In ECE, we have been attempting to use The Explanation Game at the beginning of some of our studies instead of the See Think Wonder. It offers more flexibility and fluidity to our discussion as opposed to having to stop and categorize something as something they see, a wondering or a thought. I've found that having to explain these categories and define them interupts the flow of our discussion and often altogether derails it as the children get confused.
Our building study focused on several essential questions:
1. What do buildings in our neighborhood and in other places look like?
2. Who builds buildings? What tools do they use?
3. What are buildings made of? What makes them strong?
4. What is special about our building?
5. What happens inside of buildings?
To start the game, I showed this picture of the new One World Trade and asked the children to silently look at it for a minute without talking. I then asked them only to tell me what they see. Once they had a chance to share what they saw, I asked them to share their explanations or thoughts about the buildings in the picture. My idea was that some of these essential questions or information around these essential questions may naturally come up within the context of the conversation.
One World Trade
Leslie – What do you see?
Owen – I see a tiny red building.
Danny – I see a big huge building.
Charlie – There’s an antenna on the building.
Cohen – I see a black building and think it’s where my mom works.
Brady – I see a skyscraper.
Micah – I see some sticks.
Bryson – I see something like an igloo. I see vents. I don’t think it’s a skyscraper because it has vents and skyscrapers don’t have vents.
Emma – I see a lot of lines (points to white).
Maggie – I see all kids of buildings.
Lauren – I see a lot of windows.
Danny – I see an antenna.
Cohen – Little buildings don’t usually have those. They’re controls.
Charlie – I see a blue triangle.
Brady – I see a round thing.
Micah – I see a black thing.
Owen – I see a tiny black dot. Maybe it’s a broken window.
Emma – I see lines (points to black top of building). That’s actually a window.
Maggie – I see clouds.
Lauren – It looks like a mirror poking through the building.
Cohen – I don’t think it’s a mirror. I think it’s just paint.
Owen/Bryson – I think it’s just a reflection of the sky because I see clouds.
Cohen – I think clouds are there because it’s getting ready to be daytime.
Bryson – I see something at the bottom of the building. It’s like a monster opening it’s mouth. I also see a globe shape and trees and bushes
Lauren – Why is there a little green thing on the building?
Owen – It’s to hold the black part up. It could be air vents.
Brady – I think this is a tube that goes down to the ground and stops. It makes things. It’s not supposed to be alive.
Emma – I see lines.
Leslie – What do you think about the building?
Emma – It’s the tallest. There are circles on the antenna
Bryson – I think they hold the antenna up.
Brady – I think this holds it up.
Cohen – I think the little circles hold it in the right place so if a strong storm comes, it doesn’t bend.
Owen – I think it can bend. If the storm comes, it’ll knock the antenna over and then all the systems will be broken and go off in the entire building. No one can go in and the lights are off forever.
Bryson – If the building is strong enough, the building antenna won’t blow off. If the wind is super strong, all the buildings will fall down and no one will fix them again.
Micah – I think the igloo thing goes up the building like an elevator.
Emma – It’s not an igloo made out of snow.
Bryson – I think it’s a door.
Emma – No…it looks like it’s by there but it’s not.
Maggie – It’s not a door. It’s not close like a door. It’s part of the building to help it stand up. It stands by it to help it stand up so if wind comes, it won’t fall down.
Owen – If wind rushing, it could fall down.
Micah – It’s a wheel.
Lauren – The building might have windows because it’s a working place.
Cohen – I think it’s a garage door. When cars go in, people can go in because the garage door goes up. Garage doors usually have windows for the people who work there.
Owen – I think they are strong because they are built into the ground.
Lauren – I think they are strong because they are big and heavy.
Leslie – heavy? Can we see something is heavy?
Lauren – They look strong.
Micah – They’re fat.
Leslie – Are they all fat?
Maggie – No that one is fat. So it might fall down on other buildings.
Charlie – They are screwed into the ground.
Leslie – What are they made out of?
Kids – wood, metal, plastic
Maggie, If they are metal, they stick together.
Owen – Metal doesn’t break. It can bend.
