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PBS in the Classroom

Joining Skillful Teaching with Educational Media that Children Love

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Watch as Ms. Poulin and her children play the online game, Wild Kratt’s Aviva’s Powersuit Maker, as part of their study of animal adaptations.

As you observed the children, what did you notice?  I was tickled by their glee as Ms. Poulin announced they would play the game, and I noticed that children’s joy was sustained throughout game play--children were smiling and eager to share their thinking and reasoning about which animal adaptations (e.g., cheetah or skunk head) they would use to build power suit for a Wild Kratt brother! These observations reminded me of the importance of anchoring instruction in familiar and fun experiences! 

However, game playing, alone, may not be enough to ensure learning. Did you also notice the ways Ms. Poulin skillfully used her own talk to guide children in making thoughtful decisions about which animal adaptations to use?  She modeled her decision-making process, and then she used carefully constructed questions to help children think through and explain their choices. These are important steps in the learning process--steps many children might not initiate without a teacher’s skillful guidance. 

Research indicates that when we join skillful teaching with developmentally-appropriate and high-quality educational media, children experience growth in: 

          ●  early literacy, mathematics, cognitive, and socio-emotional skills and behaviors.

          ●  imagination, creativity, and problem solving.

Importantly, these early learning experiences are associated with academic achievement ten years later.

Early childhood teachers who meaningfully integrate high-quality educational media into their curriculum use questions like these to help them choose resources.

  • Does the game, video, e-book, website, or app convey important information about an important topic?
    • Many resources have good information, but the information might not be important in grasping understanding of a focal topic. As you assemble educational media for a unit of study, be certain the information conveyed relates to the specific learning objectives you have targeted.
  • Does the game, video, e-book, website, or app have features that might distract or confuse children and diminish attention or understanding of the important ideas?
    • Carefully review the resource and be sure that it provides accurate information. For example, in a unit on bats, a game or video that shows bats attacking humans is not helpful because in real life, bats don’t attack people. So the image could lead to a misconception or a misunderstanding. Avoid inaccurate or confusing information.
    • Evaluate information “around” the resource. For example, are there pop-ups, links, sound, or other features that might distract children? If so, are there ways to minimize the distractions  (e..g., muting sounds or blocking pop-ups)?
  • What types of teaching actions will help children learn important information as they use the resource? For example, you might:
    • Preteach important vocabulary to support understanding.
    • Mute sound on a digital game to diminish or  avoid distraction.
    • Pause game-play or video-viewing at strategic points to have children describe their problem-solving strategy and reasoning can help children develop a habit of making informed choices and decision.
    • Assign partners to complete a task together to support collaborative thinking and problem solving.

When teachers integrate high-quality, educational media as part of their teaching, children are likely to be engaged and motivated and on their way to developing important knowledge about the world!

To find lesson plans and videos that inspire children to think and act like scientists, visit Teaching Tips for Educational Media on PBS LearningMedia developed by the Boston University School of Education. 

To observe a teacher using an informational video with children, see Watch Together to Deepen Concept Knowledge|Animal Adaptations. 

To observe a teacher playing a digital game with children, see Play Together to Extend Concept Knowledge|Animal Adaptations 

Learn how to integrate inspirational teaching strategies into your daily routines with professional development courses from PBS TeacherLine’s special collection for early childhood educators.  

Jeanne R. Paratore and Lisa M. O'Brien Professors

Jeanne R. Paratore, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita, Literacy Education, at Boston University, Boston, MA. She has published widely on issues of classroom literacy instruction, family literacy, and integration of high-quality educational media with high-quality, literacy instruction. She is one of only 100 world-wide elected members of the Reading Hall of Fame.

Lisa M. O’Brien, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor, Reading and Language Education, at Merrimack College, Andover, MA. Her work is focused on providing all children equitable opportunities to learn and, in particular, on effective and engaging integration of technology in early childhood and elementary classrooms.

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