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Air and Tires

child sits in group with others

About this video

A mixed-age group of children in a preschool class at a rural community college studied the cars in the automotive lab where mechanics are trained. Returning from one visit, the children became engaged in a discussion about various aspects of the cars they had seen. Discussions that occur during projects usually reveal children’s misunderstandings about the topic as well as those things they do understand. A discussion with 4-year-old Morgan revealed that she understood that the less inflated the tires, the slower a car is likely to go. It also revealed that she was unclear about the real function of a car’s battery.

Children’s discussions of their observations and ideas often reveal the skills they use to communicate with each other and with adults. As Morgan tried to explain the importance of filling the tires with air, she used gestures effectively to compensate for vocabulary she had not yet mastered.



Morgan: The truck wasn’t working, because I think the batteries were getting flat tires.

Teacher: Do you?

Morgan: (Nodding.) It wasn’t working, because whenever we seed it, it would go very slow (demonstrating by tightening fist in front of face)—that slow.

Morgan: There was flat tires coming.

Teacher: It was getting flat tires.

Morgan: (Demonstrating with her hands.) It was getting flatter and flatter and flatter, and flatter, until it didn’t work.

Teacher: So what did Dan do to fix it?

Morgan: He put a big…He fatted it up like that (demonstrating with her hands).

Teacher: He fatted it up. What do you think he put in there to fat it up?

Jace: Air.

Morgan: (Echoing Jace.) Air.

Benchmarks and How They Were Met

BenchmarksHow They Were Met
Language Arts
1.A.ECc: Provide comments relevant to the context.
Morgan recounted what happened to a truck she had seen, relevant to the class discussion. Jace also contributed a brief response to a question from the teacher.
Language Arts
Continue a conversation through two or more exchanges.
Morgan responded to the teacher’s questions and comments several times. She used a combination of gestures, words, and facial expressions to communicate her ideas.
Language Arts
Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.
Morgan described a problem with the truck and gave details when the teacher asked for more information.
Identify, describe, and compare the physical properties of objects.
Morgan described what happened to the truck tires, using comparatives such as “very slow” and “flatter and flatter….”
Describe the effects of forces in nature.
Morgan explained that as tires become flat, the vehicle goes slower. She also described how Dan inflated (“fatted up”) the tire.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2017