Yesterday, one of our kindergarten students brought in a dinosaur made of scrap metal. He had received it as a gift over the weekend, and was so excited to show all of his friends at school. He brought it into the classroom in the morning and the children instantly began talking about dinosaurs. My teaching partner and I had them tidy up and meet us on the carpet. We allowed the student to tell us all about the dinosaur and then had a sharing time for all of the children to tell us what they wished to about dinosaurs. It amazed us how much they knew! We knew it was a wonderful opportunity to begin some inquiry based learning! We could sat on the carpet listening to the students for hours, but instead, we decided to quickly set up a few activities for them to actively share their knowledge instead. As the students were chatting on the carpet, and passing around the metal dinosaur, I set up the writing centre with pencil crayons, markers, pencils and writing paper so they could create stories with their knowledge. I also got out a large piece of mural paper so we could paint a scene where dinosaurs may have lived. In our book centre, I quickly gathered all of the dinosaur stories we had and put them in the centre of that carpet for the children to look at.
Later during the day, after nutrition break was finished, I set up some creative art centres for the students. I had printed pictures of dinosaurs for the children to do marble painting, set out toilet paper rolls for them to make 3D dinosaurs and put out construction paper/glue/scissors/markers for them to create their own dinosaurs. A small group of children also wanted to help finish the mural we had begun in the morning.
By the end of the day, we had created a dinosaur mural displaying our art, read 2 non-ficiton books about dinosaurs, hung several stories the children had created throughout the classroom and had time to share all of their knowledge that they already had about dinosaurs. The children were engaged in all of the centres throughout the day and are excited to continue to learn about dinosaurs.
We are currently working on growth and change as an inquiry focus. I have selected materials that we have found in nature as well as some science items like worms, frogs, chicken embryos, and grasshoppers for the children to examine. We have studied some of them using our KWL chart—becoming researchers and looking in books, and on the internet to answer our “I wonder” questions. Through this learning process, children have been exposed to several types of non-fiction books (we compared fiction and non-fiction), learned how to journal their observations with adult support, and have drawn diagrams with labels. The materials are left for them to explore during our learning block of play. As children explore I will often place myself into the space to hear their conversations, to encourage them to record what they see, and to ask open-ended questions about their thoughts or to extend their learning. Next we will be adding our Butterflies to the collection!
In continuation with our beautiful stuff project, the children used real wood piece to create home, buildings, bridges and other various structures. The children created, draw their designs, labelled some parts, glued and painted their designs. It was a great and fun experience.
This student independently drew a picture of his neighbourhood when we were writing in our journals. He carefully selected shapes that are parts of a building, told me about the buildings-some stores and houses and added stairs that go to the bed on the top floor (blueprints show stairs!).
Here is a great, free resource entitled Natural Curiosity http://naturalcuriosity.ca/pdf/NaturalCuriosityManual.pdf
It gives details and research round building inquiry from nature and the world around children! The full website is http://naturalcuriosity.ca/
This is a great little read about how to keep track of assessment that is very quick and easy. Below are some ideas from the Guide to Combined Grades http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/Learning-Together-commercial-print-craft-final-copy-195.pdf
Keep a clipboard handy for assessment possibly by subject or learning area–mark it as such–create a class list and produce a 3 column chart with these headings-
• Three-column chart (Got It! Getting There! Needs Help) to quickly capture student understanding and next steps for instruction.
I keep something similar to this on hand at all times in a folder. I use the headings Not Evident, Some Evidence, Evident. Or Needs Improvement, Satisfactory, and Good. I also keep a column for comments/next steps and a place on the bottom to write notes.
• Laminated folder with post-it notes to monitor ongoing student progress and development of a skill, strategy and/or technique (i.e., I, L, ?).
• Anecdotal notes, one-on-one conferencing and written observations of student understanding in a variety of settings (whole, small-group, partner activities). I created a table with large blocks and placed each child’s name in one. This way I can keep track of who I have written notes for and have the subject indicated on the top. I also keep extra paper on hand if I see/hear a special oral conversation that needs to be noted.
I have found a great book called: Beautiful Stuff Learning with found materials. It is a great resource to get a collection of found materials started in your classroom and a great springboard to spark an inquiry or 2.
My finding came at a great time! We have been working on the reading strategy, making connections and many of my students could not remember a birthday or have never experienced one so my ECE partner and I decided to create one. The students have been listening to Junie B. Jone stories all year so we wanted to have a birthday for our character. We planned and touched on all aspect of a birthday. The resource, Beautiful Stuff, became the ”gift” the children would bring to the party.
The book begins discussing what recycled materials would be useful to collect from children’s homes. Things like; paper, old jewellery, buttons, ribbons etc. They bring them to school in a bag for exploring in small or large group. The book explores the materials and shares the dialogue between teacher and students, tells about the sorting processing, and gives some great prompts to move the thinking and investigating along. Other chapters discuss building with wood pieces, collaging, and various other ideas that could extend what you can do with all the found materials.
Our Beautiful Stuff has lead us into a Building Inquiry, an Art Inquiry, we have used the items to extend into our Math Focus and Fine Motor for sorting. As well, building on oral language.
The found materials have now become my art centre. The children initially sorted all the materials into baskets, trays etc. Each day they can access the materials to create. I may add new items, give a lesson about something new they can do with the materials, I added more popsicle sticks and large cardboard on day, another day I added the paint. They tied it into our building inquiry.
Below are a few pictures of the children first exploring, then creating with the materials.
Below the children have creating pictures with the materials.
In this JK/SK classroom the children are interested in music. As the Teacher and ECE partner worked in various ways with students around the classroom, this became a more apparent topic worthy of more study. They both worked together collaborating on how to bring this study to fruition for the students.
In this display, children worked in large group creating a KWL chart, identified some new vocabulary, and had guest speakers come in to show their talents! Each student create an instrument that they were interested in and they are displayed for all to see on the table. The final piece is where each student communicated what new information they learned through the inquiry and how they changed as a researcher. This information will be inserted into their documentation binders.
Our snow inquiry started from reading a book called Sadie and the Snowman. We used the story over 5 days to focus on retell. Day 1-discussed the pictures and read the story. Day 2- Discussed Characters, Day 3- Setting and a KWL chart was created connecting our own experiences with snow , Day 4 focused on the events, and Day 5 we reviewed all story elements and recreated the scenes with cutouts in large group.
This story not only began the discussion of snow, but hot and cold, the fridge vs the freezer, experimenting with different ice cubes wrapped in various materials like newspapers, foil, paper, and with salt (Which melts faster?) and we tried attaching ice cubes to string using salt. Throughout these experiments children learned new vocabulary, used a thermometer to record temperature, and they observed water changing from a liquid to a solid, they recorded time and charted change.
Throughout this approximate 6 week inquiry on snow, the children communicated their learning in written and visual form to include in their documentation books. It allowed us to explore many new things and the children had so much fun.