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Promising Practices



What We Saw: The teacher puts on music with actions to attract children to come to the rug. Without making the children wait, she put on an apron and they all started singing brown bear, brown bear, while a child helped the teacher bring out each character in the story and put it on the apron. The children sang out each animal and color. After this activity the teacher said that she had a surprise. She showed the children a book she had made using the children's photographs and names, putting one on each page in the same manner as the book, Brown Bear. Then the teacher and children went through the homemade book singing each child's name in the same cadence as the brown bear song. The book was laminated in a 3 ring binder for future use.

What It Means: The teacher had been having some difficulty with children learning each other's names. She devised a teaching tool and activity that would support their efforts to learn names. (It also supports pre-reading skills.) The brown bear activity is a favorite in the classroom so the teacher used their existing familiarity with the song, combined with the new book, to scaffold their attempts to remember names. To "scaffold" means to provide an external support to a child's mastery attempts, so they can master something with support that they are currently unable to master on their own. With this small amount of scaffolding, the children will very soon remember each other's names independently, without support.


What We Saw: A child is having trouble with a pencil. The teacher asks, "Can you hold it like this?" (She demonstrates). The child attempts again unsuccessfully. The teacher says, "like this" and places the child's hand in the correct position. She says, "Now you do it". The child is successful and the teacher says, "Good job, look at that!" Another child wants to use a hole punch. The teacher demonstrates it and then gives it to the child saying, "Here you try it". The child has trouble. The teacher encourages, "Use your muscles". She waits patiently. The child still has trouble and the teacher covers the child's hand with her own. She realizes that the hole punch is jammed. She fixes it and gives it back to the child who then uses it successfully.

What It Means: This teacher encourages developmentally appropriate independence in the children. When teachers show they have confidence in children, it inspires a feeling of competence in the children. This teacher was scaffolding the children's learning by taking them step by step through new skills with just enough support to insure the success of their mastery attempts. (When scaffolding, a teacher provides no more help than is really necessary, and offers progressively less help as the child gains competence, until the child can perform the task independently.) She also used positive reinforcement and modeling to help them learn.


What We Saw: A 15-month-old child was playing with a doll and setting it down on a cloth. The child tried to push up her own sleeves and put the cloth around the doll. The teacher was sitting near this child and by careful observation understood what the child was trying to do. The teacher said to the child, "Oh, you are pushing up your sleeves just like I do when I change you. Do you want to change this baby like I change you?" The child smiled. The teacher proceeded to help the child pretend to change the doll's diaper. The teacher described with words and actions what she was doing as she was diapering the doll, such as washing hands, using soap, drying hands and cleaning the changing surface. When they were done the child smiled and held the doll.

What It Means: Young children often give cues about their interests. This teacher was able to pick up on the non-verbal clues of this child and engage in meaningful play with the child. By talking about the entire process of diapering the teacher was encouraging language acquisition and furthering this child's learning through exploration of a routine developmental task. The teacher was scaffolding the child's mastery attempts. To scaffold means to provide just enough help so a child can accomplish something that would be too difficult without your help. (As the child gains competence, the observant teacher will provide less and less help.)


More Scaffolding Promising Practices