Glance into an early childhood special education (ECSE) classroom and you may have trouble discerning what is considered “instructional time” from play or the daily routine. What does effective instruction look like in ECSE classrooms?
We know that children are highly engaged when activities are both interesting and relevant to them and that engagement is the magical ingredient of learning. Effective instruction in high quality ECSE classrooms should be indistinguishable from play and daily routines.
A snapshot of a high quality ECSE classroom will reveal three common themes that enable children to participate and engage meaningfully in activities.
Learning is active.
Looks like: Concrete materials or manipulatives are used to introduce concepts, There is a balance between teacher-directed and child-initiated activities, Small group and individual instruction is more common than whole group, Teachers participate in children’s play to scaffold and extend their learning
Supports are provided to allow all children to participate.
Looks like: Modifications are made to materials used in an activity, Assistive technology is utilized when appropriate, Requirements for participation are individualized, Communication systems are in place so children who are non-verbal can contribute and express their wants and needs
Behavior is handled proactively.
Looks like: Social and problem solving skills are explicitly taught, Classroom rules are posted and reviewed, Visual supports are used to reinforce appropriate behavior and promote independence, Directions tell children what to do rather than what not to do, Teacher-directed activities are less than 20 minutes long (Hemmeter, Fox, & Snyder, 2014)
Download a comprehensive classroom observation tool for ECSE and supplemental guide with examples and photographs developed by Florida’s Technical Assistance and Training System.
Print a copy of the Division for Early Childhood’s Recommended Practices (the birth-5 companion to CEC’s High Leverage Practices).
Read these archived articles from T-TAC ODU: Rethinking “Calendar Time” for Preschoolers | What to Say When They Play | Achieving Positive Outcomes through Meaningful Instruction
Check out a classroom observation tool from the T-TAC ODU library:
- Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), Pre-K
- Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS)
- Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP)
- Preschool Program Quality Assessment (PQA)
- Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT) for Preschool Classrooms
Hemmeter, M. L., Fox L., & Snyder, P. (2014). Teaching pyramid observation tool for preschool classrooms manual (Research Edition). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.