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Attending and Understanding: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s abilities to attend to and understand language and communication from others is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support infants’ and toddlers’ ability to attend to and understand language and communication from others.1
    • Respond contingently to a child’s social cues, including both verbal and non-verbal requests for attention, sharing of successes, and disengagement when the child needs time to regroup.
    • Individualize responses to a child’s signals.
    • Use a variety of ways of interacting (e.g., verbal, physical, redirection).
    • Respond flexibly to multiple children’s bids for attention.
    • Encourage and engage in reciprocal interactions with children (e.g., exchange facial expressions, gestures, signs, vocalizations, and words with the child).
    • Acknowledge when children show they understand verbal and non-verbal communication.
      • Children may show they understand through gestures, facial expressions, signs, words, and actions such as looking at people or objects being referenced.
    • Wait and watch for a child’s response to comments and questions before responding.
    • Follow up if children do not respond to a question.
  • These practices may also be used to support dual language learners (DLLs) in developing their home language and to expose them to English. For more information, see:
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Wait and watch for a child’s response to comments and questions before responding, you might ask your coach/supervisor to observe during a mealtime and note the number of times you ask children if they want more or less of something, want to try a new food item, or other questions that require simple responses from children. Ask your coach/supervisor to note how many times you wait for a response and to watch for ways that you encourage children’s responses versus moving on before a child can indicate his or her response.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s ability to attend to and understand language and communication from others?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach or supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

Preschoolers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s abilities to attend to and understand language and communication from others and respond appropriately is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support preschoolers’ ability to attend to and understand language and communication from others and respond appropriately.2
    • Initiate conversations with children often.
    • Encourage children to converse and respond in ways that let them know they are valued conversational partners.
    • Actively listen to children, contribute relevant responses, and ask related questions.
    • Provide a format (e.g., during center time or other open periods of time) that allows children to initiate questions and commentaries and respond in extended sentences to questions.
    • Keep teacher-controlled periods where children should not be communicating short (e.g., during a first read-aloud of a book).
    • Use different modalities (e.g., auditory, visual, movement) to engage children and support their understanding of what is being said.
    • Use different strategies (e.g., advanced organizers, summaries, reorientation statements) to help children understand what an activity or lesson is about and frequently check to make sure they understand what is being said and communicated.
    • Engage children in activities and games that require listening and responding (e.g., following directions, “I Spy”).
  • These practices may also be used to support dual language learners (DLLs) in developing their home language and to expose them to English. For more information, see:
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Use different strategies (e.g., advanced organizers, summaries, reorientation statements) to help children understand what an activity or lesson is about and frequently check to make sure children understand what is being said and communicated, ask your coach/supervisor to observe a planned learning experience or activity and watch how you prepare children by explaining what they will be learning about. You can also ask your coach/supervisor to note when children appear confused or unengaged and to watch how effective your reorientation statements help to re-engage children. Your coach/supervisor may also watch children’s response to these statements to measure the effectiveness of your practice.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s ability to attend to and understand language and communication from others as well as respond appropriately?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 17, A.1., 36, C.2.

2Robert C. Pianta, Karen M. La Paro, and Bridget K. Hamre, Classroom Assessment Scoring System Manual, Pre-K (Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2008), 79, High Language Modeling, 59–60, High Instructional Learning Formats.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018