Guiding Principles and Instructional Practices

The Guiding Principles of the Boston Public Schools Department of Early Childhood Pre-K to Grade 2 are that children:

  • construct meaningful knowledge through robust interaction and high engagement;

  • aspire to be visible and valued;

  • experience, process, and interact with the world in unique ways; and

  • are experienced and capable agents of their own learning.

In our classrooms, children simultaneously develop social-emotional and academic skills, guided by engaged and reflective adults. Teachers strive to frame cultural, linguistic, and developmental diversity as assets, rather than barriers, to quality experiences. Children gain the confident disposition of critical thinkers and flexibly use creative skills to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century citizenry.

The Focus on Early Learning curricula, as well as the coaching and professional development that support its implementation (together, called the “strongest hope” model), articulate the implicit messages of the Guiding Principles through the following explicit instructional practices:

  • discourse, facilitation, and feedback; (in action)

  • experiential learning across disciplines; (in action)

  • address variance of development, processes, and perspectives; (in action)

  • active agency and autonomy; (in action) and

  • documentation of teaching and learning. (in action)

Supporting Instructional Practice

The videos below are designed as jumping off points for Focus on Early Learning, including forming small groups, managing and engaging in centers/studios, and using the Ladder of Feedback protocol during Common Planning Time to examine student work. We are currently working on a more robust PD system, including examples of curricular components and protocols in action. Have suggestions for what you would like to see? Contact us!

Curriculum Components

Cultural Competency: Learning happens in a cultural context - children don't learn in an isolated way. Learning needs to encompass all aspects of a child's development, including their social, emotional, cognitive, language, and ethnic background. 

Centers: What are centers (and studios, as we call them in 1st and 2nd grade)? How does this core component of Focus on Early Learning enable child choice and creativity?

Managing and Engaging in Centers: Watch Sandra Marquez as she engages with her students and manages centers in her classroom at the Blackstone Innovation Schools

Facilitating Dramatic Play: Judi Reid, from the Sumner Elementary School, facilitates a recreation of the three little pigs story in dramatic play during center time.

Integrated Writing: No matter the format (brief or extended, whole or small group, in pairs or independent), Integrated Writing links to unit texts and ideas. It incorporates opportunities to practice syntax and conventions in context while building towards an essential knowledge goal. In this video, children begin to co-construct a map of their classroom at the Baldwin Early Learning Pilot Academy. Children grapple with the classroom map by observing the modeled writing of their teacher, Thu Nguyen, both by talking with a partner and by writing independently.

Sounds, Letters, and Words: During Sounds, Letters and Words, children are breaking the code of reading. They do this by developing phonological awareness and phonics, and by learning and practicing words most commonly found in text. Children develop discrete skills and then apply those skills in the context of rich decodable text. In this video, children are guided by their teacher, Lena Jar-Curran of the Baldwin Early Learning Pilot Academy, as they learn and practice the /er/ sound through singing, phonological awareness activities, blending, and writing.

Decodable Reading: When reading decodable books, children use their developing phonological awareness and phonics skills, as well as their knowledge of high frequency words, to read connected text. In this video from the Baldwin Early Learning Pilot Academy, children read and discuss a decodable text, practicing fluent reading and answering comprehension questions. The teacher, Fay Ferency, guides the reading by addressing misconceptions and moving the children towards independence.

Protocols in Action

Ladder of Feedback: The ladder of feedback is a step-by-step protocol that can be used for looking at student work to help teachers plan for future moves. In this video we modify the protocol to include next steps for participants. See the original protocol here (external).

"Austin's Butterfly Drafts" is a fantastic example of facilitating a student-driven conversation about a student work. It includes a teacher leading students through the critique and revision process. (external)