Piaget Theory of Development

People assimilate and accommodate information they sense. Assimilation of information happens when the information sensed is stored without changing existing mental structures. Accomodation happens when the information perceived causes a change in existing structure or creation of a new structure. As students construct new structures they are able to process information in different ways. These different ways were characterized by Piaget as stages.

  1. Sensory Motor
  2. Preoperational
  3. Concrete operational
  4. Formal operational

Each stage has major characteristics that associated with it.

Three characteristics of concrete operational is conservation, reversibility, and tranformation.

Conservation is the ability to question perception and reason about reality. To use logic instead of perception of what can appear to be obvious characteristics (definitions and nonliterature examples). Perception of characters based on the character's appearance rather than inner qualities and traits, may suggest inaccurate interpretations. For example:Beauty and the Beast.

Reversibility is essential to understand flashbacks and the order of events in time. (definitions and nonliterature examples)

Transformation (definitions and nonliterature examples)

Is a wolf in sheep's clothing really a sheep? or a wolf? Is this both conservation and reversibility.

Approximate Age
Major Features



Learn motor skills, out of sight out of mind, object permanence, words represent objects

Books that squeak, talk, or make noise, Books that have zippers or other manipulatives, Pop up books,


Approximate Age

Major Feature



Subjective thought, intuitive thought, and judgment
Egocentric thinking
Use of symbols

In the early phase of this stage children are busy discovering their environment, concept books are good:

Look Again; Tans Hoban, photographs of familiar objects
Freight Train,
Donald Crews,
Zoo City, Stephen Lewis,
The Snowy Day,
Ezra Jack Keats.

Egocentric thought like in

Nobody Asked Me If I Wanted a Baby Sister, Martha Alexander (1971),
I'm Not Oscar's Friend Anymore, Marjorie Sharmat (1975),
Go and Hush the Baby, Betsy Byars (1972).

Stories that show children modeling behavior:

Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey. imitative scenes of characters imitating their parents.

Anthropomorphism leads to animal stories:

Toward the end of this stage, or the beginning of the next, children begin to be able to take another person's point of view. They are able to project themselves into other roles, think in terms of other people, recognize differences between how things look and how they really are. Therefore they become interested in realistic fiction that allows them to relate to the characters or environment.

My Brother Tries to Make Me Laugh, Andrew Glass
I'll Be the Horse If You'll Play with Me
, Martha Alexander
Hide and Seek Fog, Alvin Tresselt,
Wait for Williams, Marjorie Flack.
Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley
, Rebecca Caudill
Howie Helps Himself

With students being able to project themselves into different roles any dramatic experience like plays, puppets...

Books that motivate students to talk about feelings and motive of characters or engage in role play. Well directed discussion can give a basis for perceiving conflict in the story from more than one character's point of view. Differences between how things look and how they really are. Students should be allowed to listen and enjoy fantasy and fiction without always worrying about if it is real or not.

I'm Terrific, Marjorie Sharmat (1977)
Days With Frog and Toad
, Arnold Lobel,
George and Martha, George Marshall
Ira Sleeps Over,
Bernard Waber (1972)
Sam, Bangs and Moonshine,
Evaline Ness.
Howie Helps Himself,
Joan Fassler: help build empathy for disabled people

Animal stories for this age:

Listen, Rabbit; Aileen Fiaher (1964)
The Biggest Bear,
Lynd Ward
Millions of Cats,
The Story of Babar
The Web in the Grass,
Berniece Frescher (1972),
Big Ones, Little Ones, Tana Hoban,
A Chick Hatches,
Joanna Cole.


Approximate Age

Major Feature



Students think, or reason, with the manipulation of concrete objects, can conserve, reversibility, and time space relationship

Students are better able to conserve, use reversibility, and transformations. Better able to understand conflict within themself and others. Through play they try to understand the world and conflict resolution. Books that show conflict within characters and among characters.

Books by Beverly Cleary and Mary Stolz present day to day situations to which children can relate.
The Not-So-Wicked Stepmother, shows conflict within self and others
The Stone-faced Boy, Paula Fox;
The Bear's House, Marilyn Sachs
The Great Gilly Hopkins,
Katherine Paterson
Peter Pan,
James and the Giant Peach,
Tuck Everlasting,
Indian in the Cupboard,
Chronicles of Narnia,
Crow Boy,

Time relationships are developing and historical fiction and biographies become important. Real life heroes and historical fiction of heroes:

Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink
The Cabin Faced West,
Jean Fritz
Sara Plain and Tall,
Patricia MacLachlan
Island of the Blue Dolphins,
Tom Sawyer,
Where the Red Fern Grows,
Roll of Thunder Hear My Call,
Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey

Able to sequence story events from the beginning to the end and back again. Hold parts of the story in their mind so they can process flashbacks. Able to project into the future and move backward in time. This also prepares them for fantasy that goes back in time or forward:

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
The White Mountains trilogy,
John Christopher
Earthsea Trilogy,
Ursula Le Guin
The Night Gift,


Approximate Age

Major Features

Formal reasoning


Reason abstractly, use logic, don't need to reason concretely, but may need to if they have not developed schemata

Students at this level will be able to contrast all genres, link parts and wholes, recognize order and rules of literature, empathize with others, understand complex relationships, interpret characters and story elements, formulate theories about physical and social aspects of life, understand another's point of view and evaluate it, determine if information is valid and logical based on a sense of order, and see relationships within the structure of a story and how they effect the plot and the logic of the story.

Compelling stories for children to interact with problems and emotions of teenage characters in an expanding world.

A Wrinkle in Teme, Meet the Austins, Madeleine L' Engle
The House of Scorpions,
Nancy Farmer future societies, cloning, and drug use
Walter Dean Myers: story of the pressures of the drug culture
Tuck Everlasting,
Natalie Bobbitt
The Giver, Lois Lowery
Hold Fast to Dreams
, Andrea Davis Pinkney

Robert Sweetland's Notes ©