Posted on 02/27/2018 at 01:34 PM by Blog Experts
When looking in the dictionary for the definition for “intentional”, it says, “done on purpose; deliberate”. When applying the term to “teaching” it would be safe to say it means “with a specific purpose in mind, planning and programming are implemented each and everyday to meet the developmental and learning needs of the children in the program.” So, how does that look each day?
The first step is building an awareness of young children, how they develop as well as what are the environments that best promote opportunities for them to engage and be challenged. And, it is not just about “the stuff” that fills the space. The MOST important step is building relationships with the children, with the families and as a teaching staff. This is done by getting to know children and adjusting as needed as the year goes along or as situations arise in which children and adults may be wanting a change or struggling. Including parents in these discussions and interactions helps build a common understanding and commitment to the needs of the child. Engaging in these ongoing conversations and communications with families really allows you to gather additional information about a child’s skills AND allows parents to better understand what is important for their child’s continued growth.
Secondary to the relationships is building a classroom that says to the children (and even to the parents) this is a great place to come and learn, to get to know others and become a friend, and to learn about how you can be independent in caring for your own needs. And, yes, it is a space where children can be exposed to new concepts and information in relation to their knowledge. How does that happen? It involves room arrangement with spaces that are filled with engaging materials and space to freely explore the setting. Is there enough space for children to move around freely? Teachers can set limits by limiting the number of children in a space, by using visual cues that tell children what to do or what is available and by moving around the room to interact and play with the children in their learning situations. In her book, The Intentional Teacher, Ann Epstein says “all this does not happen by accident.” It really is a commitment to building your program through an understanding of growth and developmental needs. And, this happens on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Do you have short and long term goals that state what you believe is and should be happening in the classroom for young children? Do they match what is happening in the classroom setting?
Finally, being intentional encompasses knowing what are critical skills in the content areas that need to be developed; how to embed those in the classroom routines and activities; and how to provide intervening activities when a child is not learning what is expected in all areas (language, social-emotional, physical, cognitive, literacy, math, science, social studies, technology, arts). As the teaching staff, you can develop activities and supports that give children additional information or the tools needed to be more prepared for all settings and situations that may arise. Sometimes needs arise in the classroom which means teaching staff (being intentional) takes a step back, observes and plans what might be more appropriate responses and how does that happen.
Highly effective programs are intentional. Developmentally appropriate intentional teaching takes time but the benefits are great for the children, the families, AND the staff.