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FirstSchool Snapshot

Ritchie, Weiser, Mason, Holland, & Howes

The FirstSchool Snapshot is a 42 item time sampling observation instrument that describes children’s experiences throughout the school day within activity settings (e.g., whole group, small group, transitions), learning content (e.g., reading, science, math), and teaching approaches (e.g., didactic, scaffolded instruction). The Snapshot is collected during naturalistic observation of classrooms throughout an entire school day.

Developed throughout the 1990s and the decade of 2000 while conducting studies with children from diverse ethnic/racial and home language backgrounds, the Snapshot was first used in various early childhood settings, such as state-funded pre-kindergarten and center-based child care. It was used in several studies of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, including the National Center for Early Development and Learning’s (NCEDL) Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten (Chien et al., 2010; Early et al., 2010), Study of State-Wide Early Education Programs (SWEEP; Chien et al., 2010; Early et al., 2010), Georgia Study of Early Care and Education (Maxwell et al., 2009), and Phillips, Gormley and Lowenstien’s (2009) The Effects of Universal Pre-K on Cognitive Development Study. The current Snapshot has been in development for the last 5 years, again within projects focused on a diverse sample of classrooms, in order to revise it for use in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms. The Snapshot is used in the current FirstSchool project to provide data and subsequent professional development in all project classrooms; as well as in district projects in Bertie, Martin, and Forsythe Counties in North Carolina and in Lansing, Michigan.

The information provided by the Snapshot allows teachers and administrators to see areas of practice that indicate strengths as well as those that need improvement. The instrument’s use at multiple time points also allows educators to track their progress as they seek to address issues and improve the educational experiences of young children. In addition, data may be compiled across multiple teachers into grade level, school, or district level sets, allowing researchers and educators to answer questions regarding broad policy and engage in vertical planning.

The authors are seeking funding to publish this instrument as both a research and professional development tool.