You know those AT&T commercials with the kids sitting around a table or on the floor? A man in a suit and tie sit with them and ask them questions and the kids just take off with their answers. I laugh out loud at these commercials. My friend and I are pretty sure that these conversations are unrehearsed. They just sound too much like what kids would say.
Today, I felt like I was in one of those commercials. We were doing a science experiment on the conservation of matter. Kids had balances with brass weights at their table groups along with balls of clay and an observation sheet. Before they started the activity, I asked them a question to get them thinking.
"Make a prediction. Will the weight of a ball of clay stay the same if you flatten the ball into a pancake shape? Explain your thinking."
I got a variety of answers. Many students thought that the weight would increase because the piece of clay would take up more space and the therefore, the weight would increase.
Others thought that the weight would stay the same. There is no matter being added or taken away, so there shouldn't be a difference.
I walked around checking in with each group and jotting notes about each child's understanding of the concept.
I got to the 5th group and stopped to check in. 2 of the boys thought the weight would increase when the clay was flattened and one thought the weight would stay the same. Then I came to N. He said, "I think the clay will get lighter."
Hmmm...he was the first one to answer that way. "Explain your thinking to me," I asked him.
He very confidently replied, "Well you know, the pancake is going to be thinner and skinnier. It's not going to be as thick when you flatten it. So, you know, it's skinnier. You know when people get skinnier, they weigh less. And it's the same with cows. When cows get skinnier, they don't weigh as much either."
Cows? I had to pause for a bit as my mind immediately went to the AT&T man sitting in the circle with a group of small children. I kept a serious look on my face as I thanked him for sharing his thinking.
Cows. I'm not sure how the concept of cows came into this thinking, but somehow they did. I was reminded once again that I never know for sure what is going to come up in conversation when I'm talking with a 10 year-old.