Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Puzzle problem Solving

This is our shark puzzle or as Logan would say, "Mine shark puzzle." The shark puzzle allows Tyson to take naps. The shark puzzle allows me to check facebook. The shark puzzle keeps Logan quiet and busy. The shark puzzle is challenging. It is marked as a 3+ puzzle but Logan wants to do the shark puzzle every day and he doesn't care (or know) that he's not 3+. I think he likes it because it is challenges him... everyday.

While I was observing him playing, I began thinking about the learning that was taking place. Recently I've been reading Peter Johnston's book, Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning. Reading this book makes me very mindful of the language I am using to guide Logan, even when he is playing.
Here are some of the prompts I've found to be helpful during puzzle play. (I've used many words that are not effective too but I'm trying to focus on what works here!)
  • "Look at the piece. What do you see?" (I know it sounds dumb, but sometimes kids have to be reminded to LOOK. I think Marie Clay said, "Reading begins with looking and ends when you stop looking."
  • "Do you see a part that..." (Do you see a part that has the whale's eye?")
  • "Make it match." (Although I use this prompt differently than when instructing reading, it's interesting that it's used in both scenarios.)
  • "Check it, are you right?" (Do this both when your child is wrong and when your child is right. It will help your child to really check instead of just reading your cues and thinking, hmmm, I must be wrong because she only says that when I'm incorrect.)
  • "I bet you're proud of yourself." (Johnston says, "The more common, 'I'm proud of you.' like other forms of praise, turns a child's attention to please the teacher rather than developing agency." Agency= when a child knows he can accomplish his goals by acting and thinking strategically.)
Amazingly, many of these phrases are the same phrases I used when teaching early readers. (Anyone know of any studies that link puzzle play to later reading success?? It would be interesting.)

Ps. The "Shark puzzle" actually has a bunch of ocean animals, but no shark. LOL!
I'm linking this up to We Play at Childhood 101. Check it out for more play based learning ideas.


  1. OK. Following you now so I don't miss anything else :)

  2. I love what you have done here. Because every moment is a teaching moment.

  3. Bear used to do a lot of puzzles at 18 months that were for 3+ and your recommended phrases to help were ones I used often. Interestingly, she is reading (started at 2.5) and does not have much interest for puzzles anymore.

  4. I love this. These are great suggestions of things to say with my little guys. We love puzzles!

  5. Great ideas! I think the point is so true that “'I'm proud of you' like other forms of praise, turns a child's attention to please the teacher rather than developing agency." I also often focus on the work accomplished rather than the end result. For instance, I might say, “You worked really hard at that!”