Many smart educators ask us the best approach to evaluating and coaching teachers in early childhood classrooms.
We know when using frameworks for effective teaching ratings skew higher in lower grades. When class culture usually represents a single domain early childhood educators score better than middle school and high school teachers. You still have god-like qualities to three and four year olds. A much harder status to achieve with middle school students.
At the same time administrators often struggle to recognize key levers such as "intellectual-risk" and "involving student in the assessment practice" in the early grades.
What should you do then? At ReVIEW Talent Feedback System we encourage evaluators to look for very specific practices we know move the needle on learning.
We encourage districts and public charter schools we work with to create forms and systems to help observe and coach research based practices. These include:
Dialogical Read Alouds
Do students or the teacher drive discussion when reading books? During read alouds you can really look for practices that support comprehension and vocabulary.
How do early childhood instructors teach words. Are these a few at a time? Are they focusing on sight words (too early) before developing meaning in academic vocabulary. Do they teach 2-3 words a day and constantly reinforce these words.
When we focus on sounds are we making this part of the day or figuring out creative ways to embed phonemic awareness? Great teachers often use segmenting and substitution games as part of their transitions. 7 minutes a day. That's all good phonemic awareness instruction takes.
Focus on the classroom and not just the people in the classroom. Is everything labeled? In multiple languages? Is student work displayed? Does the teacher use environmental print in neat ways. The coolest thing we ever observed was a reading castle made out of cereal boxes. Another classroom made a book that traveled home with kids with everyone's favorite cereal.
Assessment and Alphabetic Principle
We see too many classrooms focusing on letter and sound connections incorrectly. Good teachers start with names and then move on to other names in the class. They may keep a daily log in journal where students write their names from September to June.
We encourage schools to develop an observation protocol just for coaching center time effectively. This time is so critical in the daily routine of the early childhood classroom. You have to examine how well the teacher organizes success criteria, does small group instruction, provides feedback at each center, and works with other adults in the room.
The Ultimate Goal
We belive learning through play builds our future. You need to observe for practices that we know drive student achievement. Too few of our coaching tools do not make the connection to actual learning in the classroom.
If you would like help ensuring your administrators and faculty have the capacity to deliver high quality instruction in early childhood classroom please do not hesitate to ask.