Monday, 3 September 2018

Life With A Toddler: Elaborative Interrogation

My son is 2 and a half. He asks a LOT of questions. Most of them begin "How..." or "Why..."

I have frequently mentioned him to my students. He would be an excellent asset to anyone attempting revision. He always wants to know why. These are answers he will no longer accept:

  • "It just is."
  • "Why not?"
  • "Just because."
  • "I don't know."
  • "Does it really matter?"

These are greeted with, "Daddy - don't say that, answer my question please."

Going to Mass is always a great source of questioning. Probably as there is lots of strange things going on, plus the irresistible temptation of me telling him, "You need to be really quiet for this bit. Actually, be silent." 

A few from the last few months include:

  • "Why is Jesus in the round things?"
  • "What actually is the round thing?"
  • "How does the priest say Mass?"
  • "Why is the little circle Jesus?"
  • "Why is Fr Joseph in St Joseph's? And isn't that Joseph?" [Points to statue of St Joseph]
  • "Why do people need the circles to be taken to them when they are sick?"
  • "How does the priest get the circles?"

Even as an RE teacher in a Catholic school, and cradle Catholic, I sometimes struggle. You must also understand that any answer I provide, is then responded to with a further "Why?". Here is one example, to the best of my memory...

  • T: "Why can't I have a round thing?"
  • Me: "You need to be a little older."
  • T: "Why?"
  • Me: "You need to understand what it really is."
  • T: "Why?"
  • Me: "Because it is Jesus, and that's quite complicated."
  • T: "Why is it Jesus?"
  • Me: "Remember the story the priest always tells us, about Jesus and the meal he had with his friends?"
  • T: "Yes... How does the priest make it Jesus?"
  • Me: "That's quite complicated too."
  • T: "Why?"
  • Me: "I'll explain later."
  • T: "No daddy now."
  • Me: "He says a special prayer."
  • T: "Why?"
  • Me: "Because God needs to hear the special prayer."
  • T: "Why does he?"
  • Me: "That's what the Mass is, that's why we come to church."
    • [A few mins quiet]
  • T: "Why do we come to Church?"
  • Me: "To meet Jesus, and meet our friends."
  • T: "Then why can't I have a round thing?"

The good news is, he does remember lots of the information from week to week (spaced and retrieval practice). He does get things confused from time to time - "Look daddy - it's the sick people!" was said far too loudly when the Eucharistic ministers went to collect the Eucharist to take the congregation who were unable to attend Mass.

It's good to ask questions, and I am pleased to have a toddler who wants to know as much as he can. I am also pleased when I see students at lunchtime revising who tell me they are going "Toddler Mode" and irritating each other with "Why?" questions. As I have found out, answering and explaining such questions can be a challenge - even for someone who things they know their stuff!!

Read more on elaboration from the brilliant Learning Scientists here:

Anyway, Mass is sometimes a bit chaotic for me these days. However I took some comfort in this recent article, which I felt compelled to share: A letter to the parents who keep bringing their disruptive kids to Mass, week after week (T is nowhere near this bad, but has been known to repeat the Gospel after the priest if he pauses, and laugh - or shout out "ding ding" after the bell is rung - or go for a wonder...)

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