We've been learning and playing with dinosaurs for the past couple of weeks. It's really been fascinating watching them. I am so impressed by how quickly they are able to process new information. They learn the correct pronunciations of dinosaurs faster than I do (I need to keep looking at the pronunciation key until I have the dinosaur name memorized- they have it memorized the second or third time they hear it!). They are able to distinguish one dinosaur from another: "Look here's another stegosaurus, they have a lot of large plates on their back!" "The ankylosaurus has a heavy bony club-tail." "T-Rex is my favorite!""Mommy, maiasaura dinosaurs were great mommies, they took good care of their babies." "Look, the triceratops moms and dads are protecting their babies from the tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs." Seriously! Why was I reading only fiction when they can absorb so much so quickly? It truly is amazing.
While we are reading about dinosaurs, we pause to identify that particular dinosaur's specific features (teeth, feet, horns, plates, neck and tail shape and length, number of legs). We use that information to help us differentiate one dinosaur from another. When I was a teacher, I used a lot of real-life experiences to help provide a concrete description for my fifth grade students. I still apply that same method with my little kidabunks. Diplodocus had unsharpened pencil shaped teeth - I took out a box of unsharpened pencils and stuck them in play-doh to show my little loves what the teeth looked like. Brachiosaurus was a little larger than a two-story house, so during one of our walks we stopped by a two-story home and marveled about how tall the brachiosaurus was. One of tyrannosaurus rex's teeth is as long as a large banana. The longest horn on a triceratops is about the size of a two-year old child.
I decided to try a formal assessment to see if they were able to classify dinosaurs into two categories- herbivores and carnivores. We flattened out some play-doh, and made dinosaur tracks. Then the kidabunks looked at the tracks and pretended they were paleontologists to identify what type of dinosaur made the tracks. They knew! They had so much fun making tracks, covering them up and then making them again.