Author’s Note: Later in this post I will share some video clips of interviews with students that I have uploaded to my YouTube channel. When you get to the end of each clip come back to this site. The other video clips displayed on the screen at the end are something YouTube does but have no connection to the topic of this entry.
My strong interest in interviewing children as a means of assessing their understanding has been a topic in many of the preceding blog posts. Over the next few months, I will share some of the insights and developmental hurdles students seem to come up against as we did screening interviews on all students in Kindergarten through Second Grade. I have illustrated some of what I am writing about, with short video clips of interviews. Some of the videos are a bit rough. I’m not a professional videographer, but I hope they will help you to see and understand the range of responses we got when we conducted these interviews.
From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher. When I was in first grade, I’d rush home from school every day to teach my younger brother and sister everything I’d learned that day. When I enrolled in teacher education courses, I thought I wanted to be an English teacher. Then, I started having my own children and found I was very intrigued with how young children learn. I changed my major to elementary education with a concentration in early childhood education and was assigned a wonderful mentor advisor, Dr. Mary York. I remember doing research projects for her and assisting other university staff as they conducted research with young children at the Helen Gordon Center.
One of my research projects all those years ago was to ask young children a series of questions based on Piaget’s Conservation Tasks. Years later, in our kindergarten screening interviews we included a question that checked on students’ ability to conserve number. According to Piaget, Conservation of Number usually is mastered at five or six years of age. Before we asked this question, we checked to see if students were able to identify the difference between letters and numbers. If they could do that (the vast majority could), we then asked them to name the random numbers 0-20 written on a sheet.
View the Letters and Numbers Video Clip for a few examples of this interview:
Then we asked the conservation question. Of the 84 kindergarten students interviewed, 18% were able to conserve. When I handed the five jewels to students, most of them had an accurate strategy for counting the jewels. Then, I asked them to hand the jewels back to me. I shook them up and scattered them on the table. Most students had to count again from one to see how many jewels there were but many guessed. About a third of our kindergarteners had to go back to one and count the set for a third time to determine the correct quantity of six but about 20% were able to count on.
View the Conservation and Counting On Video clip to see examples of what was described above:
After the conservation question, students were asked if they could count the larger quantity of thirty-six objects. The jewels were dumped on the table. I demonstrated once for each child how to count orally and slide the jewels to a new location but then I allowed students to do whatever strategy they felt comfortable with. There were some interesting developmental hurdles in, this task, as well. Many students began having difficulty somewhere around 12. Then, what came after 29 proved a difficult number for many. About a fourth of the students could count all 36 objects.
View the Counting Objects video clip for examples of the one to one correspondence task:
Finding out what children understand and can do really helps teachers know what they need to refine and target in their instruction. I hope these screening assessment video clips will be a support in your practice as you tailor instruction to match students’ needs.