children develop slowly. Toward the end of kindergarten, most children begin to see how things look and feel from another person’s point of view. If a preschool child is asked, “How do you think Sandy felt when you kicked her?” the child may have no idea, or at least strongly prefer not to have an idea. The older child is able to grasp how Sandy feels, even if it is still not a preference to be able to do so. During especially difficult social interactions, even primary grade children may be unable or unwilling to see a situation from someone else’s point of view. (Of course, adults can also suffer the same inability from time to time.)
Two traits that emerge in kindergarten are worth a special mention here. The first is the concept of fairness. Kindergarten teachers can expect to hear a lot of “It’s not fair!” or similar comments. The definition of fair to a 5-year-old is quite explicit: Everything is equal and distribution of goods or assignments of time must be the same for everyone (Damon, 1977). The second trait is excessive tattling. During this period, children develop an understanding of the purpose, creation, and importance of rules (Piaget, 1932). They become very focused on being sure that people follow rules, especially people other than themselves. From their viewpoint, it then becomes equally important to report to the teacher any infractions. Teachers can head off some of this unpleasantness by helping children learn to deal with situations on their own in socially acceptable ways. The teacher can be told of disobedience to a rule only if talking to each other does not work out. Such support of children’s independence is another step in assisting their development of self-regulation.
Self-regulation becomes especially important for children during the school years, when it is expected that they can internalize behavioral expectations, control their emotions, focus on their class assignments, and work independently. Effective teachers “monitor children’s interactions, and when children present challenging behavior, adults help them to resolve conflicts by teaching them communication, emotional regulation, and social skills” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 227).
The Relationship between Environment and Development
Whether children are infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-aged students, the physical, social, and emotional environment of the classroom is a major influence on behavior. Effective teachers are always alert to making all aspects of the environment positive and supportive of children’s development. If the physical layout of the room or outdoor area is one of littered confusion and chaos, caregivers and teachers can expect that children will respond with confusion and chaotic behavior. If teachers interact socially with children or with each other in a disrespectful or angry fashion, they can expect that many children will become disrespectful or angry. If teachers respond to misbehavior with obvious temper or irritation, future interactions can be expected to suffer. According to NAEYC, “Children develop and consolidate self-regulation skills much more effectively through positive interactions within a healthy, orderly environment” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 302).
7.3 Democracy and Prosocial Behavior
In this next section, we see how self-regulation skills and prosocial behavior can actually build a classroom environment that prepares young children for life in a democracy. Before beginning, it would be useful to define what democracy means in a classroom setting, because it is somewhat different from what is experienced in adult society. As with any other aspect of learning about appropriate social behavior, democracy knowledge is gained developmentally. Two-year-olds can begin to gain a sense of community by learning appropriate ways to treat their friends, respecting each other’s preferences, playing together harmoniously, taking turns, and sharing. These goals will be difficult for some 2-year-olds to attain, but preschool children continue to improve such skills. In addition, they can begin to take small leadership roles, perhaps as rotating line leaders or by helping the teacher lead everyone in a song. Equality can be emphasized by noting that everyone receives the same amount of a special treat, and everyone has an equal opportunity to use a material or have playtime in a center. Some kindergarten classes are capable of running their own class meetings, typically in the second half of the school year and with the assistance of the teacher. They can even engage in simple voting, as long as it does not include decisions that will bring disappointment and tears. All the elements just described come together in the primary grades, with children learning the real importance of leadership skills and having the ability to create a sense of community as adults would define it.
The case study That’s Not What a Good Leader Does! shows how one group of kindergartners dealt with a difficult situation in which their budding sense of democracy was endangered, then rescued.
