Interpreting Children’s Knowledge Through Their Conversation

At another point in time I would frequently encourage preschool teachers to use KWL charts. This is where we ask the children what they Know about a topic, what they Want to know, and then document what we Learned as we moved through a topic of interest. Teachers would often tell me that their preschoolers struggled with this as a large group activity so we made smaller charts and made it a small group activity. The teachers told me that many children still struggled with telling us what they knew or wanted to know. Now that I am working with a group of preschoolers on a consistent basis, and I have been studying the Reggio Approach more in-depth, I have learned that we can gain so much more information by providing the children with opportunities to interact with materials that are inspired by a topic of interest and then sitting back, observing, and listening to what they are saying to each other.

Today we took apart the hard drive of a computer in Progressive Preschool. We have done a lot of work around machines this year and many of the children have shown an interest in cars. Separate of today’s provocation, we have been doing “Collaborative Car Designs.”  Once we began pulling parts out of the hard drive one of the children started asking if they could use the parts for their cars. A group project began in the classroom where the children started constructing a car out of the computer parts.

progressive computer car 2                                 progressive computer car 1

J: This is the trunk.
E: We have to attach the seatbelts. The motherboard – we have to use the motherboard.
J: This can be where we sit.
E: Yeah, this can be the cup holder.
J: What could be the door? How will we all fit in here?
S: This is the gas pedal.
E: We need a heater and a cooler. These can be the computer car 3
C: Here’s the lights.
J: We need a steering wheel. Where is the big yogurt cap? That can be the steering wheel.
E: How many miles can it go?
J: This baby can go 1000 miles!

Wow! In just a few short moments I learned a great deal about what the children know about cars. In addition to their recorded statements the children also decided that the car needed an engine, a windshield, and of course, a TV!

submitted by: Kelly Giudice

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