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Ensuring the Quality of Teacher-Child Interactions

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There are elements of what teachers know that is important, but it is far more important that what teachers do….It is the quality and nature of interactions between adults and children that is responsible for the learning and development of those kids”.  Robert C. Piata


Ask any individual to name the qualities of an effective teacher and they will begin to rapidly make a list based on their own experiences in schools. In this session we will consider the research on the qualities of effective teacher-child interactions. While viewing the video begin to make a draft of items that might be in an observation guide if one were visiting an early childhood classroom and looking for evidence of:

  • Emotional Support
  • Classroom Organization
  • Instructional Support  (4:57) 

If time allows. you might ask teacher to work collaboratively to make a more extensive list of observable items for various parts of the school day. Here is an example of what emotional support might look like at lunch time.

In the second half of your time together, do a deep dive into instructional support that stretches students thinking. After reading the article, Moving beyond who, what, when, where, why  return to the video used in the prior session. Select a segment from our first video:

  • 2:08 Concept Development
  • 3:10 Describing Problem Solving
  • 6:45 Language to Support Literacy
  • 8:40 Daily Experiences with Math and Language
  • 10:30 Daily Experiences with Nature and Science
  • 12:20 Social Skills

Consider the role of the teacher in fostering talk. The interactions you will see include positive language, expansion, questioning, and redirection. Think about how these interactions demonstrate aspects of emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. 

Synthesize learning and identify ways in which the teacher exemplifies questioning strategies to foster language development and promote higher level thinking. 

Create and Share:

In the first session, you identified an area of the classroom could use some focused attention for strengthening classroom talk.  It is often helpful to know more about current practices in place so you can be intentional about planning changes. To help plan for change, you will start by making an observation about the current type of talk related to this area of focus. 

Before you meet again:  Based on the description of different types of talk (contact talk and task talk) described in the article in the previous session, use the observation tool to gather data about the type of talk occurring now in your area of focus. You might invite a peer to come observe your classroom while you are leading instruction.  If you are working as a para/teacher team, take turns observing. 

Be prepared to share the observation data (or a summary of what you notice about the data). 

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These tools were created as part of the Literacy Improvement in Rural Education through Collaboration (LIREC) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education