Democracy in Early Childhood Settings
It is possible that Maria Montessori (Kramer, 1976) was the first early childhood specialist to argue, and then demonstrate, that even very young children are capable of taking first steps toward living in a democracy. This view, developed in the first half of the 20th century, permeated her approach to curricula, teaching methodology, classroom management, and behavior guidance. For example, she promoted the use of mixed ages in the classroom, in part to foster caring and to reflect a more realistic example of society. Insufficient materials to go around were considered an advantage, because sharing could be fostered, and real tools for real work demonstrated respect for children’s abilities and helped prepare them for the real world. Even today, teachers in Montessori classrooms successfully use these techniques as ways to achieve a high level of appropriate behavior. Montessori (1966) often referred to the early childhood version of classroom democracy as a society in embryo, one in which young children were just beginning to understand the ideals of a democratic society. Her term for children who had achieved an appropriate level of self-regulation was normalized, and she knew that this achievement was necessary for a well-managed classroom.
John Dewey (1902), Montessori’s American contemporary, is also known for promoting classroom democracy. Like Montessori, he argued for classrooms of mixed ages to reflect the real world and included real tools that respected children’s abilities. A spiral curriculum, one that started small and gradually enlarged, introduced children to the study of society. That is, kindergartners began first learning about the home and the people in it, and then expanded geographically as they grew.
Although terms such as self-regulation and prosocial were not a part of Montessori’s and Dewey’s vocabularies, these concepts can be recognized in their educational philosophies. For both of these influential educators, the bigger picture included teaching both academics and behavior in such a way that young children would have the opportunity to take the first steps toward life in a democracy. Of course, this bigger picture still matters today. Dan Gartrell, an early childhood educator with a special interest in helping young children prepare to be “productive citizens and healthy individuals in a modern, diverse society,” lists five democratic life skills that young children can begin, and need, to attain:
Finding acceptance as a member of the group and as a worthy individual
Expressing strong emotions in nonhurting ways
Solving problems creatively—independently and in cooperation with others
Accepting unique human qualities in others
Thinking intelligently and ethically (2012, p. 78)
Gartrell argues that children need to attain the first two skills before they are ready to make progress with the others. As young children are welcomed and supported by their child care or school group, “they feel a sense of belonging and, as a result, are empowered to develop positive self-identities” (p. 79).
Prosocial Behaviors to Foster Democracy
We have discussed the importance of self-regulation and have seen how it can even be important in setting a foundation for democratic living. We now turn to the ways in which prosocial behavior can do the same thing. Along with historical figures Montessori and Dewey and today’s Gartrell, readers are encouraged to realize that these achievements in development can have powerful long-term consequences, not only for children individually but also for their participation in society.
Consider the following statement: “Although it may be assumed that all human beings have the potential for acquiring prosocial behavior, the behavior itself—the forms and frequency of prosocial actions—must be learned” (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989, p. 6). This means that caregivers and teachers have a responsibility, a critical one, to help children develop this important human trait. Research has found that children who are the most prosocial in their earliest years continue to be the most prosocial in the primary grades. Head Start children who demonstrated the most prosocial behaviors also scored highest on cognitive readiness tests, and low-income first graders who were most helpful to others had higher literacy scores when they were tested in the third grade (Hyson & Taylor, 2011).
These studies and others have led Hyson and Taylor to provide specific suggestions for caregivers and teachers to promote prosocial growth in young children. Each suggestion is backed up by research showing its power in promoting prosocial understandings and behavior. Following is a brief summary:
Teachers, like parents, need to build strong relationships with and warm attachments to children. By responding sensitively to children’s everyday needs, interacting in supportive ways, and communicating with sincere attention, adults help create warm relationships.
The creation of a caring classroom community helps children feel a connection to others in their group. Studies show that children are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior when they are with other children than when they are with adults, and that when children play and work with children who are more prosocial, they become more prosocial themselves. These findings indicate the need for teachers to provide many opportunities for child-to-child experiences.
When adults model prosocial behavior and children observe it, they are inclined toward prosocial behavior themselves. Whether they are interacting with other adults or with children, it helps when teachers say out loud what it is they are doing and, possibly, why. (“I’m writing your mom a get-well note. I want her to know that I hope she’s feeling better.”)
