How Big Bird Creates Critical Thinkers

Earlier today I was reading a book to my friend’s little boy. In the book, Big Bird was asking the kids to pick objects that fell into certain categories. For instance, he would ask the child to pick out something that we eat from a page full of blue objects, and the child would pick the bowl of blueberries. A page of green objects may contain a coat, and Big Bird would ask the kids to choose the thing that we wear. We expanded this game a little by talking about the other objects on the page as well, not just doing what was in the book, but going further than Big Bird asked us to.

We both had a blast reading the book, and I was telling Ana all about it on our way home. She told me that what we were doing was called “categorizing and classifying”. I had no idea while we were reading we were actually working on developing this little boy’s critical thinking skills. I was giving him categories and he was classifying the objects into those categories. We were building up his classify and categorize foundation that will allow him as an adult to read op-eds in the newspaper (if those still exist by then) and determine the author’s political leanings and motivations as he is considering the points the author is making. Pretty cool, huh?

Now I’m thinking of other activities we could do with the same book. One of the ideas I had was to close the book and ask him to find an orange animal. This would exercise his mind by asking him to classify an object into two categories instead of just one. As a computer nerd, I’d be interested to see how he’d approach that problem. Would he take the most efficient search approach and flip through the book to find the orange page, then look for an animal? Or would he look at each page identifying all the animals and then classifying them by colors? My guess is that kids of different ages may take different approaches.