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Understanding Intentional Teaching in Early Childhood Education

 

Learning experiences and social interactions are vital aspects of developing your child’s understanding of the world.

At Raising Stars centres, we recognise the importance of our role as early childhood educators and adopt intentional teaching strategies to support your child’s learning. Our approach in intentional teaching shapes our staff as explicit educators, which ensures that every learning experience for your child is an opportunity to extend their level of cognitive thinking.

What is Intentional Teaching?

Intentional teaching means to work with an objective in mind, in order to engage a child’s ideas, interests, strengths or needs and encourage them to develop higher-order thinking skills through a range of intentional teaching practices.

As the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) states, it requires our “educators being purposeful and thoughtful in their actions” to complete this objective.

We adopt a deliberate approach in our teaching by working alongside the children to transform any opportunity into a meaningful and positive learning experience. As a result, intentional teaching requires us to take an active role in your child’s learning development by building upon their curiosities, allowing them to consider possible outcomes and make guided self-discoveries.

How Does Intentional Teaching Work?

Intentional teaching swims against the tide of traditional early childhood teaching methods which constrains educators as more passive observers in your child’s cognitive growth. Instead of asking what the children would be doing, we are asking why. 

The process requires our educators to be purposeful when planning by matching the best learning environment with suitable materials to create positive teacher-child interactions. Thoughtful planning and consideration inspire our educators to collaborate with children to solve problems that arise from play situations.

Our educators are constantly alert, observing if your child can complete planned activities and searching for opportunities for deliberate interactions with them to promote positive learning experiences. Learning opportunities can emerge in varying situations, whether one-on-one, small group or whole group play.

However, intentional teaching does not restrict itself to thoughtful planning, it can also emerge spontaneously, and learning experiences can be child-initiated. For this reason, our educators are adaptable to react and purposefully build upon your child’s curiosity in a way that promotes high-order thinking skills.

Families are an essential factor when considering intentional learning. Open communication between families and educators help establish desired learning outcomes for the children, allowing us to know the best times for deliberate action and interaction to extend their thinking.

Finally, intentional teaching is often associated with ‘sustained shared thinking’; defined broadly as two or more people working together in an intellectual way, this is a teaching strategy that encourages intentional teaching in regard to cognition, metacognition (a child’s understanding of their own thoughts and thought processes), and language development.

How to Teach Intentionally: Intentional Teaching Practices and Interactions in ECE

Our educators consider various intentional teaching practices when interacting with the children to sustain interests and extend their thinking. 

Here are some of the practices that we use at Raising Stars:

Challenging for growth: Providing children with the necessary opportunities to confront problems and make guided conclusions to overcome them. These invaluable lessons extend your child’s knowledge and skills while also developing their capability in problem-solving. 

Collaboration and negotiation in learning opportunities: Recognising that children desire autonomy, we allow them to drive their learning within a controlled environment. Children learn the consequences of their learning decisions and develop an idea of negotiation during teacher-child or child-child interactions. 

Explaining and modelling: Clearly communicating ideas or concepts for children with a physical demonstration if necessary. It satisfies the children’s need to understand new ideas and permits the teacher to observe the child master the concept based on their modelling. 

Imagining: Establishing a learning environment that promotes creativity, rewards investigation and guides experimentation. Thoughtful planning creates opportunities for children to engage in activities freely with no set expectations in the outcome, allowing children to explore their limits of imagination. 

Listening: Educators create meaningful conversations with children by listening intently and considering what they contribute. These experiences help children develop their understanding of the value of collaboration with adults in solving problems and expressing needs or wants.

Reflection: Guiding the children’s daily reflection on their learning experiences encourages quality interactions that aid their understanding of their development. 

Researching: Developing research-gathering techniques from a range of sources to solve problems and extend the children’s critical thinking skills.

Questioning: Using open-ended questions to engage children’s curiosities, ideas or interests that aids in their guided self-discoveries. 

Scaffolding: Sharing a supportive framework with the children allows them to understand and track their learning development. By identifying their strengths, interests, ideas and needs, educators create an individualised framework for the child that best encourages their cognitive growth to a higher level of thinking. 

Implementing Intentional Teaching Strategies Within Early Childhood Education

We recognise that simply using intentional teaching strategies is ineffective without a clear framework for implementation within our Raising Stars early childhood education centres. 

This framework helps us implement intentional teaching strategies to achieve the best possible practice. 

A Shared Sense of Priority

The heart of intentional teaching is to create meaningful interactions, therefore a principal priority is to always provide children optimal support in their opportunities to extend cognitive thinking.

We also recognise that the family unit is an integral part of your child’s learning development. For this reason, we value the opportunities to invite open communication with you to help establish the priorities for your child’s learning development.

To further establish priorities, we consider your child’s characteristics and progress. Cultural values, parent’s wants and needs, and ethical practices of the community are examples of such necessary considerations when framing learning priorities for your child.

Our educators understand that a generalised intention focused teaching practice fails to engage all children, and that by understanding your child’s priorities we can create a positive learning experience.

 

Intentional Pedagogies

Pedagogy, meaning to guide, is the combination of the beliefs, ideas, values, skills and knowledge to form the best strategies for supporting your child.

We place a high value on social interactions with your child as they indicate their learning profile, which help us better in directly meeting their needs and wants. For instance, we understand that each learning environment engages each child differently.

As a result, we employ a variety of forms that extend beyond free play, including:

  • Modelled play: Educators purposefully introduce materials and demonstrate the use of them.
  • Deliberately Framed Play: Planned activities that deliberately include the introduction of key concepts and ideas.
  • Adult Initiated Play: Educators provide the necessary materials to the children to support learning outcomes.
  • Guided Play Experiences: Guiding child-controlled play with the desired learning outcomes of the educator.

