Saturday, January 28, 2012

All Those Things We CAN do!

Recently a new program to help evaluate classrooms was implemented at the preschool level in our area. The evaluation involves training a group of teachers to make brief observations of classrooms.  During these observations the observers tally the number of children considered "on-task" in the classroom during very brief (3-5 min.) time periods. 

To be honest, I wasn't sure at all how this would go!  My classroom is very much, what I consider, a 'flexible' community!  The children are rarely all doing the same thing.  While it may APPEAR to others that certain children are not actively engaged with materials, it may really be that the children are overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and are attempting to self-regulate, they may need time to process what is happening or they may simply need to observe an activity many times before engaging in it. 

As the peer observer entered our classroom for the first time, I was curious to see if interacting with Bob the hamster would be considered "on-task"!  I looked around.  Wow!  Every single child was watching, interacting with or feeding Bob!  The children were clearly engaged in the activity by choice.  There was no need to redirect any child.  For those who needed mini-breaks from the group, it was simple enough to turn a back to the group and engage with a toy on the shelf for a minute or two before returning.  The children were talking to Bob, blowing kisses at Bob and some were using words to describe what he was doing while playing!

The peer observer popped in a second time to observe our calendar time routine.  Every single child was watching, vocalizing, verbalizing, singing or signing parts of our routine!  Well, I would say that was "on-task"!  It is amazing now to hear almost all the children vocalize while we are "reading" our morning message each day. 

A stranger would never know that we are all supposedly saying the very same thing!  While a stranger may not understand all (or even any) of the words some of the children are saying, each and every child clearly WANTS to be part of the group and is proud and eager to help read that sentence.

Finally, the peer observer came in for a third time.  We were in the midst of small groups (IEP goal work).  I was working one on one with a child, one of my teacher associates was working one on one with a child and my other teacher associate was engaged with the rest of the children on the carpet building bridges, roads and tunnels with blocks.  Again, we were all on task! 

Nearly all of the children in my classroom will move on to elementary school next fall, so at this point, these children are very familiar with the group and classroom.  It is so wonderful to see how far these children have come! 

So, while I'm not sure if our little tally marks added up to "on-task" from the observation perspective (although, from my quick conversation with the observer afterwards, I'm pretty sure they did) it gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much progress this group has made. 

It helped me remember all those things that we can now do!  I hope that the peer observer saw the following things we CAN do while observing the classroom! 
  1. We can engage with other children through smiles, words, gestures, vocalizations or proximity.
  2. We can interact with a small animal gently.
  3. We can be part of a community.  We enjoy helping others and are proud of what we do together.
  4. We can follow directions within our routine. 
  5. We can participate with a group of other children for 10 min. or more.
  6. We can understand, remember and request various favorite parts of the routine of the day.
  7. We can make connections with our learning.  We know that if it is cold outside, we will need to wear a coat.  We know that if it is very cold outside, we will go to the gym to play.  We know that we will get to listen to "Thriller" if we go to the gym.  We know that we can choose to ride a bike if we go outside. 
  8. We can remember and talk about activities we have done in the past.  We know that each day we sing the "Winter" song.  We know that the words "hot cocoa" are in the winter song.  It reminds some of us of the "train" movie we watched nearly a month ago and the hot cocoa we drank...and we must mention this each and every day!
So, I guess there was something to be gained from this 'evaluation'.  Go ahead, tally how "on-task" the kids are...this group of kids loves coming to school each day! 

They're "on-task" because they simply REFUSE to be left out of anything!  :)

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