Home icon

Learning about a Stethoscope

woman shows children a stethoscope

About this video

This video clip depicts interaction between some preschool-age children and a guest expert. The class has been investigating measurement. One small group of children has focused on measurement at the doctor’s office.

Andi, a medical assistant for an orthopedic surgeon, has come to the class to answer some of the children’s questions. Prior to the interactions shown in this video clip, she talked to the entire class about what kinds of things are measured in a doctor’s office and what is used to take measurements. Among other things, she explained how a stethoscope helps to tell how fast a person’s heart is beating.

When this video clip begins, the group meeting is over and it is “choice time.” Children have chosen to engage in specific activities such as putting puzzles together, reading with an adult, or writing at the message center. Brinda (age 5), Cleo (age 4), and Merry (age 5) are meeting with the guest expert to find out more about the stethoscope. Andi puts the stethoscope earpieces into her ears as the girls watch. She demonstrates how she opens and closes the part of the stethoscope that is put against the chest. She then listens to Cleo’s heart.

The teacher prompts the guest to expand on the children’s experience when she asks if Cleo can use the stethoscope. Andi replies that she will need to clean it first because otherwise sharing the instrument might spread germs. She then listens to Brinda’s heart. The teacher provides an alcohol wipe, and Andi cleans the stethoscope while the children watch. The teacher asks Andi a question that expands on what has been said about germs and cleanliness in the doctor’s office. (At another time, the teacher may want to find out what the children understand about “germs.”)

Cleo then has a turn to listen to her own heart. The teacher asks her to describe what she hears, and she describes the sound.

Then Thalia, age 5, joins the group with a card she has made to thank the guest expert. (Thalia is able to read and write, and she has written a message in the card independently at the message center.) At the teacher’s suggestion, Thalia reads the message aloud, and the tape ends with the guest thanking her.

This kind of small-group interaction with a guest expert is easily manageable when choice time is part of the daily schedule. During choice time, children can choose from a range of equally engaging activities, and teachers can limit how many children are involved in a given activity (such as talking to the guest expert) at one time. It is much easier for small groups of children to interact with the guest like Andi than for the whole class to wait to talk to her and to use the stethoscope. Thalia, for example, chose to go to the message center to make a card for the guest rather than simply wait. When Cleo, Merry, Brinda, and Thalia have finished talking with the guest, they can choose other activities and a few more children will join her to find out about the stethoscope.



Guest Expert: See when it’s this way? It’s closed right now, and I can’t hear anything. But then I twist it (demonstrates) and it’s open now. Now I can hear. I can put it right here (demonstrates) and I hear your heart. It’s going boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom. And we listen to your heart.

Teacher: Can she hear? (referring to Cleo)

Guest Expert: (removing earpieces from her ears) What?

Teacher: Can you let her hear?

Guest Expert: Yeah. I’d need to wash that though. It’s bad to share them because that spreads germs. Do you have alcohol pads or anything like that?

Teacher: Yes.

Guest Expert (turns to Cleo): Then I can let you hear, too. Otherwise, it kind of spreads germs.

Brinda: Can you do it to me?

Guest Expert: Yeah!

Merry: Can you do it with me?

Guest Expert: Uh-huh!

Guest Expert: And sometimes if the doctor puts it on your skin, first he goes like this (blows on the end of the stethoscope) or he goes like this (rubbing it on her hand) to try to warm it up. Because sometimes it can be really cold (turns to Brinda). Whoops, it’s closed again (puts stethoscope on Brinda). Yes, I hear it.

The teacher offers an alcohol wipe. The girls watch as the guest cleans the earpieces.

Guest Expert: I’ll wash them off.

Teacher: So is it important to be clean at the doctor’s office?

Guest Expert: Very important! There’s lots of germs. I do lots of cleaning (shaking the stethoscope). I’m going to let them dry a little.

Guest Expert (to Cleo): Want to hear your heart? Okay. These go in your ears. Oh, can you put your head up, so I can see–? Like that! (tests whether Cleo can hear) Can you hear? (taps the stethoscope) Can you hear?

Cleo: Yeah.

Guest Expert: Yeah, you can hear? (holds stethoscope against Cleo’s chest) Put it on your heart.

Cleo listens for a few seconds.

Guest Expert: You can hear it?

Cleo nods, listens for a few seconds more, then removes the earpieces from her ears.

Teacher: Can you tell us what you’re hearing?

Cleo: My heart.

Teacher: What did it sound like?

Cleo: Boom-boomp, boom-boomp, boom-boomp.

Thalia joins the group, handing Andi a folded piece of construction paper.

Thalia: Here, Andi.

Guest Expert: Oh, thank you! (looking at the card) That’s nice!

Teacher: What did you draw on the front?

Thalia: A stethoscope.

Guest Expert: Wow.

Teacher (to Thalia): Will you read her the letter?

Thalia: Dear Andi, Thank you for coming. It was nice to meet you. I like the tools that you showed us.

Guest Expert: Thank you! It’s nice to meet you, too!

Benchmarks and How They Were Met

BenchmarksHow They Were Met
Language Arts
1.A.ECa: Follow simple one-, two- and three-step directions.
Cleo followed the guest’s directions for using the stethoscope.
Language Arts
1.E.ECc: With teacher assistance, use new words acquired through conversations and book‐sharing experiences.
Thalia’s thank-you card included a drawing of the stethoscope that the guest expert had shown to the class. Thalia identified it in response to the teacher’s question.
Language Arts
2.C.ECa: Interact with a variety of types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems, rhymes, songs).
Thalia created a thank-you card for the guest expert and read it aloud to her.
Language Arts
5.A.ECb: Use scribbles, letterlike forms, or letters/words to represent written language.
Thalia used known letters and words to write a message for the guest expert.
12.A.ECb: Show an awareness of changes that occur in oneself and the environment.
Cleo described the sounds of her heart as “boom-boomp, boom-boomp.”
13.B.ECb: Become familiar with technological tools that can aid in scientific inquiry.
Cleo, Brinda, and Merry found out how the stethoscope worked by observing the guest expert, listening to her, and using it themselves.
Social Studies
15.A.ECa: Describe some common jobs and what is needed to perform those jobs.
The entire class has learned some of the tasks a medical assistant does and what tools they need.
Physical Development and Health
22.A.ECa: Identify simple practices that promote healthy living and prevent illness.
The children waited for their turns while the guest cleaned the stethoscope with alcohol pads.
Social/emotional Development
31.B.ECc: Use socially appropriate behavior with peers and adults, such as helping, sharing, and taking turns.
Cleo, Brinda, and Merry interacted respectfully with the guest expert, listening to her, asking to use the stethoscope, and waiting for their turns.

Thalia made a thank-you card especially for the guest expert and presented it to her, building on their previous interaction.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Family Child Care
  • 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