What We Can Learn from a Picture of a Dinosaur

During table choices students have the option to work with homemade dinosaur puzzles. Four sets have been made of the puzzles in the image above. Each is of a different species of dinosaur.

A prekindergarten student comes to sit down at the table where I am working with two other children. He grows quickly frustrated and requests for help. He is an older student and needs only verbal prompting and encouragement to complete the task. Once truly started he assembles the puzzle quickly. I offer him the puzzle that is in my spot. He declines and reaches for the simpler two piece puzzles in the middle of the table. Photos of six dinosaurs have been printed, laminated, and cut in half.

“I’m going to make silly ones!” he exclaims. (Objective 11e)

“Oh, you’re going to mix them up. That will be funny.” I say.

He places the tail end of one with the front end of another. I do the same. I describe that mine has a Triceratops tail and T-rex face. He remarks that his has a T-rex tail but is unsure of what the front half is. I suggest that we could look in the dinosaur book to find out. He grabs the dinosaur encyclopedia from the library and turns page by page looking for a match. He finds one. (Objective 13, 17)

“There! What’s that say?” he points to the heading text at the top left of the page. (Objective 17b)

“Stegosaurus!” I say.

He repeats me.

In the background of the page is another dinosaur that I recognize from the figurines in the block area. I tell him that I’ll be right back. I grab the toy and return back to the table. “It matches,” I say, placing it next to the page.

He looks from the book to the dinosaur to me and back again. He smiles.

“Maybe we can find the name of this dinosaur in the book too.” I remark.

He picks up the dinosaur and turns it on it’s belly. “What’s that say?” he shows it to me. (Objective 12a)

In teeny tiny letters below MADE IN CHINA reads PARASAUROLOPHUS.

“Parasaur-olo-phus!” In one of few times since my elementary years, decoding does not come easily to me. “You remembered that the names were on their backs! I didn’t know that.”

He gleams with pride.

We flip through the book again looking for the rest of the unknown dinosaurs, but he gets distracted after turning to the front.

“What’s this?” he asks.

“It’s the table of contents.” I point to the words at the top of the page. “It tells what is on each page of the book.”

He looks over the spread in wonder. (Objective 17a)

“What’s that say?” he points to “Herrerasaurus.”

I read the name then point to the 33 beside it. “There’s a photo and more information on page 33. This is page 4.” I point to the number in the corner of the page.

He turns carefully, reading each page number aloud as he goes until he gets to page 33. He stops and looks to the top of the page. He recognizes the word from the table of contents. He points and recites then looks up at me with excitement on his face. He flips back to the front of the book to try again. (Objective 20a, 20c, 18b, 11d)

After using the table of contents a few more times, he returns his attention back to the puzzles in front of him. He matches a few up, but the task is well within his zone of achieved development. He begins to grow bored. (objective 11a)

“I have an idea!” I exclaim. I flip over the 12 dinosaur halves. “We can play a matching game.”

He looks on confused.

I model flipping over two cards one at a time. On the second try I find a match. “That’s how you play.”

He grins, now fully on board. (Objective 11e)

We flip the cards all over again and he begins the game. With each turn of the card he says the dinosaur name that he has just learned. I follow suit. He waits his turn patiently, accepts defeat with grace, and wins without gloating. We play until it is time to transition to morning snack. (Objective 9a, 1a, 1b, 11a)

Learning Objectives (Aligned with Teaching Strategies GOLD)
  • 1. Regulates own emotions and behaviors
  • 2a. Forms relationships with adults
  • 7a. Uses fingers and hands
  • 8. Listens to and understands increasingly complex language
  • 9. Uses language to express thoughts and needs
  • 10. Uses appropriate conversational and other communication skills
  • 11. Demonstrates positive approaches to learning
  • 12. Remembers and connects experiences
  • 13. Uses classification skills
  • 17. Demonstrates knowledge of print and its uses
  • 18. Comprehends and responds to books and other texts
  • 20. Uses number concepts and operations
  • 25. Demonstrates knowledge of the characteristics of living things

Complete Teaching Strategies GOLD Objectives

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