Are we there yet? How kids make sense of the world

The concept of "developmentally appropriate" is a backdrop for every learning experience we orchestrate as educators.  You know when something isn't DA because kids don't "get it," or simply because the lesson flops. Kids spout off guesses, call out in confusion, or put their heads down. It's happened to all of us.

Here's one of my favorite "developmentally inappropriate" stories.

I was driving from Illinois to Indiana with a 7 year old. You'll recognize the routine: Every five minutes she asked, "Are we almost there? When are we gonna get there?"

I explained that our trip would take about the same amount of time as the beginning of school until lunchtime. I explained we were driving from the state where she lived--Illinois--to the state right next to it. Maybe I talked about Indiana and Illinois as being two of our 50 United States. I pointed out the sign, "Welcome to Indiana."

The conversation was fraught with abstract concepts that a 7 year old doesn't yet comprehend: states, crossing from one state to another, and the United States. I knew all this after 20 years of teaching kids her age, and knew that my explanation was a stretch for a 7 year old, but I thought I did a decent job of it. 

A few minutes later she called home. Her dad asked where she was, and I still laugh to remember her answer: "We're still in America, Dad, but we're on a different road!"

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