"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conversation and Problem Solving with Preschoolers

As part of our GEMS: Elephants and Their Young study, we have been doing lots of hands-on learning activities, reading books, and learning facts about elephants. I found the DVD, Disney's Whispers: An Elephant's Tale two years ago when we last did the study, at our local library, and recalled how rich the story-line was in it. I knew when planning the unit that I wanted to check the movie out again. If you can't find it locally, you can click on the title above to find it on Amazon. It has actual footage, but has voice-overs kind of like Homeward Bound.

We don't ever just put in a movie for the class, so I was showing ten or so minutes of the movie each day. We got to the scene where elephant calf, Whispers was with grown elephant female, Groove and he was very thirsty. They came to a watering hole and Groove asked Whispers if he should go get a drink. He tells her he should and she informs him that there are nine lions waiting around the watering hole, so he shouldn't go. At this point, my kids began throwing out suggestions of how the elephants could get to the water. I turned off the movie and began our conversation. It went something like this: 

Child 1: "The elephant could put on a lion costume and get a drink."
Me: "Well, are elephants and lions the same size?"
Child 1: "No, elephants are bigger, but when it put on the lion costume, it could pull it tight so it's small."

The elephant and the lion costume she will wear.
I told the group I wanted to write their ideas down, so I wrote the problem at the top, then as each child shared, I wrote their "solution". 

Child 2: "The grass could camouflage them so they could sneak up to the water." (This friend is really into army stuff and camouflage lately, so his response didn't surprise me.)
Me: "OK, I'll write your idea on the board."

Child 3: "They could go under the water."
Me: "That might work, but I have a question. Did you see the water at that watering hole?"
Child 3: "Yes."
Me: "Do you think it was deep enough for them to go under it?"
Child 3: "No, I don't think so."
Me: "I don't think so either, but that's a good idea and might work if the water were deeper."

Child 4: "They could put grass on them to hide them."
Me:"So, would that be camouflage, like D suggested?"
Child 4: "Yes, it would be good camouflage."

Child 5: "They could sneak in when the lions were sleeping."
Me: "Oh, OK. That might work."

I also discussed what a decoy is and gave an example of one going in to distract them and asked if that would work. They have been learning about the strong relationships the elephants in the her have with each other, so they decided that they wouldn't want one to get hurt to help the others.

In addition, I introduced the concept of a stampede and we discussed what that would look like. I asked if that was a possible solution. They decided that wouldn't work either because they would stop to drink and could get attacked.

After all five possible solutions were written on the board, I asked each child to vote for the one solution they thought would work the best. We introduced the concept of tally marks as we voted and then counted the votes.

As you can see, sneaking in when the lions are sleeping got the most votes, but one child expressed concern that the lions were pretending and weren't really asleep, kind of like the opossum in a book read earlier in the year called Don't Laugh, Joe!

After the session I asked each child who suggested a solution to draw a picture of their idea. 

I love it when an idea prompts them to question and try to come up with a solution, then modifying their answer after additional information is provided. 

Some prompting questions should start with "How..." and "Why..." You'll note a couple of my questions were "yes or no" questions. It's good to mix it up a little. It's also important not to ask too many questions that you know the answer to, but are trying to get them to remember.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I can only wish I had the iPad at the ready and videotaped it, but all in all, amazing time. 

This is a great link for asking thinking questions: http://learning.qahs.org.uk/files/2013/01/Thinking-Qs.jpg 


  1. I like that you had them vote on the solutions. That is a great way to get everyone involved and thinking!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

    1. Thanks so much, Jill. When they began throwing out solutions, I just knew I needed to document and like you inferred, not everyone came up with a solution. By having them vote, each child could choose their favorite.

  2. What a great way to get the whole class involved and problem solving together. I bet there are some brilliant follow up activities that could be done outdoors. I wonder if these conversations entered their play at all?
    Thanks for sharing at the Outdoor Play Party. Hope to see you there again :-)

    1. I did see quite a bit of role-playing take place and they continued to talk about elephants for weeks after this.

  3. Kid's learning comes from there surroundings !! so its our duty to make them familiar with our ever changing surroundings..

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  4. Yeah this is quite important I believe. You need to have conversation with toddlers and should be able to solve their problems. My cousin works in one of best Phoenix kindergarten and she told me that they emphasize a lot on this.

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