• academic language: words about specific topics and subjects that children must learn in order to be successful in school
  • engineering: the process of designing tools, systems, and structures that help humans meet their needs or solve problems
  • mathematics: the study of quantities (how many or how much), structures (shapes), space (angles and distances), and change
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and result in more than a one-word answer
  • science: the process of finding out about the world and how it works by exploring, gathering data, looking for relationships and patterns, and generating explanations and ideas using evidence
  • STEM: an interdisciplinary approach to learning where students learn and apply concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • STEM vocabulary: words that relate to the processes of science, technology, engineering, and math (e.g., categorize, change, classify, collaborate, communicate, compare, construct, count, describe, design, discover, discuss, draw, experiment, explain, graph, identify, investigate, listen, measure, notice, observe, plan, predict, problem-solve, question, record, share, sort, use senses, watch)
  • technology: the tools that have been designed to meet human needs, such as balance scales to compare weights, lenses to look closely at living things, and digital tools like computers and tablets

Guide Children to Reflect on New Understandings

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

As children engage in STEM activities, they test out their own ideas and have opportunities to develop new ones. In order to develop new ideas, children need to reflect on their explorations and observations. They need time and support to rethink old ideas in light of new experiences. After any STEM exploration, you should provide opportunities for reflection.

  • Include time for children to discuss, describe, and summarize what they’ve experienced.
  • Prompt children to reflect. Children could:
    • Look back at a prediction and compare it to what actually happened. (I predicted the ball would roll down the ramp. The ball did roll down the ramp.)
    • Review experiences and observations and generate new conclusions and explanations. (Why do I think that happened?)
    • Compare related experiences and make connections. (How do balls roll the same indoors and outdoors?)

In this video, you’ll see how the educators guide children in discussing, describing, and reflecting on what they have learned. You’ll also see the educators use questions, videos clips, and charts as vehicles to support reflective thinking. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • What are some different ways the educators help children make connections to science concepts and ideas?
  • How do they encourage children to express their observations, ideas, and thinking?


Why is it important for children to reflect on new understandings?

  • Young children need time and space to think about what their observations and experiences mean and how new discoveries might alter their previous ideas. For example, if children observe that a wooden block floats, does that mean that all wood floats? Or that all blocks float?

In what ways can children reflect on what they’ve learned?

  • By looking back at a prediction and comparing it to what happened. (What did you predict about how the flashlight would move down the ramp? How did it move?)
  • By reviewing their experiences and observations and coming to a conclusion or generating an explanation. (Children might conclude that some things slide and some things roll down ramps; that some balls go faster than others; and that the sun melts the ice).
  • By looking at related experiences and making connections to their own. (Children might watch a video about children painting with ice and compare what they see to what they experienced during the same activity.)

How can you help children reflect on what they have learned?

  • Allow time for children to reflect, ask questions, and deepen their understanding.
  • Ask open-ended questions to help children describe and share their observations and experiences.
  • Invite partners to “turn and talk,” rather than calling on one child at a time, so that all children can share their thinking and new understandings. Listen in to determine what children are learning and thinking.
  • Provide opportunities for children to record their thinking using graphs, charts, drawings, or labeled diagrams.

How do open-ended questions help children think reflectively?

  • Open-ended questions have many possible responses. They encourage children to articulate their own observations and ideas rather than give “correct” answers.  They may begin with words like how, what, what if, and why do you think. (What do you think of the kiwi? What don’t you like about the cucumber? Why do you think the ice is melting?)
  • Open-ended questions help develop children’s abilities to observe, describe, and explain their observations and ideas, and extend their investigations. They encourage children to think like scientists by reasoning and by developing their ideas based on evidence from their observations. (What did you notice about things that roll? How might you test which balls will roll the fastest?)


Think about the learning environment in your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do you guide children to reflect on what they have learned?
  • What did you learn that you will put into practice in your learning environment?
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