cstravato's Pre-k World

The life of a Teacher / Student / Mother

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The Importance of listening to and Speaking with Children

It is valuable practice for teachers to take a step back from their everyday role and observe there class and other classrooms. I chose to observe teachers and teacher assistant’s interactions with children during Discovery time in a preschool setting. During this time of the day student verbally plan what center they would like to choose and what they would like to do while in that center. Children are able to change their plan and independently choose when to change their roles and when to move to a new center. Teachers move around the room joining student’s play throughout the 40 minute Discovery time. My goal was to observe effective “teacher talk, encouraging and letting children know that we value their efforts and accomplishment.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) I also wanted to observe effective “Challenging talk, building on what children say and moving beyond the immediate conversational context.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010)

In my observation, I saw many examples of staff getting down to the child’s level to join their play and to talk to them about their play in a calm respectful tone (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011). Staff showed genuine interest and joy in children’s play. Children were very receptive of staff joining their play; they smiled, welcomed, and quickly incorporated the staff into a role. The staff was able to allow the children to take the lead and direct the play. Staff fluctuated between questions that encouraged a one-word answer specific to the context of the play to more open-ended questions connecting to real-life experiences (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010). It was clear the staff understood the value of “Challenging talk” but they were still working on making it a consistent form of communication. Overall, it was clear staff viewed this time of day as child or peer centered and not teacher centered (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010).

I observed many examples of staff encouraging children and trying to convey the message, that they value children’s efforts and accomplishments. However, many of the interactions were through phrases such as; good job, I like the way you did…, and that is beautiful. Although it was clear the staff’s intention was to use the message of “teacher talk”, they may need some training or support on how to tweak their communications to be more effective. Focusing more on how the child accomplished the task rather than their opinion of how the task turned out puts the value on the child’s efforts not the teacher’s opinions. I would recommend new phrases as described by Rainer Dangei & Durden such as; “Wow you have spent a longtime working on you project (2011)”, and “That is so colorful it stands out on the purple paper (2011).”  Changing our communication puts the value on the time, effort, and creativity children are putting into a project or task not on the quality of the finished product or the teacher’s feelings about the final product.

This weeks readings centered on mindful listening to and speaking with children.   The reading that stood out to me the most was, The Nature of Teacher Talk during Small Group Activities. (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) As I read this article, I began questioning my own communication and the communication I have modeled in my classroom between children and between children and adults. Throughout my observation, I reflected on my own communications with students.   “It is important to consider the actual words we say to children.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) Through the readings and the observation, I have learned the importance of communication and the incredible impact it has on children. I believe my staff and I use some aspects of both types of talk, however we often fall back into old habits of less valuable communication. I will be taking a closer look at my communications and the communications of other staff in my classroom and supporting our ability to consistently use affective “Teacher talk” and affective “Challenging talk” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) with students throughout the day. “To help children communicate with each other they have to feel listened to and seen.” (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011)


Kovach, B., & Da Ros-Voseles, D. (2011). Communicating with babies. YC: Young Children, 66(2), 48-50. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=60001533&site=ehost-live&scope=site


Rainer Dangei, J., & Durden, T. R. (2010). The nature of teacher talk during small group activities. YC: Young Children, 65(1), 74-81. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=47964033&site=ehost-live&scope=site




Creating an Anti-Bias Environment

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My goal is to create a learning environment that demonstrate respect and acceptance of diversity that will support the development of children’s positive personal identity as well as a positive social identity (Santora, 2004). “What children do not see in the classroom teaches children as much as what they do see.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) We as teacher must ask what message our classroom environment is sending children about their identities to insure we have done all we can to make children and families feel welcomed and represented in our classrooms.


Our classroom journey begins with setting up the environment, which starts with families. Families are the foundation to an anti-bias education. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) Our quiet transition nook, supports morning transitions, demonstrating understanding and flexibility for families and the important role they play (Laureate, 2011). This space is filled with comfortable seating, familiar books, and quiet music. Then as you move into our classroom, images of all our families are throughout the classroom to help children and families feel welcome and represented. Our family share space shelves encourage families to show case items that represent their families, culture, and heritage (Laureate, 2011). The share shelves allow families a chance to share with staff and other families what is important to their family. This is a great opportunity for families to get to know each other better and learn about a variety of families similar and different from their own. The more visible we can make each child’s culture with in our classroom culture the more children can develop their positive personal and social identity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

It is important that each child in our class’s culture is represented in a variety of ways to demonstrate the value we place in their culture. Then we must take it to the next step to demonstrate acceptance of other cultures beyond our own (Santora, 2004). As you take a closer look at the variety of centers you will discover they are set up to foster exploration and conversations between children on many diverse topics. Within each of these centers a variety of materials are provided to support children at different levels allowing all children to be successful in all areas of the classroom. Materials in each center support diversity through multicultural dolls and people, multicultural foods, bilingual labels and signs, images of people of various cultures, ethnicity, gender, ability, and age in roles related to each center, and images of children in the class participating in the centers with peers, staff, and family members. It is important to take time in choosing images to post so we do not inadvertently display pictures, books, or materials that reinforce stereotypes (Santora, 2004). The centers and materials provide many opportunities for “teachable moments” about equity and diversity. “Anti-bias curriculum seeks to nurture the development of every child’s fullest potential by actively addressing issues of diversity and equity in the classroom (Derman-Sparks & Hohensee, 1992).”







            It is natural and successful anti-bias education when children notice difference and want to talk about them, however it is how we respond that will determine the message they receive and carry with them about diversity and equity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Our classroom environment is only as supportive of ant-bias education as we address each anti-bias “teachable moment” as it arises. “What children do not hear us say or see in our classrooms teaches them as much as what we do say and they do see in our classrooms” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, pp.43). Setting up an anti-bias environment takes a great amount of thought and planning. We must never forget to include families in our anti-bias education plans. Families are the diversity of our communities and are an invaluable resource.



Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and     ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Welcome to an anti-bias learning community. Baltimore, MD: Author

Santora, L., & Anti-Defamation League staff. (2004). How Can You Create A learning

Environment That Respects Diversity? New York, NY: Anti-Defamation League.