Validate, Challenge and Extend Thinking
Connecting with your child during free play to discover their awareness, may seem daunting, but it is more simple then you think. There are 3 ways to connect with your child by validating their thinking, challenging their thinking and extending their thinking.
Let’s take a deeper look to see what this can look like through hypothetical dialogues that are similar to my own experiences with my children.
Teacher: “What a lovely lion! I see you used oranges over here and now you are using yellows. Why did you decide to change?”
Child response: “I ran out of oranges so I used 2 yellows.”
Teacher: “Oh, why did you do that?”
Child response: “They are the same length, so it keeps the same shape.”
Teacher: “Yes, I see. They are the same length.”
This child has an understanding of equality that they demonstrated through the use of rods. The teacher is now aware of the student’s awareness and responds by validating that their thinking is true. But what if the student’s thinking is untrue?
Teacher: “I see you are using reds and yellows over here under the brown rods.”
Child: “Yes, they are the same length as browns.”
Teacher: “Oh, they are? Can you show me?”
Child: (child begins to show by moving the rods closer together, but is unable to show the idea is true.)
Teacher: “What rod could you use to make the yellow and red the same length as the brown?”
Child: (child looks for rods to make the same length as the brown). “A white rod.”
The teacher may or may not have discovered this awareness of the child, but certainly inquiring during free play the thoughts of a child can be quite revealing. When an idea is revealed that is untrue, it is important not to state the fact, but to challenge the child with a task that will help them to discover the truth of the matter for themselves. This is as simple as having the child demonstrate their idea using rods. We do have to be careful the tone by which we administer such questions. Genuine interest must be conveyed and authoritarian demeanor put aside.
Teacher: “I see you have run out of orange rods and are using yellow rods. What will you do if you run out of yellow rods?”
Student: “I don’t know. I will figure it out.”
Teacher: “How will you figure it out?”
In the above situation, we are opening the opportunity to extend their thinking of equality to discover other equalities. There are
lots of opportunities to extend their discoveries at every turn and if we show genuine curiosity about their discoveries and thinking, a child will be quite willing to extend their discoveries towards new ones.
Validating, challenging and extending students’ thinking are processes by which not only do we (the teacher) tap into the student’s awareness to better cultivate it but by which the student becomes aware of their own thinking. This eventually develops the student’s skill to self-correct their thinking by validating their ideas, challenging their ideas and extending their ideas. This is an important transferable skill needed for life-long independent learning