"A green chicken!" one boy called.
"Do you have a green chicken?" I asked. I often ask "odd" questions, to engage their thinking and initiate conversations based on what they are doing.
The boy looked at me with...well...almost pity. "Uh, I don't live on a farm," he said. His voice had that almost "Duh" sound to it.
Young children's thinking and understanding always intrigue me. I could think of lots of reasons for him not to have a green chicken. Where he lived didn't even dawn on me.
This exchange reminds me that kids think and reason within their own experiences, development, and level of understanding. His thinking? Chickens live on farms. I don't live on a farm. Therefore I don't have a chicken. Some great logic here - even if it is different from what I would have employed. (Well, maybe not. My wife says I think like a 5-year-old!)
Last week I had another moment with this same boy. We were cleaning up our blocks on sticky paper activity. "Hey," he said, "my shirt stuck to the paper."
I turned to see what he was talking about. He pulled the back of his shirt away from his body. "Like this," he said. "I turned around and my shirt stuck to the paper."
I figured out that while cleaning up, he moved close enough to the sticky board for his shirt to brush against it and stick. The paper pulled the shirt away from his body as he moved away. He was surprised. I was surprised that he was surprised. Then I thought - maybe he thought about the paper sticking only to things he put on it...not that it would stick to anything that was close. Again, he was thinking from his own experiences - things stick when I put them on - not from a general understanding - the paper is sticky and will stick to anything.
When we talk about things, I must keep in mind the child's experiences and his own view of the world. He doesn't see things like I do. My experiences (not to mention my number of experiences) are so different from his. That's why it's better to ask questions and make simple observations about what the kids are doing and let them fill in the gaps...let them reveal what they are thinking and how they are thinking. Then I can build on that understanding...or ask questions to stretch that thinking...or just smile at the thought of a farm full of green chickens.