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Scientific Inquiry: Improve

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 observe, describe, compare, and categorize observable phenomena and engage in scientific talk.1,2
    • Use strategies that get children thinking about the how and why of learning rather than simply encouraging memorization of isolated facts.
    • Model being a researcher and join children in exploring their world.
    • Use scientific inquiry vocabulary in context, such as observeexploreinvestigatepredictcompare, classify, and measure.
    • Use accurate scientific content words when supporting children’s observations and investigations into specific observable phenomena (e.g., attractrepel, magnetic, and non-magnetic when exploring magnets).
    • Ask open-ended questions that encourage children to think and talk about what they observe, and provide indoor and outdoor activities that are open-ended, interesting, and engaging for children and adults.
    • Promote children’s analysis and reasoning skills by focusing on problem-solving, experimenting and predicting, comparing and classifying, and evaluating and summarizing.
    • Create a physical environment that supports children’s curiosity and exploration by providing a wide variety of tools, materials, and objects to explore, compare, and categorize.
    • Demonstrate appropriate use of scientific tools, such as a balance scale, ruler, and measuring cup.
    • Model respect for nature.
  • 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/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Ask open-ended questions that encourage children to think and talk about what they observe, and provide indoor and outdoor activities that are open-ended, interesting, and engaging for children and adults, invite your coach/supervisor to observe during an outdoor play time. Ask her to listen for the number of times you use open-ended questions to expand children’s engagement with an understanding of science concepts found in the outdoor environment.
  • 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 observing, describing, comparing, and categorizing observable phenomena and engaging in scientific talk?
  • 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?

1Robert 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.

2California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 3 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2013), 138–151, Science, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3.pdf [PDF, 7.6MB].

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018