Is this a leopard or a cheetah? Not sure? Keep reading…
Is it too late to make a New Year’s resolution? Because I’d like to make one today. (Sorry, Jan. 1 through 26!) I resolve to follow up on every scientific inquiry made by one of my young students. Even when it’s masquerading as an annoying interruption.
Case in point: This week I was reading a fun story called “The Parrot Tico Tango” by Anna Witte to my Pre-K classes. (I make up mini-songs and motions for children to join in during read-alouds.) On one page, there was a beautiful animal, like the one above, with spots all over. “It’s a cheetah!” a girl called out. “I think it’s a leopard,” someone else said. (Insert four-year-old heated discussion.) The text didn’t identify the animal. I said, “You know, I don’t know if that’s a leopard or a cheetah, but now I’m curious. I’m going to look it up, and I’ll tell you at the next music time.”
As you can see, I did look it up. This animal is a leopard. You can tell because its spots are arranged in a “rosette,” or flower-style pattern. The cheetah is thinner, has a smaller head, and has plain spots.
For years, I viewed questions like these as annoying interruptions. I’d brush them off – “We’re listening to the story right now.” I even said things like “it doesn’t matter.” But a while back, I realized that I was missing many “teachable moments” in my well-intentioned efforts to keep children focused. I’ve since learned that taking a moment to say, “I’ll find out,” or better yet, “We’ll all figure out a way to answer that question,” if it involves something children can discover for themselves in a hands-on activity.
So now I think my students are learning more. And so am I! And I like learning new stuff, like how crocodiles are much bigger than alligators, and flutes were the first musical instrument played by humans. It’s fun to know stuff!