I must admit that at the time of the discussion I found myself frustrated by the superficial noticings and had to remind myself the children were only 4 and may not have enough background knowledge and schema to even consider the size, strength and materials these buildings may be made of without some further prompting and questioning. All the same, the children stuck with the conversation for almost 25 minutes and with some deeper questioning started to consider and mention some thoughts about the strength, structure and materials. However, they still did not talk much about the difference between the buildings.
Therefore, the aha for me was that the picture I chose was not meaningful enough for 4 year olds with limited schema on buildings to generate a deeper discussion around the essential questions. After some discussion with my colleague Gail, I decided to try the routine again at the end of the unit when the children had more background knowledge. But instead of using the One World Trade picture, I would use a picture of a skyline that offered more contrast. My goal then was that the routine would offer some assessment opportunity to see what information the children had acquired during the unit around our essential questions.
The Explanation Game
Leslie - What do you see?
Micah – A skyscraper and a crane.
Brady – This building has balls on it.
Max – I see buildings with designs on them. There’s a dome and balls. I see a building like the Guggenheim. It’s the same shape and yellow.
Cohen – There’s a skyscraper with an antenna.
Morgan – A glass building.
Rowen – A building that looks like a globe.
Zoey – A building with a lot of windows.
Griffin – The balls on the building are getting smaller. There’s green on the bottom of the building. Antennas. Stripes on the building.
Lauren – I see framing. There are curves on the building. There’s a box in the building.
Leslie - What do you think? What are your explanations?
Morgan – I think the building is where people go to work.
Rowen – I think the globe is a museum because it looks like it’s trying to teach you something like our globe.
Lauren – I think it’s a school because it has a lot of rooms and windows.
Morgan – I think there are a lot of windows so you can see.
Max – I think it’s New York. I also see a shadow…it’s backwards…it makes me think it’s water.
Griffin – Maybe it’s a river.
Cohen – I think this is a bridge.
Micah – I think it’s an airport because I think that’s a plane.
Max – I think these might be an airport control tower because it’s tall and white.
Griffin – Boats have thing on the bottom shaped like that. Boats also have lots of windows.
Rowen – I think this is all in India because it looks warm. (I ask…can you see “warm”?) There’s water and India is on the edge of water and because there are domes.
Griffin – I think they’re working buildings.
Brady – I think it’s Chicago. It has skyscrapers and ponds.
What do you think about the buildings and what they are made of?
Lauren – I think this building is made of wood. It looks like wood and has a lot of windows. I think they are strong.
Griffin – It’s made out of stucco. I think this one is where they make dog food and smoke comes out.
Max – I see a boat because it’s on water but it might be a train too because it’s long.
Leslie – What do you think about what Lauren noticed and said about the framing?
Morgan – it’s not done yet.
Lauren – This building has levels.
Griffin – They’re balconies.
Micah – It’s a ladder they climb up
Griffin – it could be both. They walk and climb.
Lauren – That wouldn’t be safe because it’s climbing up a building. There’s got to be a safe way to get up there. I think the 2 silver ones are electric elevators. This building has stairs on top.
Micah - The big bottom one is the elevator because it’s a ball and it’s big so a lot of people can go up.
Lauren – I think this building is a museum because it only has a few windows, a lot of stuff and a design. Museums are kind of small.
Zoey – This building looks like a church. It has a tower on it.
This picture definitely got the children talking and thinking about the types of buildings and where the city might be located. I had hoped they would talk about the unique shapes on a deeper level and consider how these buildings were made, who made them and what materials were used, but this still proved a challenge without me asking directly. This left me to wonder if once again the picture was either not effective, my questioning was not strong enough or my intention was not clear. Even so the children had a lot more to say about the buildings and what they may be backing up their ideas with explanations based on their learning during the study.
Despite the superficial nature of this attempt, I like the routine and will definitely use it again in ECE. Perhaps just the routine of it will prompt deeper discussion. However when I try this routine again, I want to be sure to be very intentional about the material I choose to show and how I tie it into my essential questions as well as when I place it during the unit of study. Interestingly, I'm wondering if a See Think Wonder may have been a better choice with these pictures in that they may have prompted deeper wonderings about how these buildings were made, their size, their strength and the materials used.