Teaching Practices

Promoting Adult-Child Interactions that Support Higher-Order Thinking and Language Skills

Children are born ready to explore and learn about the world around them. Programs offer professional development and coaching to help education staff use effective teaching practices. This includes using interactions that facilitate concept development to support:

  • Children's innate curiosity and creativity
  • Children's higher-order thinking (e.g., reasoning, analysis, problem-solving) and language skills
  • Opportunities for children think more deeply about the world around them

For preschool children, these practices support the Concept Development dimension (Instructional Support domain) as defined in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) Pre-K Manual. Concept Development "measures the teachers' use of instructional discussions and activities to promote students' higher-order thinking skills and cognition and the teacher's focus on understanding rather than on rote instruction." Learn more about Concept Development practices in this 2019 Office of Head Start webinar, “Focus on Instructional Supports: Resources to Help Head Start Programs.” It also features several resources for grantees to use to help them focus on improving instructional supports for children and mentions this webpage.

Use the following resources to learn about and support education staff in implementing effective teaching practices. Start by watching these video clips that show teachers building on children’s curiosity and promoting thinking and language skills. Education managers and supervisors can use these videos along with The Inquiry Cycle handout to facilitate conversations about teaching practices during trainings, staff and team meetings, and other professional development sessions.

Coaches and coachees can use the videos and handout to identify specific teaching practices to focus on during coaching sessions.

Young Toddler Video Clips

View these video clips to see a teacher interact with toddlers in a learning experience involving avocados.

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Exploring Avocados

Exploring Avocados

Watch Teacher Keesha interact with three young toddlers as they explore the shape, taste, and texture of avocados.

Preschool Video Clips

View these video clips to see a teacher interact with preschoolers in a learning experience involving roly polys.

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Exploring Roly Polys

Exploring Roly Polys

Watch Teacher Jessica interact with a group of preschool children as they explore and learn about roly poly bugs.

Selected Resources

Effective Practice Guides

Education managers and child development specialists can review the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) Effective Practice Guides as refreshers about what supporting children's higher-order thinking and language skills looks like in practice. Use the embedded videos during trainings, staff meetings, or other opportunities to help plan high-quality teaching practices, interactions, and materials that stimulate children's thinking.

Coaches can pull out key practices and videos to use in their work with coachees during one-on-one or Together Learning and Collaborating (TLC) group coaching sessions.

15-minute In-service Suites

Education managers and child development specialists can use the in-service suites during ongoing professional development and reflective supervision. Education teams can review the suites and talk about the identified practices and how to use them in their settings.

Education teams who work with preschool children can plan for a study on concept development. Teams might consider a six- to 12-month process of reviewing articles, videos, and facilitating discussions about how to implement practices that support children's concept development in meaningful ways. Coaches can work with teachers and family child care providers to identify and strengthen specific teaching practices introduced in the in-service suites.

Teacher Time

Education managers and child development specialists can use Teacher Time episodes during trainings, staff meetings, viewing parties, and other professional development opportunities. The episodes help teachers and family child care providers learn about and try teaching practices that support children's higher-order thinking and language skills. Use the Viewer's Guide (infant/toddler) and Follow-Up handout (preschool) to identify talking points and reflection questions.

Finding Opportunities for Concept Development Within Your Curriculum

Education managers and child development specialists can use this resource with teachers and family child care providers to identify ways their curricula help children develop higher-order thinking skills and a deeper understanding of concepts.

Coaches can use this resource with teachers and family child care providers to identify and strengthen specific teaching practices within their curricula that support children's higher-order thinking and language skills.

Last Updated: October 29, 2019