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Reasoning and Problem-Solving: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children develop reasoning and problem-solving skills is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help infants and toddlers develop reasoning and problem-solving skills.1
    • Use different strategies to support problem-solving, such as simplifying problems, providing a variety of types of cues (e.g., verbal, visual, modeling, physical), and encouraging children’s attempts.
    • Individualize strategies to support problem-solving rather than using the same strategies with all children. Change the strategy if it does not work rather than repeating the same unsuccessful strategy.
    • Ensure that children end with success so that they are motivated to continue to work on problem-solving.
    • Provide specific feedback to children to help them repeat their success or alter what they do so that they are more successful.
    • Encourage children to persist and follow through to ensure the child’s success.
    • Model positive approaches to solving problems.
    • Provide new challenges and balance challenge and support (e.g., provide a new toy or puzzle to solve; ask a "What would happen if …?" question; invent a simple problem for children to solve, such as “Which of our friends is missing from school today?” while using a picture list of children in the group). Intervene before a child becomes too frustrated.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach or supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where your coach/supervisor can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Individualize strategies to support problem-solving rather than using the same strategies with all children, ask your coach/supervisor to observe your interactions with children over the course of a half day and note the number and types of unique strategies you use to help children solve problems. Your coach/supervisor can also watch to see how effective your different strategies are for individual children. For example, she can note whether children appeared satisfied with the assistance and persisted in their play, or if their play or learning was halted because the problem was not fully resolved.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s developing reasoning and problem-solving skills?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

Preschoolers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children observe, describe, compare, and categorize observable phenomena and engage in scientific talk is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help preschoolers ask questions, gather information, make predictions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze results, draw conclusions, and communicate results.2,3,4
    • Model being a researcher and join children in exploring their world.
    • Take advantage of spontaneous, unplanned opportunities to engage children in investigation, experimentation, and discovery.
    • Ask questions that promote investigation and inquiry and challenge children to think through a problem and come up with a solution: “How do you think we can find out...? What would happen if...? I wonder why...?”
    • Encourage children to explain their reasoning; for example, “Why do you think that happened? How did you come up with your answer?”
    • Encourage children to solve problems in different ways and explain that more than one answer is possible.
    • Scaffold children in engaging in the scientific method—ask questions, make predictions, plan and carry out an investigation or experiment, record and analyze results, draw conclusions, and communicate results in a variety of ways.
    • Plan indoor and outdoor activities to engage children in investigations.
    • Create a physical environment that supports children’s curiosity by providing a wide variety of materials and objects to explore and tools to support children’s exploration.
    • Demonstrate appropriate use of scientific tools, such as a balance scale, ruler, magnifying glass, thermometer, and measuring cup.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach or supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where your coach/supervisor can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Ask questions that promote investigation and inquiry and challenge children to think through a problem and come up with a solution, you can ask your coach or supervisor to observe you during a planned learning experience where you are conducting an investigation to expand children’s understanding (e.g., sink/float predictions and experimentation). You might ask that he note the way you use questions such as “I wonder why …,” “What would happen if…,” and other open-ended inquiries to help children think about scientific dilemmas and develop solutions.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s skills in asking questions, gathering information, making predictions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing results, drawing conclusions, and communicating results?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 28–29, B.2.

2Robert C. Pianta, Karen M. La Paro, and Bridget K. Hamre, Classroom Assessment Scoring System Manual, Pre-K (Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2008), 66–67, High Concept Development.

3California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 3 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2013), 163–171, Scientific Inquiry, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3.pdf [PDF, 7.5MB].

4California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 292, Mathematical Reasoning, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018