It helps children, especially young toddlers, when adults state their expectations for prosocial behavior and do it very clearly. These prompts or cues are engaged in politely rather than forced on children. In one study, researchers found that even the youngest 2-year-olds responded happily and with understanding if the adult said something as simple and clear as, “I like crackers! I need a cracker!” (p. 79).
One way teachers can help parents is with their knowledge of social safety nets. Parents who feel they are lacking social support often have children with more behavior problems, possibly due to the parents’ high stress levels.
7.4 Correcting Challenging Behaviors
The theories, views, and ideas provided so far in this chapter will be sufficient in many, or most, situations. There are times and situations, however, when something more is required. Children’s health problems, identified and unidentified disabilities, poor nutrition, sensory deficits, staggered or uneven development, lack of attachment developed during infancy, family stress or change, or stress from a modern and hectic life can all be contributors to more serious behavior problems (Bell, Carr, Denno, Johnson, & Phillips, 2004; Essa, 2003). Other contributing factors can even emerge from the classroom itself. These factors might include a chaotic, overly small or large, or dirty environment; inappropriate expectations for the children’s level of development; inconsistent messages when adults expect one type of behavior in one instance and then change it later; or too much stimulation, causing stress for some children (Essa, 2003).
We have previously emphasized the importance of teachers teaching about behavior rather than punishing. Recent brain research confirms this view (Gartrell, 2011a, 2011b). In the early years, the brain functions that manage impulses, provide for memory and learning, and help children interact well with others are in their beginning stages of development. High stress during this time actually causes a chemical reaction in the brain that ultimately leads to the response known as fight or flight. Punishing children when their stress levels are high makes learning more difficult and behavior more negative, with possible effects into adulthood (Gartrell, 2011a).
Boys, more than girls, are often targeted for punishment rather than teaching. A research review (Gartrell, 2012) informs us that a “new education gender gap disfavoring boys tends to start in the early childhood years,” that most preschool boys “do not have the sensory integration and task-persistence skills of most young girls,” and that “many boys are geared for active/interactive learning experiences, involving big body movement on a sustained basis” (p. 80). With national focus on school readiness skills, more seatwork is often expected of younger and younger children, so boys have begun to fail more and have behavioral difficulties. Early childhood teachers need to provide more physical opportunities in the classroom, being particularly sensitive to the needs of boys (and many girls as well): “To make classrooms developmentally appropriate for all, they should be less like quiet libraries and more like summer camp” (p. 80).
The following sections discuss several ways to approach challenging behaviors. The emphasis is on teaching rather than on punishment; you will note that there are both pros and cons to discuss in some cases.
Using Step-by-Step Approaches
Methods that provide specific steps can be particularly helpful. Here are three that can be useful when behaviors are difficult but within the range of normal development or, at least, of a level that can be dealt with by teachers and caregivers without intervention by specialists.
Restoring Calm When Children are Behaving Aggressively
Separate children and check for injuries.
Calm everyone down, including yourself. Breathe deeply and give children time and space to cool off.
Have a guidance talk with the children.
Take time to learn more about the children and the situation. (Gartrell, 2011a)
Replacing Teacher’s No with Yes Whenever Possible
List all the positive qualities you would like to see in your children. Give thanks, special attention, and praise when you see them demonstrated.
Replace an undesired behavior with something positive. Instead of focusing on the negative, think about what you would like to see instead and say so.
Give children choices between two alternatives, both of them acceptable. “We’re going inside now. Do you want to carry the box of balls or the jump ropes?”
Use the when/then strategy. “When you have put the books away, then you may play at the sand table.” (Kersey & Masterson, 2011)
Teaching Behavioral Skills through Role Play
Define the skill you want children to learn. This should be a group effort.
Model the skill. Demonstrate at least two examples for each skill, thinking aloud during the demonstration. Depict only positive outcomes.
Have children conduct their own role play. Use props when appropriate.