Through an in-depth understanding of your child’s characteristics, ideas, interests and learning development, our educators make informed decisions in their selection of the best-suited intentional practices.

 

Curriculum Design

Planning a sound curriculum is essential in helping our educators guide thought and deliberate interactions that best suit the needs of your child. An effective curriculum design not only plans for a supportive learning environment but also considers the potential for meaningful learning experiences in each activity. 

Our design is personalised to your child by titling their strengths, needs and priorities to create a supportive social context that encourages them to fulfil desired learning outcomes.

Organising open questions is critical for an effective intentional teaching plan. It prompts the children to understand new concepts or ideas and encourages them to communicate their observations with others. This requires our educators to evaluate the children and purposefully plan what they would do or say to promote extended thinking. 

Intentional Assessment

Assessment is an invaluable tool for informing educators of the children’s learning dispositions and capabilities. Through engaging in informal assessments (observations, listening and interactions), our educators can analyse and track your child’s path in developing higher-order thinking skills. 

With the knowledge gained from assessments, we can make informed, purposeful decisions when tailoring a curriculum that encourages your child to extend their thinking when appropriate. 

By also understanding the family’s knowledge and ideas of wellbeing, our educators gain important insight, which significantly benefits their ability to assess your child. As a result, we have a better grasp of when to encourage your child to reach new concepts and ideas that are interesting and relevant to them.

Intentional Teaching and the EYLF

The EYLF identified intentional teaching as one of the eight pedagogical practices to promote optimal teaching environments for extending children’s learning and thinking. 

The government backed framework states that it “involves building relationships, nurturing and supporting children, planning experiences for them and interacting with them to expand their understanding about the world.”

The Benefits of Intentional Teaching

The brilliance of intentional teaching is in the personalised benefits for your child, as our educators deliberately develop targeted areas of learning. 

For instance, if an identified priority of a child’s learning development is critical thinking, intentional teaching will transform any interaction into meaningful experiences that engage this skill. 

Other benefits also include:

  • Children feel a stronger sense of self.
  • Collaboration teaches skills of mutual respect and trust.
  • Extending learnineerg potential and encouraging areas of interest.
  • Exploration of new ideas and interests within a safe and controlled environment. 
  • Fostering positive relationships.

    Using the Learning Environment to Promote Intentional Teaching

    At Raising Stars, we purposefully plan our early childhood education learning environments to create learning opportunities and experiences for your child. 

    Our educators create intentional environments by:

    • Thoughtfully planning the location of materials within the broader physical environment.
    • Inclusion of posters stating proper use and management of materials. 
    • Structuring the day so that it matches the children’s changing levels of interests and concentration.
    • Supporting children by helping gather the materials needed for their play to help realise their wants and needs.

    Intentional Teaching Examples

    As we explained, establishing the priorities of children’s learning outcomes is a critical factor within intentional teaching in early childhood. 

    Here are some ways we have identified learning priorities within young children and responded with intentional teaching practices:

    Identity: 

    To develop independent values, teachers can:

    • Allow children to take responsibility for their items and routines.
    • Guide children in reflecting on their learning development to make self-discoveries in their own interests, needs and wants. 

    To build an idea of self, teachers can:

    • Promote children’s exploration of their cultures through sharing personal materials. 
    • Engaging children’s understandings of their cultures and encouraging learning opportunities through guided reflections. 

    Connectedness

    To establish positive relationships, teachers can:

    • Encourage collaboration which creates learning opportunities for cooperation skills.
    • Listen to children deeply and deliberately to model respectful interactions. 

    To promote diversity, teachers, can:

    • Collaborate with the children’s communities and research customs to foster greater cultural understandings. 
    • Challenge traditional views of cultures that emerge in materials and situations. 

    Wellbeing 

    To develop ideas of autonomy, teacher can:

    • Guide children’s reflections on how their emotions can influence their actions.
    • Use open questions that guide children to solve problems independently. 

    To stimulate ideas of health and safety, teachers can:

    • Research healthy lifestyle choices. 
    • Collaborate with children to establish a safety code. 

    Active Learning 

    To create positive attitudes to learning, teachers can:

    • Engage children’s interests through open questioning and extending on their ideas. 
    • Challenge children to connect past experiences with ideas and hypothesises. 

    To show the use of technology as a tool for learning, teachers can:

    • Model correct and responsible use of technology.
    • Research with technology when encountering a problem. 

    Communicating

    To develop literacy, teachers can:

    • Encourage children to listen and reflect on their oral production of language. 
    • Challenge children to identify new vocabulary in texts and materials. 

    To develop numeracy, teachers can:

    • Encourage children to reflect how mathematical concepts can be applied in daily situations. 
    • Explain numbers and concepts such as counting or ordering. 

    Intentional Teaching Within Broader Teaching Theories and Philosophies

    Development and constructivist research connect intentional teaching with child-centred learning due to its principles of learning through play. While similar, these approaches see the educator as non-directive and simply focussed on maintaining the learning environment. 

    Sociocultural theory values the practice of intentional teaching, stating the importance of the children’s social interactions with adults to produce heightened cognitive activity when constructing new understandings.

    This theory identifies the active role educators take in intentional teaching and the vital importance of considering the children’s interests, abilities, thinking, skills and knowledge when creating learning opportunities. 

    At Raising Stars, our early childhood teachers believe that intentional teaching is a fundamental practice to produce the best possible learning experiences and outcomes for your child. 

    If you would like more information on our approach to early childhood education at Raising Stars centres, feel free to get in touch!