How can teachers assess the development of children’s
Teachers can carefully observe children as they interact with the
materials, and they can ask pertinent questions to delve into their
thinking. Teachers can record the information anecdotally or use
an assessment tool such as the one found in appendix A.6.
Suggestions for questions to ask and what to look for as children
interact with materials are included with each activity.
What are children’s levels of thinking when exploring the
physical properties of objects?
Based on Piaget’s writings, Constance Kamii describes four
levels of thinking when children act on objects.1
1.Acting on objects and seeing how they react. This is a stage
of free exploration with no intention on the child’s part to
produce a particular outcome. Babies engage in this type of
behavior, and so do children when they initially explore new
2.Acting on objects to produce a desired effect. At this level
children exhibit intentional behavior. They have a definite
outcome in mind as they interact with materials. Late in the
first year, babies begin to show intentional behavior, such as
dropping a cup to watch it fall. Young children also act on
objects to produce a desired effect, especially after they have
had a period of time for free exploration.
3.Becoming aware of how one produced the desired effect.
Four- and five-year-old children are often skillful at produc-
ing specific results when interacting with objects; however,
they are not able to accurately and completely describe how
they produced the result. This level of thinking is not reached
until much later.
4.Explaining causes. Since young children cannot explain
how they produced a desired effect, they certainly cannot
explain the causes of most phenomena. This is why under-
standing scientific explanations is impossible for young chil-
dren, although they are often required to memorize them in
school science curriculums.