Ask for feedback from the actors as well as the audience. “How did you feel about the way things turned out?” (Adapted from McGinnis & Goldstein, 2003)
This frequently used method removes a child from a difficult situation for a period of time, usually to a chair at the side of the room. Because there is ongoing controversy about its effectiveness and, at times, its humaneness, most centers and schools have policies in place that all newly hired teachers should be aware of. In this section, we will consider what approaches might work and which ones might not.
One writer (Mah, 2007) who specializes in dealing with difficult behavior offers three common reasons why parents and teachers use timeouts and explains why they usually do not work:
The theory: Being forced to sit away from other children will be upsetting, and this will motivate the child to regret the bad behavior.
Why it will not work: Although some children might respond and change their behavior, others do not get upset and may even find creative ways to entertain themselves.
The theory: When children are told to do so, they will use the timeout to think about what they have done and what they will do instead next time.
Why it will not work: The command to think about a misdeed does not automatically make children do so. Children do need to think about their actions, but they need scaffolding from helpful adults, not abandonment in a timeout chair.
The theory: Children will learn empathy for others if they are asked, as they are seated in the timeout seat, “How would you like it if . . .?” and will change their behavior.
Why it will not work: Young children, developmentally, are not yet ready to put themselves in another’s shoes, or are at the earliest stages of doing so and need adult scaffolding, not a lonely timeout, to get the picture.
Despite these warnings, timeout has some positive uses, based on the need to teach children about what is required to participate in the classroom community (Mah, 2007). The first is to help children understand that they cannot do harm to themselves; interacting poorly with others will make others not like them and they will not have friends. Second, children cannot be permitted to harm others; removing them from the community sends this message. And third, children need to understand that they cannot be allowed to harm the process of their community; if the teacher is drawn away from working with the class to attend to a misbehaving child, it constitutes harming the process. Mah argues that, although more time and scaffolding are required to get to the roots of inappropriate behavior, the timeout option “shuts down the ability and freedom of an acting-out child to harm others” (p. 49).
One approach that can work is self-selected timeout: “Some children may, at times, find themselves overwhelmed with the noise, activity level, and general stimulation of the classroom, and may need an opportunity to get away” (Essa, 2003, p. 36). Essa reports that this approach works for children as young as 2½. The following case study tells how one class of second graders invented timeout for themselves. As you read this story, consider whether you would try something similar and, if so, how old you think children should be.
Taking Away Recess
This approach to discipline (a more appropriate term than guidance) becomes most popular in the primary grades, when teachers feel the pressure to have work in on time and then pass this pressure on to the children. Teachers may choose to take away recess in order to increase the amount of time spent on class work, or to discipline children who are not turning in their work on time. For reasons such as brain development, it is often hard for children to respond to such time pressures. Thus, the children who need recess the most in order to move their bodies and improve their subsequent concentration have their needed movement taken away from them. They then begin to work even more ineffectively, leading to more removal of recess and a never-ending cycle of failure and punishment. It has been shown that by taking away recess, not only will we “fail to alter the problem behavior but we will make it worse” (Stormont et al., 2008, p. 4).
Teachers often feel that taking away recess is the only way they can get their students to take work seriously. Despite all the arguments to the contrary, they continue to defend what they do, believing there are no other choices. Case Study: Recess: More, Not Less illustrates how one teacher faced this situation.
Individually Difficult Situations
Some children arrive at center or classroom with challenges that are out of expected developmental ranges or that cause them difficulties in adjusting to the community that the rest of the children find welcoming. Often, these challenges lead to difficult behaviors, as children misread situations and expectations or have difficulty verbally sharing their needs and interests. Table 7.1 provides a list of some of the more commonly observed concerns that caregivers and teachers might have, along with suggestions for individual interventions and ways these might be shared with the entire class. The suggestions are adapted from and inspired by Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter, and Pretti-Frontczak, 2005; Mah, 2007; and Willis, 2009.
