What is an Intentional Teacher?

The Meaning of Intentional

In her book The Intentional Teacher: Choosing the Strategies for Young Children’s Learning; Ann S. Epstein explains, teachers are intentional when they…

act purposefully, with a goal in mind and a plan for accomplishing it.  Intentional acts originate from careful thought and are accompanied by consideration of their potential effects.  Thus, an intentional teacher aims at clearly defined learning objectives for children, employs instructional strategies likely to help children achieve the objectives, and continually assesses progress and adjusts the strategies based on that assessment. The teacher who can explain why she is doing what she is doing is acting intentionally – whether she is using a strategy tentatively for the first time or automatically from long practice, and whether it is used as part of a deliberate plan or spontaneously in a teachable moment.

Effective teachers are intentional with respect to many facets of the learning environment, beginning with the emotional climate they create. They deliberately select inviting equipment and materials that reflect children’s individual interests, skills, needs, cultures, and home languages, and they put these in places where children will notice and want to use them. In planning the program day or week, intentional teachers choose which specific learning activities, contexts, and settings to use and when. And they choose when to address specific content areas, how much time to spend on them, and how to integrate them. All these teacher decisions and behaviors set the tone and substance of what happens in the classroom.”

What is an Intentional Teacher?

Accordingly,

an Intentional Teacher acts with knowledge and purpose to ensure that young children acquire the knowledge and skills (content) they need to succeed in school and in life.

Intentional teaching does not happen by chance. It is planful, thoughtful, and purposeful.

Intentional teachers use their knowledge, judgment, and expertise to organize learning experiences for children; when an unplanned situation arises (as it always does), they can recognize a teaching opportunity and take advantage of it, too.

Intentional teaching means teachers act with specific outcomes or goals in mind for all domains of children’s development and learning. “Academic” domains (literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies) as well as what have traditionally been considered early learning domains (social and emotional, cognitive, physical, and creative development) all consist of important knowledge and skills that young children want and need to master. Intentional teachers, therefore, integrate and promote meaningful learning in all domains.

Click here to access the most recent edition of  The Intentional Teacher: Choosing the Strategies for Young Children’s Learning available through NAEYC.org,  or view the PDF of Chapter 1 (from a previous edition) obtained through HighScope.org.

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