Working with Families
“In best early childhood practice, teachers recognize that every child in the classroom is closely connected to his or her family, and that the most appropriate action a teacher can take is to build a bridge for the child between home and school” (Gartrell, 2012, p. 67). Building bridges includes creating an understanding of each family’s values, the varying cultures children bring to the classroom, the influence of a different home language, and possible stressors that affect children’s center or school behavior. In addition, teachers who are able to create positive relationships with parents “often view and deal with parents quite differently. . . . They recognize and appreciate parents as the child’s first (and continuing) teachers. They seek contact early and frequently, seeing this as an opportunity to collaborate in supportive, mutually reinforcing ways” (McGinnis & Goldstein, 2003, p. 211).
Table 7.1: Challenging Behaviors: Classroom Strategies
|Behavior of Concern||Goal||Individual Intervention||Classroom/EnvironmentModification|
|Anger-induced violence||Help child manage own anger||Teach child to take deep breathsand count to 10.|
Help child know when to go to feelings center.
|Set up a “feelings center” with clayto pound, paper to rip or scribble on,etc.|
|Screaming, hitting, etc. due to having to wait||Improve waiting skills and delete behavior||Create a cue to signal child that itis time to wait|
for a bit, then redirect to another well-liked
activity; follow with praise.
|Model waiting for short periods oftime with whole class, because this isa learning experience for all youngchildren.|
|Giving up as soon as an effort seems difficult||Help child learn to keep trying||Use specific words (rather than generic praise) to|
|Read class The Little Engine ThatCould. Turn “I think I can” into a funchant.|
|Screaming ,tantrums, etc.to show displeasure||Help child say “no” in a socially acceptable manner||Teach child and help practice sayingor signing|
“no” and “no thankyou.” Offer choices when
|Teach the whole class how to say“no” in a socially acceptable way,and discuss how much better thismakes others feel.|
|Refuses to come to circle activities or behaves aggressively while there||Help child toengageappropriatelyand signal whenit is too difficultto continue||Seat child next to adult in circle. Let child hold a|
fuzzy toy. Teachchild a signal to indicate
“all done”;let him/her go to a quiet center
alone after giving signal.
|Let all children who would like tohold a fuzzy toy during circle time.|
|Approaches each day and all new activities with fear or anxiety||Help child facedown fears rather than simply escape||Confer with parents to determine if fears are|
imagined or based in realexperiences. Support
child’s efforts to face fears and offer support
|Create a predictable schedule andstable physical environment. Ifchanges must be made, involvechildren in decisions or preparation,or announce them in advance.|
Despite teachers’ and families’ best intentions and efforts, problems with children’s behavior do arise, and “it is much easier to discuss this with the parents if a friendly and positive relationship already exists between home and school” (Essa, 2003, p. 45). A good relationship can and should begin as soon as a child enters the center or school classroom. (Chapter 8 will provide some suggestions for being proactive.) Here is a list of suggestions for discussing problems with parents:
When a difficult meeting is necessary, be sure to have it in a private setting where interruptions are unlikely.
If a parent starts to discuss a problem at drop off or pick up, and in front of the child or others, suggest meeting more privately later.
Prepare in advance for the meeting and have specific, factual information on hand.
Be prepared to share with the parent positive attributes of the child as well as the problems.
Be positive and upbeat in your attitude, communicating that you and the family share mutual goals to discuss.
Do not ever blame the parents for the child’s behavior.
Avoid over-analysis of the child and stick to factual observations.
Be prepared with some ideas for solving problems, but be open to other ideas and solutions from the family.
Above all, continue to see the meeting with the parents as “an opportunity to build positive links, work together, and find a way to deal with the child’s troubling behavior to the benefit of all” (Essa, 2003, pp. 46–47). The following case study presents one parent’s experience.
7.5 Applying Guidance Principles to Teaching Plans
For this chapter’s final section, we turn once again to Chapter 4 and its curriculum examples. Whenever a curriculum is created, it is important to think in advance about which behavioral approaches one should take to make things run smoothly. These will differ depending on the children’s stages of development, the amount of activity planned, the degree of self-regulation and independence required of the children, and whether an activity or lesson is done as a small or large group or individually. To demonstrate how this can be done, please turn to the description of each curriculum as it is discussed.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
This nested curriculum, designed for older preschoolers, asks children to engage in dramatic play, listen to stories being read, and engage in oral repetitions of the plot line. There is a bridge involved in the dramatic play, making safety an issue. Suggested management and guidance ideas might include the following:
Before dramatic play is permitted to begin, the teacher demonstrates clearly how to walk onto, over, and off the bridge. Then, children take turns trying it out for themselves. Nervous children are encouraged, but not forced, to walk over and understand that, should they decide to try later, they will need to do it first with the teacher’s assistance. Overly enthusiastic children go to the end of the line to try again. This should not be viewed as a punishment.
When stories are read, preschoolers are usually, but not always, capable of sitting still throughout. To help the more active ones, a good amount of space can be made between each child as they sit on the class story rug. Then, as the plot evolves, everyone can dramatize as desired, staying within the same space.
Oral repetitions will take place during the dramatic play. If certain children have a hard time with the dialogue (remembering that there are English language learners in this class), the rest of the children should know to remain respectful. The teacher might ask a child who is experiencing some difficulty, “Would you like help?” If the child answers yes, the entire class can recite the line. If not, the child should be allowed to improvise as any professional actor would.
This seasonal theme unit is for younger preschoolers. It includes going outside as a group and being able to move through the yard independently, dancing, and some messy artwork. To make things run smoothly for these 3- and 4-year-olds, advance planning for behavioral issues will be important:
As noted in Chapter 4, the trees are within a walled area. Still, getting there needs to be planned. Children of this age can be expected to walk in line for short distances, but if the walk takes more than a minute or two, having a long rope that children can hold onto can help. Alternatively, children can walk in pairs holding hands. A very short group discussion about expected line behavior, before heading out, will help.
Dancing should always come with an advance discussion of appropriate behavior. Again, a short group discussion should be undertaken. The teacher might say, “We’re going to pretend that we’re falling leaves as we listen to the music. How can we do this without bumping or hurting anyone?” This classroom includes one child who is visually impaired, so the teacher will need to keep close watch over her the entire time.
Every classroom should have rules in place for the use of tempera paints. One suggestion is to have a separate paintbrush for each color. There will still be some color bleeding to deal with, but it will be less. Before beginning, the class should review rules all the way up to the way clean-up is done.
This integrated curriculum unit for the early primary (first grade or early second) was described in Chapter 4 for a class that has already built a sense of community. In Chapter 8, we will describe what could and should happen at the beginning of a school year to get to this point. Now, however, behavioral issues should be dealt with easily:
Before beginning any group work, the full class should refer to posted rules as a reminder of expectations for appropriate social interactions, care of materials, and clean-up.
After group work, a full class reflection on positive outcomes, including the successful dealing with any problems, can be shared.
The boy with an obsessive-compulsive disorder can be talked with briefly at the beginning of any new activity to determine his comfort level. Adjustments can be made to his interactions with materials and other children.
The Rain Tree Project
Project learning requires the most intricate and careful approach to behavior of the various curriculum models. In the example from Chapter 4, the second graders are unaccustomed to the freedom such an experience entails. The teacher will need to be sure that children understand what is expected of them and that they feel behaviorally comfortable before beginning their work. Of course, not every activity and material incorporated in a project will be new, and things will go more smoothly if the teacher has introduced some of these in earlier experiences. The following might still be important:
As suggested in Chapter 4, behavioral expectations should be laid out in advance of project work each day until no longer needed. At first, the teacher might start by saying to the full class, “We’re about to do something new that includes working together in teams. What rules do we already have that will be useful? Is there something else we might need?”
A reflection time similar to the one discussed in the About Time section might lead to one or two more rules. The fewer the rules, however, the more successful behavior will be.
This class consists of children with a wide variety of academic abilities. Creating groups that include different ability levels takes some monitoring so that one or two children do not take over everything and anger does not erupt. Giving advance assignments that are suitable to different ability levels will head off problems.
Krogh, S. (2013). A Bridge to the Classroom and Early Care: ECE Capstone [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/